CIO – Is it the pinacle of corporate IT?

The top of the IT hierarchy is the Chief Information Officer (CIO). I always thought my career zenith was to become the CIO of a major corporation, but I’m no longer convinced that it is the top IT slot or that I’d want the role or title. In many companies I see the CIO and all of IT becoming the keeper of the old IT legacy systems no one else will support. In fact I frequently observe the business going around the CIO and IT. At IBM, we now have non-IT execs coming directly to IBM without anyone from IT. My goal remains to help companies forge their future and not shovel coal into the old steam boiler. While the shift away from IT involvement is not 100%, it is real danger for IT departments if they don’t change.

First, technology is MORE important than ever. No significant business can function without it – period. Second, companies are spending more on IT every day. Third, IT is often not called IT, but companies can’t live without technology and they probably will not let the IT department run it (at least initially – spoiler alert!). Fourth, no one is business can afford to be ignorant of technology and more and more, business leaders are truly IT savvy.  Gone are days of execs having their admins’ print their e-mail, carry it home in a briefcase, then red pen it at night and have the admin respond in the morning.

At the same time, Non-IT execs, Line of Business Execs (LOB Execs), are now able to purchase the systems they require for their business function often in isolation or near isolation from the IT department by procuring SaaS solutions. The LOB even gets modern, mobile, automatic upgraded system. After all, why does the LOB need a giant monstrous ERP system when all the LOB exec wants to do is implement a system to call on my customers, procure some materials, manage my employees, etc. Without IT, LOB can go set up the system and all they need is minimal data to get going. Then the LOB can pay for as much or as little service as the LOB needs. The LOB has a 1:1 relationship between the cost of the service and the outcome of the service. The Hardware, Software, Support, and all upgrades are included, too. If the LOB doesn’t like the result, they drop the service.

Unfortunately this is not reality for very long as IT systems do not work in isolation, even if they are initiated in isolation. Eventually, the CRM system will need to understand the client orders and annual spend. Eventually, the Procurement system will need to tie to the finance system. Eventually, the HR system will need to tie to payroll, finance, security, etc. because people work everywhere in the business. Eventually, the C-level execs like the CEO, COO, and CFO will want to see the big picture across the business and if every system is in isolation, it is going to be very difficult to get the big picture.

Clearly, IT skills are required. So why is the CIO not in the discussion? Why is IT so often considered difficult to work with, a barrier, and a failure to the business? Unfortunately, most IT professionals start their answers with “NO”, why you can not get the request done, or why it will harm the system. IT professionals seem to only perceive the risk to IT and not to the business and even when they do perceive the risk, they don’t communicate to the business in terms the business can understand. Established businesses, both IT and business, often miss the opportunity that new technologies, new capabilities, and changing business environments present. Failing to understand the risk of not changing, not seeing the intersection of business and technology, lets companies like AirBnB, Uber, and Amazon take over markets that were considered unassailable. Seriously, why didn’t the cabs have a mobile app first? Doesn’t it make you laugh now when you see the “download our mobile app” tattooed on the back of every cab.

Start by realizing that the IT department does not have a lock and ownership of all the technology assets of the company. You might, but it will just make others like LOB execs want to go around you given that technology is required for any and every business function. Become an enabler of the business with technology even if it means consolidating, eliminating, or re-implementing the older systems to enable the newer capabilities. I recognize that this is difficult. Often those systems were built on your labor, sweat, and blood. You can’t keep stacking pieces on top of weak foundation. You have to get the business to partner with you so you can jointly move the company forward.

paceseter graphicThere are some very practical ideas in 2011 CIO study from IBM that you might take to heart. Even better, take a look at what happens when the business and IT come together around implementing Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, Social and Security (CAMSS) is series of reports from the IBM Center for Applied Insights. The best companies, pace setters, continue to win in their markets. Can you help your company become a pace setter?

Maybe I am still interested in being a CIO, but not the Chief of the NO team. If I could be the CIO who could enable the business with technology, it wouldn’t be bad job. If I could make my company a pace setter that would definitely be a cool job.

How the Inernet-of-Things (IoT) is consuming me!

I just made an important recognition that I am node connected to the Internet-of-Things (IoT) via my life modem (a.k.a. smartphone). It serves as modem from my analog life to my digital representation and out onto the Internet-of-Things (IoT). Most of recognize that our smartphone records our life in a digital format. In essence it is a modem. Modem is short for MODulate / DE-Modulate which is process of converting an analog signal to a digital one and back. Our phone takes our analog world we perceive with our senses and puts it and more into a digital representation on our smartphone. I may want the info off the IoT, but it needs me.

Great article and image of the IoT from Forbes.

While I used to love to spend time getting to know someone by pouring over someone’s albums (yes, large vinyl disk), tapes, DVD’s, or CD’s, now all I really need to see is there smartphone. Here are some things I might find out just scanning the smartphone.

  •  All your contact information and maybe some of your affiliations based on apps installed
  • Your communications, duration, and frequency with via SMS, e-mail, and voice
  • Your communications, duration, and frequency with apps (snapchat, twitter, etc.)
  • Your locations throughout the days and weeks in the past (GPS)
  • Your plans for the next day, week, month and even year (calendar)
  • What travel services you frequent even w/out opening up the apps (travel apps)
  • Who your friends and acquaintances are and their personal information (every social app and website, communication logs)
  • What you like and dislike in the public space
  • What time you go to bed and get up (alarms, clocks, accelerometer)
  • What music, video, and games you like
  • What publications, blogs and websites you frequent
  • And even more…

All this information is poured up onto IoT plus you enhance it with social data. A few examples are I use Weather Underground for weather and confirm my weather experience up to every 15 minutes. I drive around with Waze or MotionX GPS consuming, entering, and confirming incidents, traffic, traffic cameras, and police cars. In each of these cases, what is the sensor – ME! I spy a traffic accident. I feel cold. I see a fire. I like a song. Have you noticed NetFlix gets quoted on the stats it keeps on us and our viewing which could be via mobile. Other mobile apps have become the authority and regularly report out our behavior, too. We, via our smartphones have become one of the biggest, if not the biggest, source of data for the IoT.

Why does it matter? While I had come to recognize I could get typical sensor data from the IoT like temperature, humidity, amount of fuel, etc on my smartphone, I had not realized how much it was two way street. I was consuming IoT data, but the IoT also consuming me as it needed a human touch and senses and my mobile device is the interface and translator into the digital world. It may explain why IoT’s rise of prevalence seems correlated to mobile devices although the technologies are analogous. It also makes me think different about relationship humans will have with the IoT and why it may become pivotal in our next chapter of technology advancement. Maybe he who controls the IoT might control more than just “things” since we are all jacked in via our smartphones.

Even if I haven’t convinced you are a node on the IoT and that it is important concept, I hope you’ve decided to increase the security of smartphone with a longer, more secure password given that it is digitally you.

I do think our next chapter of technology advancement will be socially even more disruptive, but that will be in my next blog.

Crash Course – How to build a career at a consulting company


Great overview of how to work in the consulting field.

Originally posted on Vijay's thoughts on all things big and small:

I left the world of system integrators and consultants a few years ago – but even today, the question I get asked the most is “how do I grow my career in consulting at my big name employer?”.  I thought I will post some of my thoughts – from my own experience in big consulting houses, as well as watching several others go through their careers from close quarters.

There are many ways to do this – so don’t think of it as “check these boxes and you are done” :)

1. Be the go-to guy in the company for something

This is the starting point – you need to be much better than everyone else, and willing to help everyone, for some unique topic that is in demand. This is how bosses know that you even exist in the company. The topic can be some technology, power point skills…

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Rest In Peace, John Leffler !


Admirer, fan, hater, friend, foe, peer, or employee, there was no one who didn’t respect John Leffler in the SAP business. He was a force that built a services business empire first at PwC and then at IBM. He will be missed.

Originally posted on Vijay's thoughts on all things big and small:

My wife and I got engaged this day 13 years ago . She had to leave early for work and I called her as soon as I woke up to wish her happy anniversary. As soon as I hung up, my phone rang again. It was my friend and ex-colleague Jen from IBM. She was in tears and she gave me the shock of my life – that John Leffler is no more !

A huge flood of memories have been going through my mind since that call. And the sense of disbelief has not fully left me yet. I had spoken and exchanged texts with John late last week. Dhanya and I had saved the bottle of champagne John had sent us for Christmas for a special occasion. We had met in Phoenix a few months ago for a nice dinner (that is where this photo was taken – sadly…

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Here is to SaaS-cess in 2015

Living on your past successes is the road to ruin. Change is inevitable as the sunset. Whether you see it or not, it sets. The tree in the forest falls causing vibration of the air even if you are not there to perceive it as sound. In 2015, you will see the beginning of the end of on-premise software and systems including ERP systems like SAP.

Clients are no longer willing to buy the infrastructure, software, and services to implement business functions. There will always be a special market for special software, but it no longer necessary for core business functions. Even if business pays a few more pennies on the dollar, they want to buy the service directly and more and more vendors have entered the market with realistic scope and depth of function of business services that running very large businesses on SaaS based solution is possible.

It is not a flatline Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) argument. It is all about speed and velocity of change in technology and in business. Whether it is reacting to technology change like “electronic payment” or business conditions like “extremely low cost of oil”, it is necessary to react and react swiftly. SaaS based systems are better able whether it is because the SaaS system you are one rolls out upgrades without sympathy, something the IT department could never get away with, or because you can switch to another SaaS provider due to more standardized interfaces and a more universal user interface (UI) that requires less training. SaaS solutions provide the velocity and agility not found in on-premise solutions.

While the on-premise system looks like a promising TCO as its 5 year cost may be lower than the competing SaaS system, it falls apart when the inevitable change occurs. The on-premise system TCO is based on the idea that the 3 to 5 year roll-out will occur with limited change, but that change always occurs and in half decade it can be dramatic change. In fact change is the only consistent truth you can bet on on.

Next you’ll argue SaaS doesn’t have enough functionality. That is a limited truth for now. It is rapidly changing as the SI’s plunge into the market to fill the gaps with extensions that verticalize each SaaS solution or extend each solution via internal options (using named spaces in the application) or external options such other cloud based systems. It becomes a question of SaaS agility and velocity vs. on-premise optimization; however, optimization fails massively when the conditions of the system that was optimized changes, and again change is inevitable.

The question for each of us to answer is how will SaaS based systems change your job? If you are functional, what is the SaaS based system that will eclipse your on-premise role and skill set. If you are technical hands on, will you work for a SaaS vendor or will you move to area that is still in demand like architecture or network. IT is still in high demand, maybe higher than ever as technology is not just required for business, but the very fabric of business. Everyone who works on business software needs to evaluate your future based on the inevitable change brought by SaaS.

In 2015 software and especially ERP software will evolve due to change. With change, we have the three choices: move, adapt, or die? You can go to part of the world where on-premise is still new, you can learn how SaaS will impact you and update your skills, or you hang on for dear life hoping everyone else changes their way. As for the latter option, I’m not hopeful. Your success in 2015 is by recognizing the shift to SaaS just like knowing the sun has gone down even though you were stuck in the office.

While we are on New Year’s resolutions, do try to get out and see the sunrise or sunset with someone you love just a few times in 2015. Here is to true success for you, your friends, and your loved ones in 2015.


A quiet sunset Christmas Eve (24 Dec. 2015) over the Cape Coral, FL canals.

Releasing innovation from non-innovators

Innovaton Lightbulb EarthHow do you get innovation out of people whose job is not innovation thereby generating the most meaningful innovation. Most of us think how do we inspire our design team, our coders, or even our consultants. These groups all are expected to innovate and I’ll admit to mixed results. It seems to be bell shaped curve on these teams where a few are always innovative, most are sometimes innovative, and a few that seem to be allergic to innovation and think mobile phones are a fad.

I met my friend, eBay‘s Innovation Leader, Bala ( before I flew out of San Jose, CA and we had a wonderful discussion on innovation. Even if I didn’t care about innovation, and I do strongly, watching Bala talk about innovation is a delight because he lights up with energy. His idea is not to make innovative teams innovative, but to make the whole world innovative. The only requirement is you have an idea and he will even help you find that!

He holds a series of workshops to help groups or companies innovate. He has a multi-step process that draws the potential innovators and resources along a flowing stream until the idea becomes real. He makes it easier for non-techies to join the process. I’ll point out a few steps, but I’m including a link to his non-profit company’s web, Innovationbala, site so you can dig in further.

Play-a-thon: In this step, Bala and team, bring in lots of the latest gadets, gizmos, and software where everyone is invited to play with all the “stuff”. People, even non-techies, can play and try all the cool stuff in the market ranging from robots, to designer computer boards, to software development tools in a non-threatening environment..

Date-a-thon: In this step, idea holders are paired with many developers in speed dating model to find their ideal team. Not sure speed dating works for finding true love, but it does seem to work for finding your true team and again gives non-technical people an opportunity to get in on innovating Silicon Valley style.

Shark-a-thon: This is more of corporate commitment step, but each team pitches its idea to a team of SVP’s who can elect to sponsor the idea. What is cool about eBay is that if you are on team that gets sponsored, you are now given 4 months off your current job, no questions asked, and put on the team to deliver the idea.

There is lots more at innovationbala ( if you’d like to see the whole process.

Overall, I’m impressed by the commitment of eBayPayPal, and hopefully to both companies post split up, to their culture of innovation. I suspect a lot has to do with Bala’s commitment and vitality he brings to the topic. Now I have to challenge myself, what am I going to do to make my company more innovative?

Consultant ≠ Insect

A Heinlein classic.

Looking for inspiration for slogging through a bunch of methodology reviews on gray, wet day, I went and found my favorite definition of consulting that doesn’t even use bullet points. It was originally from Robert A. Heinlein, so I updated it with great reverence and caution trying to stay close to the original idea, style, and cadence years ago. I also provided the original for fairness.

A Consultant should be able to: Care for clients, take over an account, review employees, rent a car, design an architecture, write a SOW, submit expenses, build a firewall, CPR, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, collaborate, act independently, solve equations, analyze a new problem, SALES, program a computer, order a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. (adopted from Robert A. Heinlein).

The original is below.

A Consultant should be able to: Change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.  (Robert A. Heinlein)

I was honestly pleased when I read this quote that Mr. Heinlein had moved us consultants up the classification schema and above the insects. I hope I can keep his good faith. Of course the world can’t exist without insects, but it would probably make it without consultants.