Category Archives: Social networking

CIOs Don’t Need Two Heads to Wear Two Hats

The holy grail of post-recession business will be profitable growth. The very idea of profitable growth is full of contradiction, as growth generally requires investment. With revenues unlikely to outpace that investment in what economists are predicting will be an anemic, drawn-out recovery, companies that have already been doing a lot of cost cutting will have to become even more efficient. This will put unusual pressure on executives to place the right bets when it comes to investments (based on strong customer insight and market knowledge). And it will require excellent management abilities and flexible, responsive, lower-cost IT.

The following presentation focuses on what the mandate for profitable growth will mean for CIOs and their organizations in 2010. I believe IT will have to become more operationally efficient AND deliver agility and innovation, that CIOs will have the great opportunity to delivery operational excellence and all kinds of tech-driven innovation as well.

Some people believe these two areas of focus are conflicting – that a leader (for example, a CIO) or an organization (for example, IT) can be good at one or the other but not both at the same time. They argue that when it comes to tech-enabled innovation, CIOs should offer advice but leave the heavy lifting to product designers and marketers. I disagree. What do you think?

Since the slides themselves are mostly just images, I suggest you view it on my Slideshare page, where you will also be able to view the speaker notes that make up the meat of the talk.

How IT Can Help Cash-Strapped Government Agencies Better Serve the Public for Less

Government agencies are in fiscal trauma right now. Billions of dollars over budget, many states are taking drastic measures to cut costs. Federal CIO Vivek Kundra and CTO Aneesh Chopra are aggressively pursuing software as a service and cloud computing as one way to cut costs, and the state of Utah is planning a private cloud to serve local agencies.

Governments are also building next-generation web sites to deliver a variety of services online. According to Government Technology, provides more than 860 online state government services. New features on its wonderfully designed website include location awareness, a new multimedia portal, Web 2.0 services, a data portal, forms search capabilities, and mobile applications.

The following presentation, which I gave at the annual conference of the South Carolina IT Directors’ Association last week, evaluates the current challenges of government agencies to provide services in a new way while continuing to cut costs. IT can definitely help.

To view this presentation with the speaker’s notes, go to my page on Slideshare.

Slide 30

According to Government Technology, provides more than 860 online state government services. New features include location awareness, a new multimedia portal, Web 2.0 services, a data portal, forms search capabilities, and mobile applications.

A Brief and Colorful History of Technology in Business

I was asked to give a couple of talks this spring giving my perspective on the current state of technology in business. I always think the present is better understood by looking at the past, so I put together a presentation looking at a) how things have developed over the past 20 or so years (not coincidentally, the span of time I was involved with CIO Magazine), and b) the challenges and opportunities I see businesses in general and CIOs in particular facing during this tumultuous time. I’ve posted a version of this talk on Slideshare, complete with an audio narration. Please check it out and let me know if your view lines up with mine or how you see things differently.

Here’s the presentation (or you can view it from the Slideshare site):

And here’s a link to the clip I reference at the beginning, of the comedian Louis CK on the Conan O’Brien show. The relevant segment starts at about 3 minutes, 20 seconds and it’s about a minute long, where he talks about cell phones and internet service on planes. This bit really defines the problem technologists face in making end users and business partners happy. The whole thing highlights an even more fundamental problem we all face in seeking happiness through external means. Very Zen….

update: unfortunately, NBC has taken down this clip, though there are still a couple of versions floating around on YouTube

Best Blogs of the Week

I’ve been ignoring my feed reader lately, so I’m spending the morning going through the many (many) posts that have been written since my last review. Lots of great stuff. Here are my favorites from the past week or two:

Forrester CEO George Colony crowd-sourced development of his social media panel at Davos next week. This is a great way to find out what people are interested in learning about right now – I’ve used this myself to generate panel questions. He got some interesting and thoughtful responses.

Two of Nick Carr’s recent posts were thought-provoking. Most recently he brought readers’ attention to William Deresiewicz’s article “The End of Solitude” in the new edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education. I love the line, “Loneliness is not the absence of company, it is grief over that absence.” Carr doesn’t say much about it himself, but reader comments are interesting.

Carr’s previous post, “Sharing is Creepy,” reflects on the psychological and social consequences of social networking (do you feel remorse when you don’t put yourself out there? when you do? maybe both?) and points to a recent Wired article by Steven Levy called “The Burden of Twitter.”

John Halamka, CIO at CareGroup and Harvard Medical School (and about a dozen other things), evaluates Gartners Top 10 Predictions for 2009.  He agrees or partially agrees with most, but his reasoning adds nuance and relevant context from a man who published his personal genome on the internet, has been implanted with a chip containing his full medical records and is having a Cisco telepresence setup installed in his home.

If you’re interested in social media, Chris Brogan is worth following on a regular basis. Two recent posts stand out. One I personally need to act on is his review of Leo Babuta’s book “The Power of Less.” Babuta advocates that you do one thing at a time, don’t multi-task, focus on one thing and nail it. In my multi-tasking, easily distracted world, this is a book I need to buy.

In Are You Important to Me, Chris experiences the neighborhood-bar-like feel of an Applebees for the first time. “We like to feel known. We like to feel wanted. We like to feel like we belong to something. It’s part of being human,” he writes. He then goes on to apply that insight to social media and how it lets companies create more of a 1:1 relationship with customers. He equivocates in his conclusion, saying this can’t scale but insisting companies need to use these tools to let customers know they’re important.

Seth Godin’s “The goals you never hear about” calls out the fact that too often, our unstated goals are negative – don’t fail, don’t screw up – rather than to actually do something. Being conscious of this makes it easier to change.

Jeremiah Owyang, a senior analyst at Forrester, publishes a weekly digest of the Social Networking Industry. Definitely worth subscribing to if you care about this space.

After reading these and other posts today, I realize a couple of things:

We are just at the beginning of the social media wave. The work companies are doing now is crude but incredibly important, the groundwork for the future.

There are far reaching implications – commerical, social, psychological – in all of this.

It’s human nature to want to avoid risk, embarassment, failure. But if we let those trump our positive goals, we risk even more.

There is A LOT going on – a virtual firehose of trends, developments and ideas that it may or may not be important for you to pay attention to. It’s essential to create space to filter, analyze/reflect and act (whatever your own form of action might be).

My New Twitter Friend: @comcastcares

If you’re anything like me, you hate dealing with large corporate service providers. Phone company, cable company, insurance company — it doesn’t really matter. As soon as I pick up the phone to call, I start to anticipate that a) I’m going to have to battle my way through phone tree hell; b) once I eventually connect with a person, he or she is going to ask me for information I either don’t have at my fingertips or don’t want to divulge; and c) their first line of inquiry into my problem will inevitably put me into a defensive posture. So a lot of times I put off the call in the first place and suffer (or fume) in silence. Not happy. Not good.

Frank Eliason, Comcast Director of Digital Care

Frank Eliason, Comcast Director of Digital Care

So imagine what a breath of fresh air it was for me when, New Year’s Eve, a few days after setting up our new HD TV, I merely dropped a casual line in Twitter: “HD is shiny…. Comcast, why can’t you fix my stuttering signal?” and just seven minutes later got a reply from someone with the username @comcastcares offering to help. A person! Reaching out to me!

I’m not going to go through all the details of what Comcast has done for me as a result of this exchange, but believe me when I say we have been well cared for. In fact, I’m expecting my third or fourth call from Nancy at the Comcast “executive office” (nice touch) today. She got us a prompt service call to begin with and keeps calling to make sure things are alright, since we hadn’t been watching a lot of TV the first few times she called. In the meantime, I pinged @comcastcares (Frank Eliason, director of digital care) on a major outage we had the other day, and he got back to me with what information he could get on the cause of the problem — even though it was hours after he was supposed to be off duty and wanted to go to bed.

All of this is particularly important as companies bundle more services together. We rely on Comcast not only for cable TV but now Internet and phone as well. We need to be able to trust that they’re going to take care of us, and being connected to a clearly dedicated person in one of my most important social networks helps. A lot.

My tweets about @comcastcares caught the attention of Kumud Kalia, CIO of Direct Energy, who was intrigued by the approach. He observed that Comcast is using frequent and sustained interaction with customers to develop deeper relationships and enhance corporate reputation, all the time in the public domain and on free infrastructure. But what was really interesting was Kumud’s musings on where this might go. For example, he wondered if the use of platforms like Twitter might extend to more employee functions so that customers can actually work in concert with individuals – or components –  that are a part of a delivery or supply chain. For example, rather than check the FedEx site to see where your package is, what if the truck carrying your package was tweeting where it was and how close it was to its next delivery destination? What if the package itself was tweeting to you as the recipient, to tell you where it was? The same could work for a service or delivery person (no more four hour windows wondering when they’re going to show up!), an airplane en route to the airport, your daughter’s snowboard to let you know where she is on the mountain… (of course the package and snowboard applications would have to tie a Twitter feed into some kind of geo-location signal). the possibilities are intriguing.

In the meantime, I’m impressed and happy that a company I rely on for critical services is using Twitter so well for customer service. And my experience made some of my Twitter-skeptic friends take another look.