VIDEO: My TED-Style Talk at Flux About Cities and Blockchain

October 30, 2018 - 10:57 am

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PODCAST: My Interview on the IT Visionaries Show

October 26, 2018 - 6:23 pm

Click here to enjoy.

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FREE REPORT: The Future Belongs to Cities by Dr. Jonathan Reichental

September 19, 2018 - 4:04 pm

Click Here to Download The Future Belongs to Cities Report

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VIDEO: What Problems Might Blockchain Solve for Government?

September 9, 2018 - 11:02 pm

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S3 Ep2: The Improv of Life

September 7, 2018 - 3:08 pm

Jonathan and Tom welcome their guest, Dr. Tia Kansara. It’s a wide ranging discussion that includes thoughts on self-driving cars, blockchain, and sustainability. Recorded at a restaurant in the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Plenty of laughs and food for thought. Music credit: Kevin MacLeod.

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VIDEO: Interview on Future of Cities with Silicon Valley Innovation Center

August 30, 2018 - 6:43 pm

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What an Honor! Addressing the United Nations in NYC on July 9, 2018

August 10, 2018 - 5:14 pm

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Every disruption demands dialogue

August 4, 2018 - 4:26 pm

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A Day Without Teaching or Learning is Like a Day Without Water

July 23, 2018 - 12:48 pm

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S3 Ep1: Truth Decay – The Live Show

July 20, 2018 - 7:59 pm

Special live audience edition of Drinking Wine Talking Tech recorded in Sacramento, California on May 17, 2018. It’s raw and unedited. While the recording begins somewhat distorted, it improves later. Jonathan and Tom discuss a wide range of tech issues.

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Every Day is a Fresh Opportunity

July 16, 2018 - 12:09 pm

Designed by Mariya Gul Khand

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PODCAST: Digital Transformation in the Workplace

July 9, 2018 - 9:59 am

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My Blockchain and Crypto Online Courses Rated Best in 2018

- 9:50 am

More info here: https://www.onlinecoursesreview.org/cryptocurrency/

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Palo Alto’s CTO: The Smart Future of Cities and Society

March 31, 2018 - 11:11 am

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Drinking Wine Talking Tech Season 3 – Now In Pre-Production

March 12, 2018 - 9:59 am

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VIDEO: Interview on CNET

- 9:56 am

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I’ve Joined the Faculty at the Ignite Institute, California

January 14, 2018 - 2:55 pm

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S2 Ep7: [Bonus Show] Is Any of This Real?

December 23, 2017 - 1:29 pm

Jonathan and Tom discuss a wide variety of topics with the leading tech podcaster in New Zealand, Paul Spain. As usual we ask the tough questions and get very few answers. This time we even ask when we will get to experience the matrix. There are a lot of bad jokes.

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S2 Ep6: The World of Smart Things

December 19, 2017 - 10:27 pm

Jonathan and Tom welcome guest, Alex Hawkinson, CEO of SmartThings. They talk about the future of the connected home and what it is like to work for Samsung. It is a fascinating journey into the mind of somebody who believes everything that can be connected will be connected. There is lots of wine too.

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S2 Ep5: Everything Will Be Connected

December 16, 2017 - 1:30 am

Jonathan and Tom discuss the state of device connectivity with expert, Bill Pugh. While nobody is following the script, the conversation covers some fascinating insights on where we have been and where we are headed with connecting everything. Extensive laughter ensues.

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S2 Ep4: How Do You Define Innovation?

December 9, 2017 - 4:55 pm

Jonathan and Tom discuss the complex and poorly understood word innovation with guest Saker Ghani. Saker is a global innovation leader and has worked on the iPod, iTunes, and the Yahoo home page. Currently with PwC, he lives and breaths the topic of innovation every day.

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S2 Ep3: Scott McNealy Wants to Reinvent Education

- 3:12 am

Jonathan and Tom welcome Scott McNealy, Silicon Valley luminary and co-founder and CEO of Sun Microsystems. Scott talks about Steve Jobs, the future of education, his family, and why he believes blockchain is a game-changing technology. It is an incredible journey into the mind of a remarkable titan of Silicon Valley.

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S2 Ep2: Can We Save the Planet?

November 23, 2017 - 2:07 am

Jonathan and Tom finally welcome their first guest. They chat with one of the founders of the sustainability movement, Gil Friend. They get real answers to our most serious human challenge. And yes, there is wine and a few jokes.

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S2 Ep1: Preview of Season 2 – Guests and Drones

November 16, 2017 - 3:00 am

Jonathan and Tom are back for Season 2. Surprised by thousands of listeners to season one, this time they are adding amazing guests and tackling tough technology topics. Oh, and there is some wine too. In this episode they preview the topics and guests. They also chat briefly about a future of drones.

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Begun the Drone War Has

November 5, 2017 - 7:01 pm

15-year old Luke Bannister had a proud and exuberant smile on his face. He had just flown the flight of his life hurtling at stunning speeds and taking steep corners, avoiding obstacles, and out-thinking all his opponents. In doing so, he walked away with the $250,000 first prize at the inaugural World Drone Prix in Dubai. His success was witnessed by 2000 spectators and envied by his 250 competitors.

Luke and his teammates are part of a global movement of drone racers, not quite mainstream yet, but quickly emerging as an exciting new sport. All around the world, competitions are being held with competitors of all ages and with drones of all types, big and small. Drone racing requires exceptional skills including strategy, reflexes, and nerves of steel. Leagues are sponsored by brands such as AIG, DHL, and Mountain Dew. The Drone Racing League has a TV rights deal with ESPN. It’s starting to be big business.

A couple of years ago, I attended a smart city event in Yinchuan, China. On one evening at an outdoor dinner, post meal entertainment included what initially appeared to be a fireworks display. Instead, it was an illusion. In place of explosions, a fantastic highly choreographed aerial dance was performed by what appeared to be tens, if not hundreds, of small synchronized drones. In addition to colorful sequences set to music, the drone spelled words and completed gravity-defying stunts. It was spectacular.

[Watch Intel’s 500 Light Drone Show Here]

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. James Klein arrives for his piloting shift in Las Vegas. First for a briefing and then he takes his position inside a featureless building for his 10-hour workday. He’ll spend the day flying a Predator XP drone somewhere over the Middle East looking for persons of interest. He describes his job as 99% boredom and 1% adrenaline rush. Today he’s piloting alone but knows that in a few months he’ll be joined by a co-pilot. Not a human, but artificial intelligence (AI). The military bets that a human and AI can be more effective than either alone.

On this day, if James does launch a missile at a target he’ll have to head to his suburban home that evening and keep it to himself as he shares dinner with his family. Such is the nature of drone warfare in the 21st century.

Hurricane Matthew made U.S. landfall on Oct. 8, 2016. While a category 1, the storm caused significant damage and the worst came days later in the form of flooding. Paramedic Andrew Miller of Horry County Fire Rescue was sent to help evacuate stranded residents. Throughout his engagement he used a drone to help with operations. The drone developed a 360-degree, real-time overview of Andrew’s flooding area. He was able to gain a more complete understanding of the incident, looking at where the floods were, determining the best way to deliver services to those in need and providing critical information to rescue crews—not just verbal information but visual information of the situation they were being deployed to. For emergency workers of all types, drones are transforming emergency response. In industrial and many other organizational contexts, drones have the potential to do the same thing.

In early 2017, ground drones otherwise known as unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) started to appear on the streets of Redwood City, California. These drones were delivering take-out to residents. According to their maker, Starship Technologies, the ground drones are about 15 inches high, can carry three bags of groceries and weigh about 50 pounds when full. Their maximum speed is 4 mph and have nine cameras and proprietary mapping software that’s accurate down to an inch. Among the anticipated advantages, the experimental deployment is hoped to reduce traffic and delivery cost.

It’s All Fun and Games Until…

Unbeknownst to hundreds of workers busily making their way to work on a typical workday morning, a small drone with its noise drowned out by the hustle and bustle, was flying overhead and collecting the private information from smartphones in people’s pockets. It was doing this using software called Snoopy and was leveraging any of the phones with WiFi turned on. The drone captured an abundance of content including the websites that people visited, credit card information entered or saved on different sites, location data, usernames and passwords.

In the years ahead we will deploy billions of devices that will connect to the Internet—mostly wirelessly. In our increasingly connected smart homes we already do it with items such as our thermostats, entertainment, and home security systems. Our cities are becoming smarter with the deployment of millions (and soon billions) of sensors for everything from traffic management to air quality measurement. This Internet-of-Things (IoT) has remarkable advantages and will transform ourselves, homes, organizations, and cities. But they will be ripe for exploitation. And potentially by drones. Research teams from Israel and Canada demonstrated how a drone could exploit a software vulnerability in wirelessly connected light-bulbs and turn them on and off at a distance. Imagine for a moment a drone attack that turns off city lights in neighborhoods or citywide, or worse flickers them eliciting mass neurological responses.

For every advantage that a new innovation has, the bad guys will exploit it in their favor too. That’s life.

The Air Force in the United States, and in many other countries, are working on using drones in swarms. Rather than a handful of drones being used to attack a target, hundreds, perhaps thousands, can be used to overwhelm air defenses or to crash into targets. Technology is now enabling one pilot to commandeer a vast swarm of drones that completely changes air capabilities. But what happens when the bad guys do this too? Not limited to the battlefield, hackers could take over consumer and commercial drones in vast numbers and use them to disrupt public events with tragic consequences. They don’t need to weaponize them, the drone is the weapon.

And Here We Are

Almost unknown in the consumer space until the end of the 1990’s, drones have emerged as a serious industry in the first two decades of the new century. Fortune magazine estimates that from 2015-2025, the drone industry will have an economic impact of more than $82 billion and will create over 100,000 high-paying jobs. What’s responsible for the explosion in drone purchasing and use? For one, the technology has dropped in cost and comes in many shapes and sizes. Drone options range from just a few dollars to thousands of dollars depending on use and interest. Finally, they have incredible diversity of use including those I’ve explored in this article, but many more including capturing live events, delivery mechanisms, hobbyists, making personal videos, and in professional movie-making and journalism. Soon, drones will carry people. There are many more uses.

Regulation is finally catching up and in many countries drone rules are on the books. Some communities are fighting against drones as a noise nuisance, as a danger to humans, and as an expansion of privacy intrusion. Sure, there’s plenty of contention between enthusiasts and legislators and I’d bet that will continue for a long time. Make sure you know the rules and if drones interest you, consider becoming engaged in the debate.

Of course, as you’d expect, in response to the threats posed by drones used for nefarious reasons, a whole new defense industry is emerging that includes hardware and software solutions; and risk management services. Dedrone provides a good example of these types of emergent enterprises. New innovation will be required as the threats continue to speed ahead of the solutions.

For many of us, drones have been a side-show; something interesting but not necessary high on our radar. Those days are over. Drones must be considered in your organizational strategy, whether as a tool to optimize or improve a function of your business, or to understand and mitigate the risks they will pose in the years ahead.

I used to look at drones from a distance. Not anymore.

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VIDEO: Smart City Interview on Belgium’s “Steven Talks” Series

October 26, 2017 - 9:15 pm

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VIDEO: Keynote at Cybersecurity Symposium, San Jose, CA

September 29, 2017 - 12:59 pm

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45-Min Video Interview on CXOTalk

July 22, 2017 - 9:27 pm

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My 3-minute Pitch on the Smart City Imperative

July 12, 2017 - 2:05 pm

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My Smart Cities Short Documentary

July 7, 2017 - 4:59 pm

Smart Cities: Solving Urban Problems Using Technology by Jonathan Reichental

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Trailer for my New Short Documentary on Smart Cities

July 2, 2017 - 11:28 am

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S1 Ep6: Season Finale – The Data Show

June 17, 2017 - 6:35 pm

Jonathan and Tom leave the best to last. This is the show you have been waiting for. It is the data show. But they take a different angle on this popular topic. Per usual you will learn nothing but you might smile. Music: Kevin MacLeod. Give us feedback via Twitter: @Reichental or on our official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/drinkingwinetalkingtech.
Season 1 Episode 6 of 6.

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S1 Ep5: The End of Ownership

May 13, 2017 - 3:29 pm

Jonathan and Tom take on the complex and speculative topic of the end of ownership. Why own anything if you can rent what you need when you need it, always have the latest, and not pay for something when not in use? You may not get the answer in this podcast but you will likely have a little laugh. Music: Kevin MacLeod. Give us feedback via Twitter: @Reichental or on our official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/drinkingwinetalkingtech
Season 1 Episode 5 of 6.

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VIDEO: The Trillion Dollar Smart City Opportunity

February 19, 2017 - 8:40 pm

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My Chapter on Smart Cities Now Available in New Textbook

January 1, 2017 - 1:00 pm

Click Here to Preview Contents

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PODCAST: My Interview on Cities as the Digital Hubs of the Future

December 24, 2016 - 3:15 pm

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PODCAST: My Interview on Creating the Next Generation of Leaders

- 2:58 pm

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VIDEO: How To Be A Chief Inspiration Officer

December 4, 2016 - 5:36 pm

inspire-cto-2015

 

Click on the image to watch the video.

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Still Struggling to Understand the Blockchain? Start Here.

November 27, 2016 - 1:17 pm

I’ve been monitoring, evaluating, and deploying new technologies for over a quarter of a century. It’s something I love to do. Monitoring emerging technologies gives us an opportunity to imagine the possibilities of the future. Even better, more often than not, deploying emerging technologies gives us the opportunity to positively change millions of lives. As processing power has skyrocketed, technology costs have dropped, and half the world has connected to the Internet (yup – still 50% of the world’s population has no access to the Internet), the rate of new technologies introduced has accelerated. We quickly forget that Facebook didn’t exist 13 years ago or that the iPhone will only be 10 in 2017. It’s worth noting however, that for all the new ideas that are introduced each year, most don’t succeed. That’s sobering if you’re an entrepreneur and a challenge if some of your success depends on trying to figure out and invest in what’s “next.”

I’ve seen a lot of new ideas. I mean a lot. I’ve been right a few times about what would succeed and been way off quite often. Sometimes my predictions were simply too early. Those that know me may recall that back in the middle 2000’s I was bullish on virtual reality (VR). I spoke and wrote about it widely. Turns out I was at least 10 years too soon with my prediction. Same with voice recognition. I did predict the emergence of social media (then called social computing), but didn’t anticipate fake news and all the other ugliness. I was an early user of Twitter and remain a fan, but it pains me to watch it struggle.

Now as I continue to monitor and evaluate a whole swath of emerging technologies I am particularly struck by this thing called the blockchain. This is a technology with a funny name but with the possibility of significant consequence. I’ve decided to write about the blockchain, something I’ve wanted to do for a while, because so few people know what it is, and what has been written about it is remarkably difficult to understand. As an educator, I want to make difficult concepts accessible to as many people as possible.

Selfishly, explaining things makes me understand them better too.

I don’t intend to get deep into blockchain here. I’ll simply discuss its basic concept and provide some examples of how it might be applied. If you’re not a blockchain beginner, you can probably stop right here.

What problem does the blockchain try to solve?

Let’s begin answering this question by looking at an example. We’ll use an online directory. This directory is simply a listing of people’s names, phone numbers, and email addresses. It is provided by a commercial company. The data in the directory is in a database and it lives on a physical server somewhere in the United States. When a person needs to access this directory and find some personal details, they use a web browser over the Internet. Simple enough.

This basic design has generally worked well for a few decades. However, those of us with experience quickly admit to its significant limitations. For starters, if data is changed in the database, how do we know the change is correct? What happens if that single server is successfully accessed by a nefarious individual or organization? Over time we’ve addressed these issues as best we can. For example, validation of authority can be achieved through producing a social security number. But authorities can create bottlenecks, they can be costly, and they can even be biased. Server security is implemented by any number of innovative commercial solutions, yet everyday we hear about major breaches of systems that result in credit card and identity theft. These problems and solutions all exist because we’ve embraced a database design that is inherently limited. Is there a better design, one that not only eliminates theses limitations but also vastly improves how systems interact and data is managed?

Rethinking the centralized database

Now let’s have a little fun. Instead of the database being on one computer, let’s place it on lots of computers–possibly thousands and eventually even millions. If a change needs to happen in the database, all of the versions of the database on every one of those computers needs to change—and here’s the secret sauce: all those computers have to agree to the change!

Instead of a single database on a single computer, let’s distribute the database onto thousands, even millions of computers.

Let’s explore this a little further. In this new design, there is no central computer or single version of the database. By definition, we are using a distributed database. A transaction such as new data or a change to existing data entered in a copy of the database on my computer–if accepted by all the other computers–will be made in their databases too so that the distributed database is identical in all instances. Making updates, which are encrypted for additional security, that are reflected appropriately across this network of computers is analogous with transactions in an accounting ledger, so we’ve decided to call it a distributed ledger. This distributed ledger adds a new immutable block (one that can’t be changed or deleted) of data every time there is a change. Imagining a long chain of blocks gives rise to the notion of a blockchain!

This new design is equal measure beautiful, simple, and powerful. That’s much of why it is so compelling.

So how does it solve the issues of the central database we discussed earlier? First, the distributed ledger requires that all the participant computers agree to a change. This consensus mechanism almost eliminates the possibility of security issues because the large volume of participating computers would all need to be breached. Additionally, since all the computers need to agree or disagree with a change, the network becomes the authority. Effectively, this new design doesn’t require a central authority. Since the integrity of the distributed ledger requires complete participation, risk is radically reduced, and trust is dramatically increased. As Don Tapscott says in his book Blockchain Revolution, we don’t need to trust each other in the traditional sense, because trust is built into the system itself. This is why we’ll sometimes refer to the blockchain as the trust protocol.

The Blockchain eliminates the middleman

Ok, so that’s the basics. We see how the distributed ledger helps with integrity and security, but what does it enable that wasn’t easily possible before?

Suddenly a completely new set of possibilities emerge. Let’s take something as important as online identity. While some creative solutions exist to this problem, blockchain technologies may be the ideal answer. Since the distributed ledger is the authority, it becomes near impossible to duplicate or impersonate an online identity since this authority ensures a single identify for you. It will reject attempts to foil the system. Done right we could see, for example, online voting on the horizon in the United States. Online identify would also enable better protections from copyright infringement. For example, if you write a song and use the blockchain to record your ownership to that song, we effectively eliminate any question of originality in the future.

With robust strength to authentication and validation in all manner of transactions, the blockchain can be an authority over an enormous volume of activities that today require expensive third-party participants. With the origin of the blockchain in an online currency called Bitcoin, the distributed ledger can eliminate many of the required brokers in moving money from one account to another. Imagine sending money instantaneously to a friend in another country with limited bank engagement and cost (and possibly none at all!)

Helping devices negotiate with each other

If the blockchain takes off, the future doesn’t bode well for intermediaries like brokers, notaries, lawyers, and anyone who makes a commission from transactions.

Now let’s kick it up a notch. Rather than simple transactions happening over this network, let’s imagine entire, complex contracts between two entities being recorded and validated by the network. These smart contracts could have triggers that the network would honor, thus eliminating much of today’s human interaction. All manner of intermediaries could be eliminated. Watch out notaries and lawyers! And welcome blockchain-driven machine actions. What might that look like? Imagine devices on the Internet (the Internet of Things) that need to negotiate together, say, facial recognition that results in the opening of a door. A smart contract would exist on the blockchain that would manage the interaction without the need for a central database or authority. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that future devices using artificial intelligence could create their own smart contracts without any involvement from humans. Jeepers.

It’s quickly possible to see that the blockchain has considerable consequences.

So what might hold the blockchain back?

Like with most emerging technologies a lot of things have to happen to enable success. We’ll need to see the emergence and adoption of standards. We’ll need to ensure integrity and performance scaling to billions of transactions (maybe more) every second at a global level. There’s energy power and legacy technology challenges to contend with there. There will be resistance from impacted industries such as banking and finance. The blockchain’s core quality, that of no central authority, will be challenged and challenging in a world that is designed around the premise of regulation and control.

This all being said, momentum is on the side of blockchain. Radically redesigning technology and the way we think about many of the fundamental processes in our society requires serious understanding and possible plans for action.

Getting a grasp of the blockchain is a first step. But we’ll need to study it closely and try to anticipate implications that may not be obvious right now. Will we get ahead of it’s fake news flaw?

If I’ve helped you understand the basics of blockchain I recommend getting deeper into the topic. Fortunately, there is a lot of industry-specific content emerging and that may be a great place to go next.

I don’t know if the blockchain is the next big thing, but I’m not taking any chances. You?

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PODCAST: What Will The City Of The Future Look Like?

May 17, 2016 - 2:09 am

FoW-May16

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The Smart City Opportunity

April 6, 2016 - 11:40 pm

Assuming that current trends continue, our future belongs to cities. Already half of all humans on the planet live in cities, and by 2050 a full 70 percent of civilization will live, work, and play in an urban environment.

To get a sense of the scale and speed of this global transformation, the United Nations says that 3 million more people move into cities per week. It’s creating staggering challenges. Cities already burdened with intractable problems experience a constant stream of new arrivals all requiring housing, jobs, energy, transportation, and so much more. Urbanization has enabled so many of us to rise to a higher quality of life, but it has also created unprecedented problems that are quickly undermining the benefits it once created.

Anyone who lives in a city sees and experiences these issues first-hand. This isn’t an abstract topic. Together we must commit to bold new solutions. To create a future urban environment that is healthy and sustainable will require a new operating system for our cities.

What do I mean by a city operating system?

Every day, in thousands of cities around the world, a cycle repeats itself. For billions there is a march to work, school and other activities. Machines spin up. Transportation systems engage. Energy is produced and consumed. Products are made. Data flows. Buildings heat and cool. Services respond. By evening, we’re home, ready to rest and begin again tomorrow. There’s a complex system of interdependencies that enables this all to function. It’s a city operating system. For most of us, experiencing these mechanics every day is both amazing and exasperating — sometimes simultaneously.

We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to create smarter cities.

Today, under duress, this operating system is largely inefficient and its fragility is glaringly exposed. If you sit for hours in traffic bumper to bumper or press up against one another in a train or circle endlessly searching for a parking space, you know our transportation systems are broken. If you get frustrated attempting to find city information or eliciting a city service or trying to have a voice to influence change in your community, you know municipal government can do so much more to meet expectations. Around every corner, time after time, we all experience the product of an urban environment in desperate need of reinvention. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to create smarter cities.

What will it take to create this new operating system?

First we need the motivation. Are we sufficiently convinced that radical innovation is needed? The evidence suggests that we’re moving in the right direction. From India’s 100 smart cities initiative, to impressive projects in Amsterdam, Singapore, and Palo Alto, California, to new cities like Songdo in South Korea, Yachay in Ecuador, and Masdar in the United Arab Emirates, there’s a remarkable new momentum for change. But these cities and their respective leaders still represent only an elite group that are both talking and doing. It’s a good start.

Here are three areas to begin:

1. Culture

What these first-movers have in common, too, are the unique qualities of leadership, vision, and an appetite and permission for some risk-taking. In other words, they have the prerequisite attributes of culture that is necessary for creating a new operating system for their cities. It’s not impossible, but it will be harder for those cities without these cultural qualities to embrace the essential reinvention ahead. It will come, but it will take time. It’s an opportunity for new leaders and a push from the private sector to enable some of that new culture to emerge.

2. Civic engagement

Next, a new operating system will only emerge through partnerships and civic engagement. Given the huge costs and an almost infinite number of other competing priorities, local city governments will be unable to assume the responsibility necessary for building these smarter cities alone.

There’s ample opportunity for a myriad of partnerships with the private sector, with academia, federal agencies and the local community. Local governments are good at and well-positioned for convening organizations and individuals. Many cities already host challenges, hackathons, and meet-ups; they create incentives and platforms for participation; and they invite problem solvers to co-create. These are great starting points. Ensuring that local government is accessible and open will help get results. Cities with open data portals help to unleash valuable insight that is used to build solutions and drive decision-making.

3. Civic innovation

Finally, we’re going to need a whole new generation of technology innovation. We already see the advantages of mobile apps that help people find parking spaces, monitor and manage their energy use, interact efficiently with city services, make informed environmental choices, cycle safer, elicit medical assistance and so much more. We see how traffic signals will soon work in concert with connected cars to help with traffic flow. We’ve seen cities from San Paulo, Brazil to Los Angeles, California reduce crime by using data and intelligent software.

Forward-thinking cities are experimenting with the Internet of Things to connect all manner of infrastructure to data networks. This connected infrastructure is providing completely new capabilities such as the ability to more easily detect and report water leaks; for empty parking spaces that announce themselves; and for a series of monitors that can initiate the timely dispatch of public safety personnel in an emergency. But this is just the beginning. A new operating system for cities is going to require big thinking, new ideas, and all the attendant new technologies, skills and people that emerge from this innovation.

History demonstrates that the capacity for human ingenuity particularly in the face of overwhelming adversity is a powerful force.

The choice we face

If you’re an optimist like me, you’ll see the creation of a new operating system for cities as an incredible opportunity. There’s a lot to be concerned about as we look out into the future of our cities. We’re facing unprecedented challenges. History demonstrates that the capacity for human ingenuity particularly in the face of overwhelming adversity is a powerful force. Today we face a crossroads. A path that leads to the reinvention of our cities and another which sees the continuation of the rapid decay and decline of our urban spaces. Together we can choose the right path and create a new operating system for our cities.

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VIDEO: Meet 7 CIOs That Are Creating Smart Cities in Silicon Valley

February 26, 2016 - 11:16 pm

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VIDEO: Silicon Valley Forum Interview on Smart Cities and Open Data

February 12, 2016 - 9:00 pm

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VIDEO: Brave New Connected World – My Talk at Silicon Valley Forum

February 1, 2016 - 9:46 pm

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VIDEO: Creating Data-Driven Cities – ODSC WEST 2015

January 30, 2016 - 11:34 am

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VIDEO: What Does a Government CIO Do?

January 27, 2016 - 3:05 am

Video also discusses the role of the Internet of Things in a government and city context.

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Embracing Diversity for the Future of our Cities

January 15, 2016 - 9:17 pm

diversity1“In the game of life, less diversity means fewer options for change. Wild or domesticated, panda or pea, adaptation is the requirement for survival.” – Cary Fowler

As a technology leader in Silicon Valley, I have the opportunity to attend and speak at many technology conferences. While some notable progress has been made, I can’t help but observe that the vast majority of participants are men. It’s even worse when the audience are managers and above. Then it’s predominantly middle-aged white men, a statistic supported by recent research showing women represent only 19% of board positions and 25% of management roles (Source:Catalyst.org)

Unfortunately, the technology industry continues to be a bad reflection of the diversity in American society. Together we have to fix this.

The Tech Industry Diversity Problem

For many of us there’s no news here. We know the hard facts and in the last year alone the media has called out many technology firms in Silicon Valley that have made slow progress in addressing a lack of gender and racial diversity. The ensuing embarrassment has created some momentum and here’s hoping we see real progress in the months ahead.

The absence of diversity in many companies isn’t just about fairness and equality. Several studies demonstrate that it can impair economic growth; damage brand; and lower productivity. As one startling example showed: executive boards with greater diversity had a 53% better return on equity (Source: McKinsey).

Any one or combination of these factors should be enough to compel organizations to be proactive in addressing this inequality. But in the technology industry and increasingly for most business domains today, a lack of diversity may be hindering the very thing we need in much greater volume: innovation.

Put bluntly, the current state of diversity in the technology industry is materially impacting the marketplace of ideas. We’re limiting our potential to be more creative.

A Societal Opportunity Cost

“We must tell girls their voices are important.” – Malala Yousafzai

Ideas and the refined mechanics to execute on them are at the heart of Silicon Valley’s success. In a healthy marketplace, ideas live and die on their merit as determined by a population. Assuming an idea emerges and it has the support to get a decent run at the market, it has a chance to succeed.

But what happens when a voice with an idea is not given a chance to be heard? We exclude that voice from the marketplace of ideas. Since we know from research that diversity contributes to creativity, it should logically follow that less diversity equates to less creativity. We’re artificially inducing silence where there should be noise.

What is the cost to society in never realizing these ideas and the positive innovation they could generate?

Civic Innovation Needs Many Voices

With the 21st century well underway, the world continues to experience rapid urbanization. By mid-century, two out of three people on the planet will live in a city. These urban centers around the world are struggling to meet the significant needs ahead. Much of the infrastructure is in desperate need of repair and modernization; city services lag behind community expectations; budgets are stretched thin; and major transitions related to areas such as transportation, energy, and sustainability have all yet to play out.

In this context, civic innovation and particular that powered by technology, becomes a central support and driver for necessary positive change. To make our cities smarter, healthier, and more responsive will require new talent, new perspectives, and new ideas.

Simply put: If we’re going to meet the city challenges of the 21st century head-on, we’re going to need a lot of new voices at the table.

For the past four years, I’ve had the privilege to lead a technology team that is pushing the boundaries of civic innovation at the City of Palo Alto. Being able to reimagine the possible and experiment with new ideas in the heart of Silicon Valley were among the core reasons I chose to take this public service journey. With eyes wide open, I anticipated that introducing some risk-taking into projects and elevating the strategic role of technology into city operations would not be easy. With City Council and leadership support, that’s what we’ve done. Mostly we’ve had good results and we’ve learned from our mistakes.

While strong leadership support and Silicon Valley as our working backdrop have been essential components of helping our team succeed, I believe that more than anything, the top contributor to our ability to approach issues differently and to take greater risks has everything to do with our appetite and encouragement to listen to all perspectives. The diversity of our technology team, our City staff, and our community has directly contributed to a wider range of ideas; thoughtful perspectives; and a healthy amount of debate.

In other words, we’re better because as best we could, we embraced diversity.

Let’s Get to Work

“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities” – Stephen R. Covey

Of course we also recognize we can do better. After all, our potential new hires and workforce can only be as diverse as the conditions we are all helping to create. A local government organization is a microcosm of society. If we don’t encourage, enable, and facilitate, for example: more women and minority groups to pursue careers in technology, we’ll continue to perpetuate our limited options.

It’s clear then that if we’re going to address the complex challenges of local government and design and deploy more civic innovation, we’re going to need a more diverse set of voices at the table.

Diversity in all its forms has become essential to the success of all of us.

Sometime, hopefully in the near future, we will all be able to go to a technology conference and be warmed by the richness of differences in the audience. We’ll find the kaleidoscope of gender, race, age, ethnicity and more to be unsurprising. We’ll be struck by the range of ideas and perspectives in discussions.

As I reflect on the diversity challenge ahead and the compelling urgency to see change, I’m left with two questions: What will it take to get us there and how fast can we make it happen?

Together, let’s begin to answer those questions now.

——————

This blog post first appeared in January 2016 in the League of Women in Government website: http://leagueofwomeningovernment.com/2016/01/05/embracing-diversity-for-the-future-of-our-cities/

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VIDEO: BBC Featurette on Connected Cities

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The Impact of Social Media on Traditional Knowledge Management

December 16, 2015 - 1:12 pm

book-168824_1280Successfully implementing knowledge management, which is broadly defined as the identification, retention, effective use, and retirement of institutional insight, has been an elusive goal for most organizations. Some of the smartest people I have worked with have been frustrated by their efforts, not through lack of trying or ability but by the inherent challenges it presents. Now the emergence and impact of social media and the way it democratizes the creation and use of knowledge in the enterprise is forcing us to rethink our assumptions.

To understand and discuss the challenges of the traditional approaches to knowledge management, I’ve categorized them into two simple buckets: behavioral and technical.

1. Behavioral

In order for a Knowledge Management System (KMS) to have value, employees must enter new insight on a regular basis and they must keep it current. Out-of-date information has limited use beyond being of historic value. Seldom are either of these behaviors adequately incentivized. In fact, by being asked to share their tacit knowledge, many employees believe they are reducing their own value to the organization. In addition, updating the information requires real effort, which is rarely a priority against the core responsibilities of the employee. Even organizations that have dedicated resources for managing knowledge struggle to keep it current and to enforce adherence to their single source of truth.

2. Technical

If you want to find out something about your organization, say, the revenue of the business, it’s often easier to use a popular search engine than to use your own internal knowledge system. Try this yourself.

It’s remarkably difficult to organize information in the right manner, make it searchable, and then present it so the most relevant responses are at the top of the search results. Organizational information is hardly the example of pristine structure. While public search engines use algorithms such as counting the number of web pages that link to other web pages (a good measure of popularity) to function, internal systems have no such equivalent. Unstructured content is the king of the public web, whereas it is the bane of the enterprise.

The situation is compounded when employees are disillusioned by the effectiveness and effort to use the KMS and resort to old habits, like asking colleagues, improvising, or relying on non-official sources. The system often fails to be widely adopted—at best it is used by a small proportion of the organization—and no amount of effort is enough to see success scale.

Enter Social Media: The Changemaker

It may be time for you to rethink knowledge management in your organization. Social media, a disruptive phenomenon particularly in the enterprise, has the potential to completely disrupt traditional knowledge management systems.

In the old world order, knowledge was typically created and stored as a point in time. In the future, organizational policy or insight is less likely to be formed by an individual creating a document that goes through an approval process and is ultimately published. No, it will more likely begin with an online conversation and it will be forever evolving as more people contribute and circumstances change.

Social media takes knowledge and makes it highly iterative. It creates content as a social object. That is, content is no longer a point in time, but something that is part of a social interaction, such as a discussion. We’ve all seen how content in a micro-blogging service can shift meaning as a discussion unfolds.

The shift to the adoption of enterprise social computing, greatly influenced by consumerization, points to an important emergent observation: the future of knowledge management is about managing unstructured content.

Let’s consider the magnitude of this for a moment. Years of effort, best practices, and technologies for supporting organizational content in the form of curated, structured insight may be over. The redo is an enormous challenge, but it may in fact be the best thing that has ever happened to knowledge management.

A Silver Lining

In the long run, social media in the enterprise will likely be a boon for knowledge management. It should mean that many of the benefits we experience in the consumer web space—effective searching, grouping of associated unstructured data sources, and ranking of relevance—will become basic features of enterprise solutions.

It’s also likely we’ll see the increasing overlap between public and private data to enhance the value of the private data. For example: want to know more about a staff member? Internal corporate information will include role, start date, department etc., but we’ll now get additional information pulled in from social networks, such as hobbies, photos (yikes!) or previous employment. Pull up client data and you’ll get the information keyed in by other employees, but you might also get the history and values of the company, competitors, and a list of executives, gleaned from the broader repository of the public web. I’ll leave the conversation about privacy for another day.

It’s likely that social media-driven knowledge management will require much less of the “management” component. Historically we’ve spent far too much time cleaning up the data, validating, and categorizing it. In the future, more of our time and our systems will be used to analyze all the new knowledge that is being created through our social interactions. The crowd will decide what is current and useful.

Of course, formality will not entirely fade away. There will still be a role for rigor. Laws, regulations, policies, training documentation, and other highly formal content will require it. But it will live alongside and be highly influenced by social computing.

No doubt knowledge management is an enormously complex space and the impact of social media magnifies the challenges. However, the time is right to evaluate your knowledge management strategy. It may be time to begin anew.

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VIDEO: How smart can a city be? – Jonathan Reichental Discusses with Tia Kansara

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Why Every Organization Needs to Be in the Cybersecurity Business

September 22, 2015 - 10:45 am

opendata3It’s a widely believed view by leaders that their organization is either one that has already experienced a cyber-attack or one that will be a target of an attack in the future. A more accurate conclusion by those who study this field suggests reality is somewhat different. Their assessment is that every organization falls into one of these two categories: It’s either already been attacked and knows about it or it’s been attacked and doesn’t know about it. Bad guys don’t always leave a calling card. Even more alarming, with many cyber-attacks being orchestrated over long periods rather than sudden attack-and-grab approaches, an ongoing effort may be underway right now without organizational knowledge.

It’s a grim assessment but sadly, a very real one. I’d be highly redundant if I listed just a few of the major, high-profile breaches that have taken place in recent years. It’s enough to report from the Ponemon Institute that 43% of all enterprises were the victims of a known cybersecurity event in 2014.

It’s not all bad news. A recent PwC survey noted that 76% of businesses executives acknowledge the serious risk to their organizations from cyber-crime. This is a positive sign. But let’s dig a little deeper. Recognizing a risk is an important first step, but it amounts to nothing if little action is taken.

Cyber-attacks, while clearly disruptive and often highly expensive, are now existential threats to organizations. It’s more than just the impacts of, say, brand risk and legal costs. A concerted and far-reaching IT security event can effectively destroy a business. Throwing a few dollars and some talent at the challenge is little more than rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Organizations need a complete wake-up call on cybersecurity.

From the highest level of the organization, cybersecurity must be made a priority with significant investment and executive and staff-level talent acquisition.

Bottom line? Organizations need to be in the cybersecurity business.

What exactly does being in the cybersecurity business mean?

Sadly, for most organizations, the investment and effort in security is the equivalent of insurance: it doesn’t contribute directly to the bottom line, but it’s an essential cost for every organization. Cybersecurity, if it’s being successful in your enterprise, will largely be invisible.

Let me be clear. Being in the cybersecurity business isn’t defined by employing the basics such as having anti-virus software and a firewall in your infrastructure. By that definition we’d be done already.

Being in the cybersecurity business means leadership of the organization has identified information technology (IT) security as an enterprise risk and is taking substantive and on-going action across all aspects of the organization to prevent future attacks.

Three things that organizations must do right now

1. Establish an enforceable cybersecurity policy

After you’re done reading this post, assuming you’re not sure, ask your team if a cybersecurity or IT security policy exists and whether it is current. Sure, you might have one, but does it reflect the realities of 2015?

A quality IT security policy will clearly outline the context and rules in which your organization operates and protects its digital assets. It will speak to dimensions that impact employees, customers, the public, and the wide range of stakeholders that interface with the organization.

It will be a document that has been endorsed by all leaders across the enterprise and it will be regularly updated as conditions dictate. There’s a large body of available knowledge on IT security policies, so a starting point is easy. If you recognize that your organization is now in the cybersecurity business, a meaningful IT security policy is a baseline artifact. Make it happen or improve upon what you have.

2. Train all employees in the basics of cybersecurity

Conventional wisdom suggests that the weakest link in cybersecurity in most organizations is its employees. But it’s more than that. Employees can be your best enforcers of a high-quality cybersecurity posture. Let’s take each of those ideas separately.

You know that your employees want to do the right thing. They deserve the insight on how best to protect your organization. It begins with the obvious such as guidance and enforcement of strict password rules. It should include what to look out for when evaluating whether to open an email attachment or enter security details in an online form. But it needs to go further to help employees know how to handle credit cards and social security numbers. It’s a leadership responsibility to ensure employees have the skills to do the job being asked and that includes protecting the enterprise.

On the second point: your employees can be some of your best enforcers too. Make it safe for them to report suspicious activity or for them to make independent judgement calls such as prohibiting tail-gating into restricted areas. An empowered workforce is a cybersecurity army that’s ready to be unleashed.

Finally, good behavior in cybersecurity must be reflected by leadership. They must demonstrate support for cybersecurity actions and be role-models in all aspects of your organizations IT security policy.

3. Complete an independent risk assessment of the enterprise

Let’s acknowledge that your organization has likely done many of the basics in IT security. Well done. To be in the cybersecurity business means doing a lot more. At this moment, do you have a confident understanding of where vulnerabilities are in your organization? The evidence suggests that many leaders simply don’t. Recent research by PwC puts the number as high as 50% of leadership that see cybersecurity simply as an IT risk, and not an enterprise risk. This nugget alone helps to validate why cybersecurity isn’t being made the enterprise priority it needs to be.

If your organization hasn’t done this recently, it’s time to get an independent assessment performed. In addition to providing you with sobering insight into your enterprise cybersecurity risks, you’ll have the evidence to create a case for action.

Congratulations, you’re now in the cybersecurity business

If you make cybersecurity an enterprise priority with strategic and tactical investments; hire the right talent; empower and train employees; and have an enforceable policy that reflects current risks, you will have a more resilient organization. In a world where we’re likely to never fully protect ourselves from cyber-attacks, we can take the necessary and urgent steps to be better able to anticipate, defend, and recover from attacks. To make this happen, like just about everything else in our organizations, it’s going to require bold and informed leadership.

It’s a new day for enterprise risk and a new day needs new thinking. You probably didn’t realize it before, but assuming you do the right things right now, you’ll soon be in the cybersecurity business.

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Four Ways to Make Metrics Really Count

August 21, 2015 - 9:18 pm

metricmeetinglight2Sometimes it’s worth reminding ourselves that the most important skills and tools for organizational success aren’t the ones that cost a lot or are difficult to execute. Often they are the forgotten fundamentals; the mundane but effective techniques that can really help. Developing and using metrics, even in the smallest team deep-down in the org chart, is one of those areas. Get started or re-embrace your commitment to metrics and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Rediscovering what gets measured gets managed

Are you able to view or run a report at a moment’s notice and determine how well your organization is doing in a specific area of, say, sales or service delivery? If you can then I congratulate you. You have timely data to help you make informed decisions for leading your organization to success.
Sadly, for many leaders this simply isn’t the case. Why might that be? Reasons can range from simply not making performance metrics a priority to not having the skills or systems to provide the desired data. Whatever the reason, a leader and a team without access to timely data is at a considerable disadvantage. Make metrics a priority and you can change the game in your favor entirely. Imagine being able to spin up a dashboard of data about things that really matter to your team and its objectives?

A discussion that incorporates relevant metrics lends itself to rational, data-driven decision-making. It reduces emotions and anecdotes and helps everyone focus on action. It’s one hallmark of high-performing teams.

If you’ve reached this far I gather you’re curious to learn more. Thank you. I now offer four ideas to make metrics really count for you, your team, and your organization.

1. Aim High, But Start Simply

It’s natural to begin the thought process for a metrics dashboard by believing you need to start with skilled talent; a data warehouse; and some form of data visualization tool. These things become more important over time, but let’s not start there. What matters most at the beginning is to get everyone convinced that the effort is worthwhile. Develop your best arguments for why data-driven decision making is good for everyone. Focus on the eventual positive outcomes.

Next, create an inventory of data that is currently collected and available right now. Don’t let the conversation drift to the desire to start collecting what you don’t already have. That will come later. It may be ugly, but every team has some form of existing data collection.

How about tools? Without any purchasing investment, there are amazing things that teams can do by simply using their existing productivity software or free online spreadsheets. In one of my teams, we did that for an extended period until we were ready to make tool investments. It’s doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to be useful.

With some basic data sets and a modest tool, you’ve got yourself a metrics dashboard.

2. Have Regular Metric Review Meetings

For many teams, collecting data and preparing it for review can seem like a worthless chore. There’s a common belief that few look at the reports and they offer no value to the decisions that matter. This is unfortunately validated as truth in many instances.

If you’re going to collect and make metrics matter, they need to be reviewed together as a team. These review meetings can be some of the most educational and valuable times that teams spend together. Have the team members who are responsible for the data interpret and present the results.

When team members observe that decisions are being made based on the data, the result is often improved trust. Who doesn’t want that?

3. Only Collect and Review Metrics for Decision-making

Sure, this tip seems obvious, but it is seldom adhered to. Teams that already collect and present data must choose a time to run every metric through the filter of whether it is an actionable item. If the metric is no longer something to base decisions on, eliminate or archive it. Over the months and years, metrics-creep has likely resulted in a large and diverse set of reports. Periodic purging is necessary.

For teams new to performance dashboards, be discriminating. Carefully review the value of data that you’re proposing to collect and present. You and your team will be surprised at the dialogue this creates. A better understanding of what the team does will surface. Collecting and presenting actionable data effectively describes the purpose of the team.

4. Share Metric Insights

At first, your metrics and reviews will likely have a small audience. Begin with a small team that includes managers and supervisors. Meet regularly, document decisions, refine the process, and add new metrics. At some point it will become clear that others will benefit from visibility to a subset of your metrics. Who might they be? Think about senior management; your customers; your suppliers; your peers and other teams.

I’m a big believer in telling your team story on a regular basis. Sure, it can take many forms, but I’ll argue that metrics need to be a part of it. Team metrics quickly communicate the value of what your team does. It will greatly assist with decision-making; for example, when trying to make the case for additional funding.

I’ve found that bringing metrics to the table changes the conversation. It helps to reduce emotional elements, personal attacks, and anecdotes. Assuming the data is high quality, a superior dialogue should result.

And Finally…

A discussion on metrics isn’t the most glamorous topic for most of us. What most of us do desire however, are simple leadership techniques that bring better outcomes. If you’re not making performance metrics count in your organization or team, you’re missing an easy instrument to get better results.

The four ideas in this article are intended to motivate you to action or reinvigorate an existing, but neglected area of your team. Those that are new to metrics can follow the ideas and in an iterative process, improve on each one as time passes. It won’t be too long before you’ll want better data analytical tools and perhaps want to hire specific talent.

In my career I often remind myself to revisit fundamentals. It’s these reminders that can help sharpen the saw and get us reinvigorated in our careers.

Remind yourself to make metrics really count. You’ll be glad you did.

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PODCAST: The Future Belongs to Cities – But We’re Not Ready Yet

July 2, 2015 - 9:09 pm

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VIDEO: Promo for My Talk at Campus Party Mexico, July 2015

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CIO: Chief Inspiration Officer?

February 27, 2015 - 7:31 pm

lightbulb-rd“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Some time ago, as a member of a panel speaking before technology leaders from various industries, I was asked what single, most important piece of advice I would give a new chief information officer (CIO).

Just prior to the question, I was struck by how our discussion had been rather sobering in nature. We were dwelling on some of the more challenging issues facing our profession: excessive and increasing demand to deliver more solutions; overworked and under- appreciated staff; and a technology playing field changing the rules with far too much frequently.

Deep inside the discourse on the state of any profession, it’s understandable that the pain points often get all the attention. While careful discussion of current issues is vital, it’s also incumbent on leaders to balance debate. To focus entirely on challenges in this forum risked the potential to miss the complete story: a CIO has the ability to lead important and meaningful business change; to create enormous value; and to impact staff and customers in ways that delight.

The most essential role of the CIO?

When the panel facilitator turned to me to address the advice I would give a new CIO, I wanted to directly speak to what had been on my mind. I responded, “The CIO should not just think of him or herself as simply the chief information officer, but rather as the chief inspiration officer.” I went on to explain that in an environment where it is easy to be dragged down and feel beaten by some of the realities of the job, it is essential to remind staff of the enormous value of technology and the magic it can create in people’s lives and in the function of organizations. My point was that the skills to create an environment that inspires must complement a CIO’s arsenal of genuine leadership abilities.

Inspiring staff by creating a compelling vision and strategy for technology is one of the lowest costs, yet most effective activities a CIO can do.

As a technology leader, there are a lot of pressing priorities and demand for attention is high. Team members feel the burden of delivering increasingly more complex solutions with less available capacity and in faster time. Inspiring staff by creating a compelling vision and strategy for technology is one of the lowest costs, yet most effective activities a CIO can do. A vision that produces positive, tangible results reminds everyone why we all do this work in the first place.

So how can a CIO inspire?

It’s hard to learn inspiration, but if you find a great way to express your passion and have it connect with others, that will usually get you heading to the right place. To inspire requires a person to have relentless positivity. It requires brilliant storytelling. Request bold challenges of your team members. Participate in action. Most of all, a leader must believe in his or her words and it will shine brightly in their face, energy, and manifest in supporting behavior.

It’s also important to recognize that driving inspiration is not limited to the CIO. Regardless of your role, inspiring others has considerable value and it feels great.

Often we each need a reminder of the core behaviors that can make each of us respected and appreciated colleagues and leaders. A long time ago I took my own advice and made inspiration a personal job requirement.

A version of this piece first appeared in O’Reilly Radar and was also the basis for a keynote talk at a technology conference.

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Disruption at a Moments Notice

February 14, 2015 - 5:19 pm

wheel of innovationIn the world of tech, we recognize that introducing a new product or service is often highly disruptive to an existing market and its competitors. What is relatively new is the speed and scale in which that disruption can take place. The torrent of punditry that pre-empts these introductions is notable alone. It has created an unusually unsettled technology marketplace.

The costs of sudden impact

In a hyper-connected world, the immediate reach and impact of the new provider can result in disproportional results from just incremental innovation–whether or not the solution even succeeds. It is the innovator’s dilemma in overdrive. This disruption at a moment’s notice largely eliminates the notion of a first-mover advantage. Flickr and Friendster can both vouch for that.

It would be easy to conclude that this disruption is a destructive force. Sure, there is something to be said for the uncertainty it can sow, and honestly it is impossible to know quite where it will take us. There is no doubt that organizations are being challenged in unprecedented ways and many consumers are riled by the constant volatility. I also have to believe that at some point every one of us has a capped quotient for fickleness.

At its core, the effect of disruption at a moment’s notice is an economic phenomenon. Clearly there is an important technical component, but introducing a new product or service that can have rapid and far reaching impact will shift existing market behavior — even if temporary in nature. In some instances, for publicly listed companies, the business introducing the technology may experience a bump in stock value and its competitors may see theirs experience downward pressure. Organizations too may wait for stability before making investments.

Let’s not be too hasty

When a new online service or app is introduced, pundits are quick to claim the imminent demise of its main competition. These existing organizations have worked hard over several years to earn, for example, each subscriber, friend, and follower. These analysts are often far too hasty and optimistic in their predictions. A sudden injection of viable competition is a great catalyst for innovation. It is one thing for customers to complain about existing functionality in the market leaders service, it’s quite another for that leader to respond to the potential existential threat from a new, disruptive competitor.  Google makes Microsoft a better software company. Tesla makes Ford a better car company.

Understanding the implications

As an example, observing the speed of innovation currently in the cloud computing space reminds us that intense competition and the risk of sudden disruption is bringing innovative, low cost capability to buyers quickly. Take a look at online storage. It’s a moving target, but intense competition and innovation is forcing the cost down towards zero. Disruption is a compelling forcing function.

Currently we see dynamic and healthy competition in the domain of smartphones. But it is also a fragile battle. Now largely dominated by a small set of participants — solutions created by organizations with healthy balance sheets — innovation is alive and kicking. But should one stumble, a dominant player could emerge and we could see innovation atrophy. We don’t want that. Consumers are advocating for disruption; albeit, managed disruption.

Conversely, disruption is causing mainstream businesses to die overnight eliminating any notion of predictability and dislodging people and downstream processes along the way. Robots and artificial intelligence are making us nervous about how their advantages may shrink human participation in the labor market. And a nexus of emergent technologies and behavior is demanding that we think about privacy in completely new ways.

Advocating for disruptive innovation

As an IT leader I encourage rigorous, disruptive innovation and competition as it helps to keep product and service costs low and it can accelerate the introduction of desired functions and surprising new solutions. I also want this innovation to restrict the ability for large, domineering players to create a closed Web or to reduce the very freedoms that make it so empowering.

But with this level of innovation, I’m also concerned by the potential long-term costs and with user fatigue. Organizations and their staff are increasingly experiencing the chaos and downsides of frequent change management.

Disruption at a moment’s notice has the capacity to elicit considerable change in the way many organizations operate and compete. Nobody wants to be Kodak or Blockbuster, both of whom had time to change, but underestimated the disruption to their industries. Everyone wants to be Netflix, who moved in record time from mailing DVDs to streaming online to become a market leader.

Being ready and able to respond to market surprises should be a focus for every organization. Do you know where the next disruption may come from that impacts your industry? Who’s thinking about that in your organization?

What all this means for how organizations function and how consumers respond over the long-term has mostly yet to be determined. Fortunately, whether we act or not, we can rely on the marketplace to largely help sort out what happens next.

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Civic Innovation: Ready, Set, Go!

January 16, 2015 - 10:59 pm

One of the reasons I moved from a successful 20-year career innovating in the private sector to spending time serving the public sector wasn’t because it was a premier place to innovate. In fact, I was attracted to the public sector exactly because it was the opposite.

Let me explain.

During the 2000’s, looking across industry domains, it was becoming obvious that highly disruptive business transformations were beginning. From newspapers to telecommunications; from entertainment to banking; from healthcare to retail and so on, there was hardly an industry that was–or would be–untouched by the transition from analog to digital; from manual to automation; and from inefficient to optimized.

But among all the transitional chaos, one big section of our economy was largely sitting idly, functioning poorly, and generally being bypassed by the energy seen elsewhere. This was the nation’s largest employer: the government.

An opportunity to innovate emerges

For me, and as it turns out a whole lot of other motivated people, this seemed like an opportunity to make a real difference. A lack of innovation was the incentive. For us, to push hard so that the spotlight, if just even partially, could shine some light on this neglected sector thus resulting in action, seemed a compelling mission. It was clear that a whole new mindset was required to transform government. For simplicity we categorized this work as civic innovation.

Civic innovation means many things. It can capture the emergence of online services that help citizens avoid standing in line at a government office. But it can also mean the work that’s needed for us to build cities that serve the demands of our communities in the 21st century. It can mean rethinking how we power our homes; how we deliver and use transportation; and how we provide quality, affordable healthcare. It’s a broad area and I’ll keep it that way for the purpose of this short piece.

Civic innovation arrives in small town America

It’s important to acknowledge that civic innovation per se is not a new concept. For sure, in many big, modern cities some amazing things have been taking place for some time. But civic innovation occurring in a handful of large metropolitan areas is not a movement that will touch the many millions of American’s who live mainly in small cities.

That said, there are some clear indications that make a lot of us very optimistic. A new generation of public servants, from governors to mayors to a vast hierarchy of civil servants, are bringing to bear a new vision for the future. And most promising is the first real venture capital funds being committed to start-ups that want to compete in this under-served market. Money usually follows where opportunity lies.

A call to action

Most of this is not news to those of us who choose to serve in this way. We’re seeing the formation of national and international groups focused on civic innovation work such as open government and smart cities. Conferences and meet-ups abound.

I write and talk about this area not to convert the already converted but to bring awareness to the vast majority who have little awareness of the emergence of civic innovation. It’s to provoke and inspire others to join in serving this opportunity. If the motivation isn’t altruistic for some, there’s an economic one that’s totally fair in an open market system. According to some estimates, the innovation needs of our cities may amount to a trillion dollar annual market by 2020. While so many of our economic sectors are continuing to shrink, government needs—particularly city infrastructure requirements—will balloon (I’m not referring to bureaucratic bloat, that’s a topic for another day).

What are we waiting for?

Communities are demanding more efficient governments. They also have high expectations for the way cities function. Many areas are already broken and much is on the brink. Solutions will come through public-private collaborations. Partnerships will need to emerge that bring together disparate stakeholders. What might that look like? Google, a company made famous for creating the world’s leading search engine, will need to seek partners to build cars for the software they’ve created to make those cars drive themselves. The future promises a surprising gang of heroes.

Finally, why is civic innovation a race at all? I call it a race because we need go fast and we need healthy competition to drive civic innovation forward. While certainly clichéd, this is a race where we need everyone to win. If we want to see our cities get smarter and for our governments to become more efficient through digitization, we’re going to need the innovators, the investors, the skills, and the vision to sprint towards a better future.

Are you ready? On your marks…

This posting first appeared in http://www.politik.io/articles/ready-set-go/

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Why is Nobody Talking About Small Data?

January 6, 2015 - 7:57 pm

It seems everyone is focused on big data. And why not? Today the world is producing an extraordinary volume of data. Our prolific machines and interactions are now venting a massive scale of data exhaust unprecedented in our short digital history. Big data is spinning up stunning visuals that are providing completely new understandings. Suddenly we’re embedded in the zettabyte era.

But doesn’t all data matter? Might our obsessive focus on big data come at the cost of data at the edges? That’s the small data. It’s the frequently used but largely unglamorous data that exists in every organization. It’s the monochromatic and fundamental storytelling that remains largely untapped. It seems big data has become the main act and all other data has been relegated to playing support.

Big data really is a big deal

No doubt, capturing and analyzing massive scale data is changing the world. That’s not hype. Public safety teams can anticipate crime through predictive policing; public sentiment can be derived with uncanny accuracy on almost any topic; marketers can promote products to potential buyers with pinpoint accuracy; and we’re tantalizingly close to medical breakthroughs only imagined just a few years ago. These are just the tip of the iceberg of the places big data will take us.

An impressive new industry is emerging in support of big data. Remarkable new software tools and an army of newly minted data scientists have come to bear on a flourishing industry. The results are impressive. Everyone recognizes this and there is much work ahead of us.
With big data, the datasets involved have records in the millions, if not billions and likely much more. Our new capabilities mean we can store, organize, analyze, and attempt to make sense of it all. We acknowledge that a large number of organizations have datasets of this scale and they desperately desire the potential competitive advantage of having data science applied against it.

But isn’t it possible that an equal number or more of organizations have datasets that fall well below this threshold and thus may be failing to realize the value in their small data? Will the brigades of consultants and the investments in new big data software pass by the magnitude of little opportunities that exist in every organization and every team?

Small data still runs organizations

Each of us who have, for example, worked in a business, served in government, or had a leadership position in a club, has used or been exposed to small data. It’s the spreadsheet, the contact list, the survey results. Small data is sometimes the by-product of big data, reducing it to tiny chunks that humans can understand. It’s the experiment results, the financial information, the queries, and reports that are so meaningful and so frequently requested. A legion of office workers toil over this data daily often hindered by incomplete skills and poorly understood productivity software. This is the data value that is so often only superficially gleaned. But it’s equally essential data that informs decisions every moment of the day. Sure it doesn’t make the big headlines like big data, but it’s no less important.

Is the value of big data realized at the cost of small data?

Yet, we’re all enamored by big data. We’re simply not talking right now about small data the same way. Of course we have to continue the pursuit of unleashing the full potential of the former. There’s no doubt it’s changing the world and in the months and years ahead it will be decisive in helping to deal with issues of climate change; for our understanding of the Universe; for enabling astounding medical breakthroughs; and to help power our future Smart Cities. But let’s not redirect all our energy such that we lose sight of the innovation necessary in managing and understanding data in the nooks and crannies of every organization.

Let’s also recognize that some of our big questions will be answered in small data. Critical signals in the noise are not limited to the big datasets. There are beautiful patterns in little queries if we know how to look for them.

The bottom line? A pat on the back to us. We’ve recognized the enormous and increasing value of data, inherently acknowledging that all data is important. We can’t ignore this fact in our pursuit of the new shiny thing. We have to continue our relentless innovation and skill building around data and we’ve got to make sure we’re including small data as we do that.

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PHOTO: Cities Need a New Operating System for the 21st Century

September 20, 2014 - 2:15 pm

quito2014-2

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PHOTO: Promotion for Keynote at Campus Party Quito, Sept 2014

August 15, 2014 - 4:15 pm

quito2014

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Why Personal Value Creation is a 21st Century Core Competency

January 2, 2014 - 3:40 pm

Ask yourself how much new value did you create for your organization today? Did you suggest a new way to reengineer a common task that could result in a better outcome? Are your work behaviors keeping you relevant? If these questions are not top of mind for you yet, they will be. Your future employment may depend on being able to answer them with a resounding yes. Why? Read on.

Much of the discourse on innovation has been focused on enterprise delivery to the marketplace. Innovation as a personal daily work behavior has not nearly received the attention it deserves. That needs to change. For one thing, it is intimately relevant to every worker and not simply something that one only observes. I’ve discussed for many years that enterprise innovation is increasingly essential, but I’ve not addressed the one area that each of us has control over: personal innovation.

So what is personal innovation? It contains many of the same elements of organizational innovation. These are qualities such as creating new value and engineering new ways of doing things that result in better outcomes. It’s about taking these concepts and applying them to yourself. It’s possible to test your personal innovation by asking these types of questions and determining whether you can answer them in a position manner: Do I personally add new value each day? Am I perceived by others as an innovator in how I go about my work? And one of my favorites: Do I seek to retool and reinvent myself at regular intervals to increase the value of my contributions?

The author Daniel Pink argues convincingly that the future of employment in American will increasingly rely on right-brained thinking. This is thinking that is complex and creative in nature and not that of the left-brain which is rooted in repetitive, process-driven activities. The premise is that left-brained work is without novelty and can be performed by anyone (and with greater frequency by machines). Right-brained activities on the other hand; tasks such as creative problem solving and idea generation are difficult to codify and package and therefore hold the key to gainful employment and wealth generation in the long-term.

Those in left-brained work must consider whether a partial or full transition to right-brained work makes sense. Those in right-brained work need to ask whether, on introspection, they are just toeing the line. In the reality of our new global economy, personal innovation must be paramount. If you aren’t creating new value, if you aren’t reinventing yourself on a regular basis, and if you’re not being creative in how you approach problems, you are increasing the possibility of irrelevancy. Future success in our post-industrial society will rely on each of us innovating as a core behavior. It’s possible that if you’re not personally innovating every day, you might as well do yourself a favor and go home.

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Technoethics: A New Frontier for Leadership

December 18, 2013 - 1:03 pm

EthicsLeaders: You understand the value of technology to your organizations. You know technology can be the difference between competitive advantage and irrelevancy. So I’d like to share with you why I am optimistic about the future of technology and why as leaders we need to be concerned too.

Depending on how you slice it, we’re about 40 years into the information age. And what a ride it’s been. Beginning with the miniaturization of processing power, we’ve seen innovation after innovation. Transformation after transformation. Every aspect of our lives have been impacted.

Since the late sixties until today, in regular fashion, the number of transistors on a microchip has doubled every 24 months. As we all know, when you double something each time, the quantity rises exponentially. If you double 4, 4 times, you don’t get sixteen, you get 64. Over the past 40 years, processors have become very fast indeed. And they’ll get faster still.

We have gone from calculators to super-computers, from standalone to networks, from pagers to iPhones. Today we are solving all sorts of difficult problems from building smarter cities to curing diseases. All of these are products of exponential technology innovation.

As we look out to the next 10 years, we will enter uncharted territory. Computing power and capability will be at a point where if we can think it, we may be able to build it. And that’s why I’m optimistic. We’re going to solve the big problems of our day. As leaders, you’ll be a part of that.

But here’s the rub. This is the concern I have. The potential bad news and the challenge we have as leaders. If we can use technology to achieve all manner of outcomes, the question is no longer:

“Can we can do it?” But rather, “Should we do it?”

With great power comes great responsibility. I believe as leaders we’ll soon all enter a period where the ethics of technology will be the dominant technology consideration. We will enter the age of technoethics.

Great leaders will continue to lead in the age of technoethics.

But I’m an optimist. This isn’t really bad news. Technoethics will be a new skill set. An important skill set that we can all learn.

So when the question is asked, “Should we do it?” you’ll know how to help answer that question.

It will be the most important one.

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VIDEO: How Data Can Help Create Better Communities

September 24, 2013 - 5:17 pm

dataIn an era of government deficits, it’s comforting to note that there is an abundant surplus of data. But until recently, leveraging value from data beyond its initial creation and use has been difficult. Today, this picture is changing. A combination of new technologies and a more enlightened emerging leadership is finding innovative ways to put data to work. Beyond much desired transparency and accountability, making government data more easily accessible is creating a wave of valuable community applications.  In this video, I discuss this topic, explore best practices, and share my thoughts on civic innovation.

[NOTE: Video is 1 hour 20 mins]

(Backup link if video above does not work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtLPZCZc-Do)

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Open Government in a Digital Age

July 14, 2013 - 7:03 pm

The following essay was submitted to the Alliance for Innovation by Jonathan Reichental (Chief Information Officer of the City of Palo Alto) and Sheila Tucker (Assistant to the City Manager) as part of the 2013 Transforming Local Government Conference. The essay summarizes work done at the City that resulted in the Thomas H. Muehlenback Award for Excellent in Local Government.

Open Government in a Digital Age

Government is in a period of extraordinary change. Demographics are shifting. Fiscal constraints continue to challenge service delivery. Communities are becoming more disconnected with one another and their governments, and participation in civic affairs is rapidly declining. Adding to the complexities, technology is rapidly changing the way cities provide services, and conduct outreach and civic engagement. Citizens increasingly expect to engage with their government in much the same way they pay bills online or find directions using their smartphone where communication is interactive and instantaneous. The role of government of course is more complicated than simply improving transactions.

To help navigate these challenges, the City of Palo Alto has focused its effort on new ways of thinking and acting by leveraging our demographic base, wealth of intellectual talent and entrepreneurial spirit to engage our community in innovative problem solving. The City’s historic advantages in innovative leadership create a compelling context to push the possibilities of technology to solve civic challenges.

This case study examines how Palo Alto is positioning itself to maximize the use of technology to build a leading Digital City and make local government more inclusive, transparent and engage a broader base of its community in civic affairs.

At a conceptual level, a digital city is a community where stakeholders (government, residents, businesses, and visitors) have multiple means of easily connecting and collaborating using Internet-based technologies. Data and information freely flows between all parties. The desired result is increased engagement, greater efficiency, more opportunities for public-private partnerships, and potentially lower cost services.

The City is making an ambitious push to use and experiment with many different forms of contemporary technology. These include social networks, micro-blogging services, mobile applications, e-services, participatory forums, and an engaging Web presence. Most recently, the City deployed a platform that makes data that City departments collect and store more easily available to the public. The ease in which this data can be consumed by both community members and computer applications is reflected in its name: Open Data.

Throughout the world, governments are making collections of public data more easily available and consumable on the Web. The type of data is varied and includes information about where taxpayer money is being spent and statistics on just about every aspect of government. This openness has enabled citizens to have greater visibility into the workings of their local, state, and federal agencies.

In August 2012, the City launched its own Open Data platform (http://data.cityofpaloalto.org) so that the City could make our local government more inclusive, transparent and provide more connectivity to the community.  Our City Open Data platform enables City staff to post valuable, non-private datasets online in a highly usable format that allows our community to explore and work with the data. Among the uses include the ability for software engineers to build innovative applications for use by our community and also for website visitors to delve into the data to find answers to their questions.

This platform provides information through data in demographic, geospatial, and economic form. The site is constantly being updated with new data sets. To advocate and support new ways to use City financial information, in September 2012, the City added a new open budget tool (http://data.cityofpaloalto.org/openbudget). Palo Alto’s Open Budget tool provides easy, graphically-based views of five years of City’s financial information. Rich interactivity enables a leap forward from the current static budget document files posted online. Using a filtering menu, users can manipulate the data and create charts of exactly the slice of financial information most useful to them. Customizable views can be exported as a graphic file for use in presentations and documents. Additionally, all views can be exported in a spreadsheet format so that further analysis can be performed on the data or it can be used to power new, independently created applications. Open Budget makes City financial data more understandable, accessible and valuable for a wide range of stakeholders.

Most recently, the City launched an open permit data set.  The open permit data set allows public review of permit data. The data is refreshed daily. A once static set, the new platform continues the City’s commitment to transparency and is designed to engage developers and innovative thinkers to explore and share this valuable public data. This set makes data more readily available for civic innovators and application developers and enhances greater connectivity to the community.

Lessons Learned

Deploying and experimenting with a wide variety of technologies to engage community does not come without its fair share of challenges. However, the City’s early work to use open data to begin to build a digital city has had overwhelmingly positive outcomes. Civic engagement today requires more creative approaches to engender a broader base of constituents. Cities must examine how to leverage the collective expertise, talents, and unique strengths of their communities to solve problems, improve government and create stronger citizens.

Open data broadens the base of democracy and promotes efficiency and effectiveness in government by: involving communities in their government; promoting a shared responsibility for building strong, healthy communities; increasing government accountability; driving improved public services, and; feeding innovation and growth. While open data provides the elements that can be combined to inform the understanding of new problems in new ways, it is important to consider that: data analysis is only as good as the data; privacy issues should be considered at the forefront prior to the release of data, and; there are marginal costs to collect, manage, update and optimize data, and for communities to participate.

While the future can appear to have intractable characteristics, leveraging our city human capital assets in this new era of emergent civic innovation is helping Palo Alto to chart a new course. In Palo Alto’s example, making data more easily available is encouraging application development; and collaboration and trust‐building between government and community. Building strong, healthy communities today requires greater shared responsibility between community members and cities. The emergence of compelling civic technology can offer a platform for this collaboration to more readily occur.

 

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VIDEO: CityCamp Palo Alto & HP

July 3, 2013 - 11:26 pm

On June 1, 2013, nearly 100 cities throughout the US brought together public and private sectors to use software, technology and ideas to build better communities as part of a National Day of Civic Hacking. In Palo Alto, I was the founder and creator of CityCamp Palo Alto, our event on June 1. Here is a video, produced by HP, that focuses on their important contribution and how it ties into their own strategy.

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VIDEO: My Vision for Technology Innovation in Local Government

May 25, 2013 - 12:43 pm

The City of Palo Alto is creating social and mobile communities, and collaborating with citizens, volunteers, employees, partners and other agencies to change the way government is delivered.

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VIDEO: Palo Alto Continuing Open Data Push for City Government

February 23, 2013 - 3:29 pm

California Forward first reported on the city of Palo Alto’s Open Data Platform in August.  The city is using technology to create a more inclusive form of local government.  Months after its launch, we wanted to find out how if citizens are answering the call to become more engaged.

 

California Forward is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to bring government closer to the people and move the state in the right direction – forward. They believe empowered local communities are best equipped to solve their own problems, and there is a critical link between many of the problems that threaten our future and our state government, which has become ineffective, unresponsive, and unable to fix itself.

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VIDEO: Robots, Space Travel, Open Data, and Other Thoughts

- 3:19 pm

Antonio Savarese, journalist for the Italian magazine Data Manager, on a recent trip to Silicon Valley, joined me at City Hall to discuss a wide range of items. His published interview with me is available here. In addition, he recorded an interview which can be found here. His questions allowed me to elaborate on some of the work my team and I are doing at the City of Palo Alto and also for me to provide my thoughts on the future of technology. It is a short 14 minute video.

 

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5 Steps to Jumpstart an Open Data Capability

December 17, 2012 - 10:56 pm

Making your agency’s data easily accessible to community members and computer applications has the potential to be a public sector game-changer. We call this process and capability: open data. In addition to increasing transparency and accountability–which can lead to greater trust with constituents–open data can enable innovators to build useful applications; analysts to find helpful insights; and innovators to create derivative value. Done right, there is little downside and a high-value upside. Looking across the U.S. today, we’re seeing an increasing number of federal, state, and local agencies embrace an open data future.

However, despite all the advantages, many agencies are deterred from implementation because open data has the appearance of being complex and expensive. At the City of Palo Alto, we deployed our initiative in just a few weeks and at very low cost. Here are the five general steps that we performed. Follow these and your agency could quickly be serving up data to your community.

1. Begin the discussion and get buy-in

In my view, there is no doubt that this is the most important step. Much like any project, if leadership doesn’t get the idea and its value, you are at a significant disadvantage from the outset. Start with an overview of open data. Reinforce it through multiple channels. Facilitate a discussion with your agency leaders. Initially focus on the transparency and accountability qualities (the monetary benefits will likely come later). Get your technology team on-board. Be sure to attain a few champions from across the organization. Ask leadership for support to move forward.

2. Formulate short and medium term plans

By this step, your agency is well underway with its open data project. You will want to acquire some early success, so keep the goals modest and measurable in the short-term. A reasonable plan may take the form of getting a few, non-controversial datasets on your agency website with an accompanying communications plan to get your community engaged. A medium-term plan will likely include posting some of the more valuable datasets such as agency financials. Leave long-term plans as more of a visionary stage. It’s too soon to understand the ultimate impact of open data.

3. Identify your first, easy datasets

The question I get most often is whether open data first-movers are concerned about information privacy. You bet we are! In reality, the bulk of agency data doesn’t have a privacy quality to it. This is data that is fully subject to applicable disclosure laws and is already recognized as useful to your community. In your work to get your open data project up and running quickly, find the datasets that are easy to attain and to the extent possible, have no controversial aspect to them. Fortunately, in an era of deficits, it’s comforting to know we have a surplus of data.

4. Identify a platform

I’ll dispel another myth now. You don’t need complex and expensive software to get your open data platform deployed. In fact, your open data platform could be as simple as a single webpage with a table of links. Don’t get stalled by analyzing the marketplace and then struggling with an extensive procurement process. Sure, there is now a healthy amount of competitors in this space including some open source (usually free and community-built) solutions. Proceed as appropriate for your agency, but don’t be deterred by the technology.

5. Learn and repeat

Moving fast with any project means making trade-offs. The most notable trade-off is having a less-than-perfect product on day one. Some capability–albeit likely somewhat flawed—may be the right price to pay for getting features quickly into the hands of users. That’s a core principle of the start-up community in Silicon Valley and its one that government could benefit from. Once the product is in place, go back and fix issues and implement missing features. Of course, let your community know that this is the approach. They will likely be happy to be part of this iterative feedback process. And of course, continuously learn what works and what doesn’t work along the way.

If you’re uncomfortable with any parts of the plan I’ve laid out above, then to some degree I’ve succeeded. Doing things differently and challenging the status quo should look and feel strange.

The future of successful government requires that we do a lot of things differently.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Check out Palo Alto’s open data initiatives:

http://data.cityofpaloalto.org
http://data.cityofpaloalto.org/openbudget

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Why Every Public Agency Needs a Data Strategy

November 2, 2012 - 2:08 pm

In his second guest column for EfficientGov, Palo Alto CIO Jonathan Reichental looks at the Open Data movement, and the criticality of “open government” in the 21st century.

Despite the fact that we face an increasing scarcity of valuable resources, one area of growing abundance is data. From information-producing activities such as the global supply chain, to our own personal behaviors, the digital world is producing data on a mind-boggling scale. At a recent conference, Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google—an organization that knows a thing or two about data—stated that every two days we are creating the same amount of information that we did from the dawn of civilization to 2003.

On this scale, we no longer refer to it simply as data, we call it big data.

As devices and behaviors produce increasing volumes of data, a new visibility is emerging. For example, look at the insight we get from Google searches that result in a better understanding of the spread of seasonal flu. We are able to see formerly hidden patterns and make more-informed decisions. Organizations know more and more about you. Privacy is quickly becoming irrevocably passé. Mass production turns into mass personalization. Data at our fingertips is changing the way be live.

We’re moving from a post-industrial economy to a data economy.

Understanding Big Data

Regardless of whether your agency has 10 or 10,000 people, it’s a safe bet that you’re producing and storing data; it’s the one area where there is no deficit and no future likelihood of one. If we consider data as a valuable resource—which we should—then we’re all in a surplus position. That’s happy news for a sector so beset by negativity. That said, sadly, converting that surplus into value for the communities those agencies serve has not yet been broadly realized.

In short, governments are mostly sitting on an abundant resource, neglecting opportunities that could—if leveraged correctly—produce enormous benefits for their communities.

What is this government data that I’m talking about? On the federal site, Data.gov, there are almost 400,000 sets of data. These cover every type of subject one could imagine. For example, there is the visitor log for the White House; the register of all federal government contractors; and unemployment statistics. There’s data on energy, health, manufacturing, and education. And these are only the datasets that have been posted for easy consumption; there are many more that still need to be posted.

And this phenomenon is not restricted to the federal level. On the city and county data website for San Francisco, for example, there are local crime statistics, and the location of every movie made there since 1924. My own city, Palo Alto, posts a variety of data that includes details on all our trees—a most revered Palo Alto resource—and demographics. In addition, we recently posted five years of financial information, which is data that taxpayers care deeply about.

Realizing the Value

But what’s so novel about posting government data? Many will point out that we’ve been doing that since the first public Web sites arrived back in the 1990’s.

There is truth in that statement; however, the current trend has a distinctive advantage to it. This data is being posted in a form that can be more easily used by Web and mobile applications. That means it’s more accessible, and this is no small point. It’s called Open Data. If the data is available for software engineers, data scientists, and other interested stakeholders, then all manner of new solutions can be built.

These solutions won’t get built by cash-strapped public agencies; rather, they will be created by the private sector, activists, residents, and other interested stakeholders. Already, citizens from across the nation are applying their skills to build useful applications such as apps for smartphones that have exceptional utility for communities (EfficientGov recently highlighted some of those apps and local efforts, including ours in Palo Alto, here). It’s a win-win: public agencies incur little or no cost, and the community receives the benefits.

Many communities host “hackathons” to promote their Open Data initiatives. These are events at which software developers focus on spinning up new applications—sometimes in a matter of hours—using a variety of datasets made available by the city. In Palo Alto earlier this year, we shut down a city block and 2,000 people turned up to build applications, create art, and network with one another.

We’re only at the very start of realizing the value of Open Data. One could easily imagine a time in the not-too-distant future when data is available to citizens at the moment of its creation. For example, an agency makes a payment for a product, and that transaction is immediately published and available to interested parties. Not only does real-time publishing create unprecedented transparency and accountability, it also makes the consuming applications vastly more useful.

I believe Open Data is foundational to building and enabling a digital city. This Open Data drives the development of useful applications; it is a convener of public-private partnerships; and it is a prerequisite to open government. And if your goal is to simply enable a lower cost and efficient manner to deliver your public agency services, then Open Data is still foundational.

Making It Happen

I’m often asked if Open Data is purely a product of Silicon Valley and its technically proficient community: “Isn’t Open Data only within the reach of tech-savvy communities like Palo Alto?”

Absolutely not.

Believing that Open Data requires significant technical expertise could not be further from reality. The biggest hurdle to enabling Open Data is recognizing it as an important part of your agency’s future, and then acting on it. Then focus should be on data value, not the volume of datasets.

There are many vendors ready to help any size agency, and the costs can be low enough for most to afford. In fact, with a little technical help—either from within your organization or by a willing volunteer in your community—there are Open Source solutions that can be deployed at negligible cost. Open Source is not the solution for everyone, but it’s certainly an option.

I’ll concede that this is a complex space, and any discussion here can only be superficial. While the dialogue is underway in some niche circles, I think it’s time for a broader national movement. We have to get the data topic on the table and start talking about how we can make it work for our citizens.

That’s my goal here: raising awareness to provoke you to learn more.

Let there be no doubt: Managing data and its value represent a core competency for both private enterprises and public agencies, from now and into the foreseeable future. Those that recognize this and assign priority to a data strategy will soon see benefits.

Are you ready to make data a priority?

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Are Cities Prepared To Get Serious About Technology?

October 3, 2012 - 12:55 pm

This post first appeared on September 13, 2012 on EfficientGov as part of a guest column called Reichental’s Digital City.

Although attribution remains contested, Einstein apparently said that insanity is, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Regardless of who said it (and I’d never miss an opportunity to reference Einstein in my writings), the provisioning of technology in a city context today often has the hallmarks of insanity. With a painful consistency of missed project deadlines, cost overruns, and disappointing results, why is city technology still approached and delivered time and again in a manner that almost assures failure?

It’s a tough and sobering question to ask and a difficult one to solve too. It means looking deeply at leadership, at our tolerance for risk, and most of all—in my opinion—at a government’s capacity for innovation and internal, cultural reinvention.

As a traditional laggard in our economy and yet an obvious mechanism for helping to solve many of the most intractable issues that cities face, the delivery of municipal technology is postured perfectly for transformational opportunity. It’s time for city leaders to face this head-on.

It’s clear that many leaders are beginning to see the opportunity. There are now many openings for city chief information officers (CIOs), a great sign that there is recognition of the strategic value of technology in delivering government. I’d also like to see more of the larger cities begin to think about hiring chief technology officers (CTOs) too. Why? With a greater focus on community-facing automation, cities are increasingly in the business of delivering technology-driven products and services.

Assuming that the right candidates are being hired and positioned for success, these cities are taking one of the right first steps. But it’s only a start.

Regardless of whether new technology leadership is installed or existing management is given a new mandate, the sobering reality is that the entire value-chain for technology enablement must be redefined. This is because, for decades, the model hasn’t changed. It’s stuck in an old world of poor incentives and traditional approaches to technology that have been superseded by new, innovative models. These are models that are being embraced in the private sector and other models for innovation that are unique to the distinctive needs of the public sector.

Why Change Now?

Simply put: because it has too! Leaders in the private sector have embraced technology for moving their organizations forward. No longer relegated to a supporting role, the CIO is at the leadership table helping to develop and grow businesses by enabling new products and services. This is because marketplace forces require a new approach. Stand still and you face being trampled on by the competition.

Similarly, cities face enormous market changes—for example: flat or declining revenue sources and increasing expenses. Stand still and a city will face compounding and devastating consequences. Thus, if city leaders still believe that technology is simply for providing email and a website (of course exaggerated to make my point), they are missing the clear opportunity for technology to reinvent the very manner in which city government is delivered.

Let me be fair though. Across our country there are great examples of cities doing amazing things with technology. They are pushing the boundaries of what is possible. It’s impressive and refreshing. Sadly, these cities still represent a minority. My call to action is for the thousands of other cities still nervously eyeing the future and failing to act.

Where Do You Start?

In my view, it always starts with recognition of the problem. If your city technology continues to fall below expectations, costs too much money to maintain, and isn’t able to keep up with the actual needs of the city, then you have an environment that is ready for reinvention.

Next, you need to take a look at leadership. Is your technology leader, CIO or IT director, skilled and empowered to shift the existing struggling paradigm? Do they have what it takes to change the game and embrace innovation such as that which is happening in the private sector?

Recognition of the problem and ensuring you have the right leadership are two important starting points. Unfortunately that’s when the hard work starts.

In America we don’t have a history of letting big problems deter our resolve to find solutions. On the contrary, it’s in our DNA to face these problems head on. Our cities are entering a crisis period—many are already there—and these problems need solutions. While these seemingly intractable challenges will take multidimensional approaches to solve, I’ll bet technology will be a significant contributor.

Now that we have a context for the problem and the opportunity, the important work of identifying and executing many of the new ways of delivering government technology must begin. In the coming weeks and months, I will be sharing with EfficientGov readers our experiences in Palo Alto, including lessons from the field, innovations being tested around the country, and simple steps that your city can take to transform itself into a “digital city.”

We can’t keep doing city technology the same way. That would be insane.

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Palo Alto’s Open Data Platform: What Transparency Looks Like?

August 3, 2012 - 9:15 pm

Pete Peterson, Executive Director, Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy; his essay on his discussion with Jonathan Reichental on City government innovation and, in particular, his observations on Palo Alto’s open data work so far.

Read here: http://bit.ly/MnE924

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Interview with Mashable on Palo Alto Open Data Initiative

July 31, 2012 - 10:21 pm

Mashable spoke with Palo Alto’s Chief Information Officer Jonathan Reichental and City Manager James Keene, who are at the forefront of the city’s open data initiative, to learn more about the project.

http://mashable.com/2012/07/31/palo-alto-digital-city/

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How Palo Alto is leading the digital city movement [GovFresh Interview]

June 17, 2012 - 1:43 pm

Luke Fretwell, founder and editor of GovFresh, conducted an interview with me on the work we are doing at the City of Palo Alto in rethinking and reinventing the delivery of local government. In a wide ranging discussion we cover topics such as open data, hackathons, cultural change, and the importance of leadership support.

You can listen to the interview here: CLICK HERE.

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Palo Alto Weekly Cover Story: Building a Digital City

March 30, 2012 - 12:34 pm

I am thrilled that our vision for Palo Alto as a leading digital city is a cover story today in the Palo Alto Weekly. The story does a great job of covering the highlights of our work over the past few months. We’re experimenting with new ways of delivering service in local government and it’s getting the attention of media, our community, and other cities. Mayor Yeh, City Manager Keene, and I couldn’t be more pleased with our progress. We’re ready to take this work to the next level. Links to story attached.

Virtual Version: http://bit.ly/HQyWcU

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Palo Alto city manager selects new Chief Information Officer (CIO)

October 26, 2011 - 9:35 pm

Palo Alto, CA – [Press Release] After an extensive search for the leader of the City of Palo Alto’s Information Technology (IT) agency and the City’s technology initiatives, City Manager James Keene announced his selection of Jonathan Reichental (Ph.D), currently Chief Information Officer for O’Reilly Media, as the City’s new cabinet-level CIO. The search for a new CIO to lead the City’s restructured IT operations yielded 147 applicants. After an intense review process that involved Palo Alto technology company executives, peer CIOs and a number of City representatives, Keene selected Dr. Reichental.

“Jonathan was the clear frontrunner in our recruitment,” Keene said. “He brings a combination of creative and entrepreneurial drive and skills and a commitment to taking city government to the forefront of public technology and innovation, befitting Palo Alto, the heartbeat of Silicon Valley.”

Before joining O’Reilly Media, Dr. Reichental served as Director of IT Innovation for PricewaterhouseCoopers. Early in his career, Dr. Reichental served as a technology consultant with Avida consulting in Dublin, Ireland.

“To participate in a city that is the source of so much world recognized technology innovation and a city management team deeply committed to supporting technology innovation as a platform for more effective government and citizen engagement made this a highly compelling opportunity,” Dr. Reichental said. “Developing appropriate partnerships with Silicon Valley technology companies and beyond, and leveraging public sector advances such as open data and digital government, will be cornerstones of our approach.”

A passionate technologist and accomplished speaker on innovation, Dr. Reichental speaks publicly on a wide range of related subjects. He is interviewed often and has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Forbes, CIO magazine, InformationWeek and Computerworld. (See this link to his webpage www.reichental.com/ and follow Dr. Reichental on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Reichental.)

Stephen Cohen, Co-Founder of Palantir Technologies, served on the interview panel for the City’s new CIO and said this about Dr. Reichental, “Jonathan’s success as a technology leader in the private sector makes him the ideal ambassador to help Palo Alto’s startup community continue to thrive.”

“His role as CIO will extend beyond the IT Department into all matters tech and innovation related,” City Manager Keene added. “In fact, bringing on a CIO of Jonathan’s caliber also supports our economic development strategy of fostering continued growth in the strong technology sector in Palo Alto.”

Dr. Reichental will lead a staff of 30 with an annual combined operating and capital budget of nearly $14 million.

 

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My TEDx Talk: How the Web is redefining privacy

October 15, 2011 - 3:10 pm

Over the past 10 years the web has become an increasingly ubiquitous and useful utility for hundreds of millions of people across the world. But as I discover as I ramble across the rich terrain of the web, many of its benefits come at the cost of privacy. In the following short presentation I wonder if the web has ultimately become our least private domain and whether, in fact, that may be a good thing.

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Google Plus defines an era of disruption at a moment’s notice

August 4, 2011 - 9:00 am

Whether or not you like Google+ or have yet to try it, its introduction continues the important role that a battle of ideas has in shaking-up and bringing new value to the marketplace. In the best outcome, robust competition in any business domain should have at least one benefactor: you, the consumer.

Google+ raises the stakes in the social computing space. With so many people and organizations already invested in other social platforms, Google+ is a manageable gamble with the potential for considerable consequence. Yet for the leading social media incumbents the risk may be existential. Fending off this kind of threat will likely require drastic and prompt measures.

When the entrant yields this much power in an existing market and elicits as a response the potential for rapid innovation, this is what I am calling the “G+ effect.”

The G+ effect is best defined by the introduction of Google+, but it’s not unique to Google; it is unique to our times.

What is the G+ effect?

The disruptive impact of introducing a new product or service is obviously nothing novel. What is new and profound is that the viral and light-speed distribution of digital information and capability across our connected planet can threaten existing businesses at a moment’s notice. The entrant doesn’t even have to be game-changing, but the outcome can be. The influence and reach of the provider can result in disproportional results from just incremental innovation (even whether or not the product succeeds). It is the innovator’s dilemma in overdrive.

The torrent of punditry that accompanies these introductions is notable alone. We are also seeing a significant intensification in rampant speculation prior to a release that can unsettle a market.

Of course, being incremental initially doesn’t rule out disruptive later. For example, in the case of Google+, what it becomes in the months ahead and what it may enable could certainly be game-changing. It’s far too soon to tell.

It would be easy to conclude that the G+ effect is a destructive phenomenon. Sure, there is something to be said for the uncertainty it can sow, and honestly it is impossible to know quite where it will take us. There is no doubt that existing business players will be challenged in unprecedented ways and some customers may be riled by the constant volatility. I also have to believe that at some point every one of us has a capped quotient for fickleness. But I argue that, at least in the short-term, a dynamic battle of ideas will remain a positive force.

At its core, the G+ effect is an economic phenomenon. Clearly there is an important technical component, but introducing a new product or service that can have rapid and far reaching impact, first and foremost shifts existing market behavior — even if temporary in nature. In some instances, for publicly listed companies, the business introducing the technology may experience a bump in stock value (as we have seen with Google+) and its competitors may see theirs experience downward pressure.

The G+ effect and Google+

Despite only a limited early release, in just a few weeks Google+ has garnered over 20 million participants from across the world. If every one of them had only written the words “Hello World” in the status box, that itself would have been a notable event. Instead, billions of words were added with their attendant photos and videos. Pundits are already claiming the imminent demise of its competition; products that worked hard over several years to earn each subscriber, friend, and follower. (In my view, any notion of the competition’s obsolescence is far too premature).

With Facebook taking a significant lead in social networking, it has emerged to occupy a monopolistic position. A sudden injection of viable competition is a great catalyst for innovation. It is one thing for customers to complain about the limits of Facebook Groups and privacy and quite another for Facebook to respond to the potential competitive advantage that Circles in Google+ create.

Let me be clear, this isn’t a battle just between Google and Facebook — although it could be argued that it will be the early nexus of the action — no, the impact may be felt across the communication, collaboration, and sharing space.

The only good monopoly is the board game

In a topical and recent case study, for much of its young history commissions have sought to stop Microsoft from garnering a monopoly position. Microsoft’s huge footprint in the operating system market enabled it to exploit that position. Look at the innovation of Internet browsers and you have the tell-tale signs of stifled innovation as a result of market domination (remember the first browser war?). It was only when there was a viable alternative, mostly in the form of Firefox and most recently with Chrome and Safari, that we have seen an uptick in browser innovation. (Credit also goes to the various communities that work hard for standards ratification).

Had competition been more rigorous in the early days of the browser, would we be further along with web-based capabilities today?

Currently we see dynamic and healthy competition in the domain of smartphones. But it is also a fragile battle. Now largely dominated by Android and iPhone — solutions created by organizations with extremely healthy balance sheets — innovation is alive and kicking. But should one stumble, a dominant player could emerge and we could see innovation atrophy. Sure, it is speculative and there are plenty of participants trying their darnedest to play catch-up. In fact, with the average American replacing his cellphone every 21 months (source: Recon Analytics), this industry is a prime candidate for the G+ effect.

The G+ effect and the future

What the G+ effect might mean for businesses and consumers over the long-term has yet to be determined. Fortunately we can rely on the marketplace to help sort out what happens next.

At least in the short-term, as an IT leader I encourage rigorous innovation and competition as it helps to keep product and service costs low and accelerates the introduction of desired functions. I also want this innovation to restrict the ability for large corporations to create a closed web or to reduce the very freedoms that make it so empowering.

But with this level of innovation, I’m also concerned by the change costs both in dollars and those that manifest in user fatigue. It could also exacerbate the problems associated with playing catch-up.

For sure, the G+ effect has the capacity to elicit considerable change in the way many organizations operate and compete. Getting a head start on figuring it out might enable many to pursue the emerging opportunities.

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Will your business survive the digital revolution?

June 3, 2011 - 9:00 am

Over the last few years we’ve watched in giddy disbelief as a web-based social network launched from a dorm room at Harvard University unexpectedly found its way to be an enabler of a Middle East uprising. We’ve seen how new types of media have propelled people and events into the spotlight and even helped elect a U.S. president. We’ve looked in awe as mobile devices connected to a ubiquitous network have brought global commerce to the most remote parts of the developing world. We’ve seen 100-year-old businesses vanish as cocky upstarts replace their once unshaken dominance. We’ve delighted as citizens have been empowered by a new ease in which to leverage recently liberated stores of data held by governments.

With just these few observations it’s clear to all of us that technology is no longer just in support of our lives and organizations; it’s taking a commanding and empowering position. And it’s vital that we all fully understand just how profound these changes truly are (and will be). The very survival of your organization likely depends on it.

Are we at the start or the end of this technology revolution?

We observe these incredible events unfold and this may lead us to believe we’ve reached a new pinnacle of technological innovation. Many of us might believe that we’re peaking in our capacity to make amazing things happen. To them I say: we’ve barely even started.

From economics to democracy, from health to entertainment, from retail to education, and everything else in-between, something remarkable is happening.

In my view the events described here are just the beginning of a seismic shift in our human experience. Indeed, these innovations are not reserved for a single nation or continent. This technology-based revolution is the first to quickly reach and impact every corner of the planet.

Every generation believes it lives through remarkable and changing times. And that is probably true. But the large transformations, most recently like those of both the agricultural and industrial revolutions, don’t happen that often. These changes are a railroad switch that shifts the course of human destiny. Some have coined our era as the information revolution. But the emergence of the information age has merely been the precursor and a glimmer of things to come.

The true revolution is the convergence of many things. Revolutions require more than just a few elements to be in place. Historically they have required a unique alignment of qualities such as economic and political conditions, readiness for change, demographics and a catalyst.

We see much of that today. Of course, today the catalyst is the Internet. It’s also the ease in which so many of us can now produce digital innovation (creating new value through electronic, non-analog means). It’s also about the availability of low-cost, ubiquitous global communication networks with an abundance of devices connected. It’s close to zero-cost cloud-based storage. With low cost storage comes the easy retention of massive volumes of data and when it’s coupled with the fact there are so many opportunities to collect that data; new uses and value can be derived from it.

There is a new world order that is unique to our time that is also enabling this change. Not least the emergence of prosperity in many part of the world and the breathtaking rise of the BRIC nations and others. This prosperity is creating a new class of educated, global participants. This means more competition and it means more innovation. It’s all these things and more converging to produce a significant technology-based social and business disruption.

As this technology revolution unfolds, does your business have a survival plan?

The evidence is clear

The signals are in both the destruction of existing paradigms and in the creation of completely new ones. We’re watching entire industries disappear or be reinvented through digital transformation: newspapers, books, movies, music, travel agents, photography, telecommunication companies, healthcare, fund-raising, stock-trading, retail, real estate, and on and on.

Digital innovation has few geographic boundaries, so the disruptor can emerge from almost any place on earth.

Completely new models are emerging: location-based services, mobile apps, gamification, payment systems and new forms of payment, cloud computing, big data analysis and visualization, recommendation engines, near-field communications, real-time knowledge, tablets and other new form factors, augmented reality, gesture-based computing, personal medicine, large scale global social networks, microblogging and more. Many of these did not exist five years ago and many more will exist in the next five years. In fact, the next major disruptor is probably already underway. This kind of change is equally exciting and terrifying for organizations.

Why it is different this time

When the Walkman became the Discman, the music industry flourished. But when the digital MP3 player was introduced, the music industry was fundamentally and forever reinvented. Digital transformations are not subtle or calm. They are equal measure painful, chaotic, and exciting.

When mobile phones were introduced they enabled people to untether themselves from a fixed wire and talk almost anywhere. That was useful and convenient. But when smartphones freely enable the coordination of people and events that facilitates the overthrow of a corrupt government, this is not business as usual. That’s a fundamental shift in how humans communicate and coordinate their activities.

It will be a rough ride

Sure it won’t all be rosy and bad people will do bad things using more of this technology. But that’s certainly not news. The vulnerabilities will grow but so will our ability to fight attacks. Opportunities in security will remain in high demand.

There will also be booms, bubbles, and busts. That’s a normal part of the economic lifecycle. In fact, outside of the obvious pain it causes, a bust can be a valuable response to irrationality in the market. We will see many of these cycles through this transformation, but I believe we will net out with a continued exponential growth in digital innovation.

The big stuff is yet to come

When you observe how digitization causes significant economic restructuring and the emergence of completely new forms of business, and you factor in an entirely new level of social connectedness, it’s hard not to conclude that big things are ahead.

It’s also easy to be unfazed by the digital change underway, particularly if you’re working deep within it. In addition, it’s equally easy to become fatigued and even cynical about further change. But stop, elevate yourself above the chaos and noise, and the digital transformation is a palpable societal disruption.

At the heart of this blog is not a regurgitation of change that many of us already recognize and embrace; moreover, it’s about urging each one of us not to underestimate this transformational shift. It’s also neutral on the subject — but recognizes — the social and economic negatives that may result. Big shifts like these do evoke, for example, strong feelings of nationalism (somewhat ironically). But I’ll steer away from this subject for now.

Failure to anticipate, prepare and respond sufficiently is a significant organizational risk. In other words, delivering your product or service to the market of yesterday and today without constantly exploring reinvention for the market of tomorrow may be certain business suicide. And while that’s largely always been true, it’s seldom been so necessary and urgent.

Once we recognize the magnitude of change that digital innovation is causing and may bring in the months and years ahead, it will help us to think bigger and to think in ways that may previously have seemed absurd.

As inventors and facilitators of the future we would do ourselves a great injustice to underestimate the change.

The digital revolution: my own personal experiences

Let’s just take a quick look at my world for a moment. In many areas of my life it’s fascinating comparing how I did things in 2001 vs. how I do them now in 2011. By the way, it’s worth noting that while I immerse myself in technology and innovation through my work, I’m not particularly unique in the way I use technology outside of work.

So let’s take a look at some of the changes over the course of 10 years: I no longer wear a watch. No need, I get time from my smartphone. I got rid of my landline phone. My phone is my smartphone. I never go to a bank. Done online. I don’t know anyone’s phone number by heart. I select a name and my phone dials the number. Outside of a radius of a few miles, I don’t know how to get anywhere anymore without my GPS. I never use a map. I barely mail a letter. My use for stamps is diminishing. I seldom print anything. Everything that can be reserved, I do online. I don’t watch scheduled TV. I watch shows off my digital video recorder or computer when I want (in HD, no less). I use my smartphone for less and less voice calls. I text. I read, take classes, post photos, write, research, play, watch movies, listen to music, comparison shop, order insurance, complain and more all online.

I’m pretty sure your experiences are fairly similar.

Perhaps it is a little bit of an exaggeration, but I mostly only emailed and consumed static content online in 2001.

Almost every one of these areas represents an industry. And as a result of these enabled behavioral changes over the course of a mere 10 years, within these industries many organizations have been created and destroyed.

If this kind of transformation can happen in the past 10 years, with everything we know about how things are trending, what might our lives look like in 10 years from now? While not necessarily a novel question, I’m simply suggesting each of us are being forced to think bigger and more innovatively than ever before about the realities and possibilities of the future.

So what should organizations do?

I’m confident most enlightened organizations have some form of a strategy in place. That’s good news. For those that don’t or are hesitant, it’s time to act. In either case, the following are just a few fundamentals worth considering:

  • Recognize the magnitude of the digital revolution in acceptance and in action.
  • Invest in understanding how your organization can anticipate and respond quickly to change.
  • Monitor and interpret trends and new technology entrants.
  • Audit your vulnerabilities and score progress and risk on a regular basis.
  • Prepare by taking greater risks.
  • Innovate as standard practice (this doesn’t just happen, you need a strategy).
  • Make bold changes in order to continue to succeed when disruption is a certainty.

Technology used to be the domain of a few. Now it’s the fabric woven into how we all live, work, and play. Today it has the power to create and destroy value in an unprecedented manner. That’s a big deal for every organization.

It’s likely a very big deal for you, too.

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The Future of Technology and Its Impact on Work

May 17, 2011 - 2:19 am

Here’s a 40-minute presentation and interview I gave at the Center for Technology, Entertainment, and Media (CTEM) at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. The video covers a range of subjects including demographics and technology trends that will emerge over the next 5-10 years and what will be required to succeed in the workplace of the future.

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It’s Time for IT to Ask More of the Right Questions

March 16, 2011 - 9:00 am

Today, the IT department is often a victim of its success. With technology increasingly at the center of business initiatives, there is an insatiable demand for services. And while most IT professionals come to work each day to be productive and add value, more often than not, it’s an uphill battle to keep internal customers happy. Working either harder or smarter hasn’t necessarily produced the customer satisfaction dividend anticipated. Moreover, it has served to increase expectations of what can be provided and it has continued to raise the bar for IT.

Typically, IT will deliver the right thing at the right time (as long as there is leadership support and good requirements), but it can be painful getting there. Internal customers will be happy to get their solution, but they might not be happy in the manner it was done. It’s a perception issue. IT is too often judged almost exclusively on how something was produced rather than what was delivered.

Should IT be chasing kudos or trying to get the job done right?

In the service business, success is often measured by having happy customers. In the marketplace, happy customers are repeat customers. Organizations with internal service departments are not usually subject to these types of competitive pressures. Sure, cost must be managed otherwise a service may be better performed outside the business. But even where cost is higher, organizations continue to enjoy the benefits and pay the premium of keeping many services internal. For example, they can exert maximum control and are not subject to continued contractual interpretations and disputes. With that said, if you’re a captive cost-center, quality customer service has to be driven by something else such as culture, incentives, or vision. In other words: it’s a choice.

If an IT team is delivering quality services and products but still not meeting, say, the speed of service expected, that might be an acceptable trade-off. In other businesses, quality may suffer in place of speed. In project management, there is a maxim known as the triple constraint. That is, changing one of the following: speed, cost, and scope usually results in an impact to the others. In service delivery, the triple constraint is often quality, speed, and customer satisfaction (underlying these is a fourth, the inadequately addressed component of risk.)

It’s a worthy goal to be both a world-class customer service provider and a producer of high quality products and services. It’s possible to manage the service triple constraint without too many trade-offs. But to be that organization requires an important operating principle: IT must rarely be the arbiter of priorities. That role must live squarely outside of IT.

Changing IT from an organization of “no” into an organization of “go”

I’ve seen it repeated throughout my 20-year IT career: internal customers come to the IT team with a need and it’s IT who says it can’t be done. Customers get frustrated and they have a poor view of the IT team. Usually they are saying “no” because of a capacity issue rather than a technical limitation. When IT says no to a customer, what they’re really saying is that something else is more important. That’s IT being an arbiter of priorities.

Yes, it goes back to IT governance, something I’ve discussed as being absolutely essential to business success.

But while IT governance can work as a process at the leadership level, it will fail when the IT team doesn’t have the understanding and the language of the process to support it as it manifests downstream.

When confronted with a priority decision, an IT staffer needs to move arbitration back to the business.

The staffer typically wants to know what to do, not whether they should do it.

Therefore, you must transition your staff from saying “no” to asking questions about priority and capacity. It certainly can be the case that more than one request has priority. If so, it’s now a question of investment. Spend more and you’ll get more resources.

Bottom line: these decisions are made by the business, not by the IT staffer who’s just trying to do the right thing.

Internal end-users and IT may never have a love affair, but if roles are better defined and understood, all parties will be less frustrated, have greater empathy for where they are coming from, and customer satisfaction will be firmly focused on the quality of the product or service being provided.

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Seldom a love story: IT and end users

March 7, 2011 - 9:00 am

Today, the IT department is often a victim of its success. With technology increasingly at the center of business initiatives, there is an insatiable demand for services. And while most IT professionals come to work each day to be productive and add value, more often than not, it’s an uphill battle to keep internal customers happy. Working either harder or smarter hasn’t necessarily produced the customer satisfaction dividend anticipated. Moreover, it has served to increase expectations of what can be provided and it has continued to raise the bar for IT.

Typically, IT will deliver the right thing at the right time (as long as there is leadership support and good requirements), but it can be painful getting there. Internal customers will be happy to get their solution, but they might not be happy in the manner it was done. It’s a perception issue. IT is too often judged almost exclusively on how something was produced rather than what was delivered.

Should IT be chasing kudos or trying to get the job done right?

In the service business, success is often measured by having happy customers. In the marketplace, happy customers are repeat customers. Organizations with internal service departments are not usually subject to these types of competitive pressures. Sure, cost must be managed otherwise a service may be better performed outside the business. But even where cost is higher, organizations continue to enjoy the benefits and pay the premium of keeping many services internal. For example, they can exert maximum control and are not subject to continued contractual interpretations and disputes. With that said, if you’re a captive cost-center, quality customer service has to be driven by something else such as culture, incentives, or vision. In other words: it’s a choice.

If an IT team is delivering quality services and products but still not meeting, say, the speed of service expected, that might be an acceptable trade-off. In other businesses, quality may suffer in place of speed. In project management, there is a maxim known as the triple constraint. That is, changing one of the following: speed, cost, and scope usually results in an impact to the others. In service delivery, the triple constraint is often quality, speed, and customer satisfaction (underlying these is a fourth, the inadequately addressed component of risk.)

It’s a worthy goal to be both a world-class customer service provider and a producer of high quality products and services. It’s possible to manage the service triple constraint without too many trade-offs. But to be that organization requires an important operating principle: IT must rarely be the arbiter of priorities. That role must live squarely outside of IT.

Changing IT from an organization of “no” into an organization of “go”

I’ve seen it repeated throughout my 20-year IT career: internal customers come to the IT team with a need and it’s IT who says it can’t be done. Customers get frustrated and they have a poor view of the IT team. Usually they are saying “no” because of a capacity issue rather than a technical limitation. When IT says no to a customer, what they’re really saying is that something else is more important. That’s IT being an arbiter of priorities.

Yes, it goes back to IT governance, something I’ve discussed as being absolutely essential to business success.

But while IT governance can work as a process at the leadership level, it will fail when the IT team doesn’t have the understanding and the language of the process to support it as it manifests downstream.

When confronted with a priority decision, an IT staffer needs to move arbitration back to the business.

The staffer typically wants to know what to do, not whether they should do it.

Therefore, you must transition your staff from saying “no” to asking questions about priority and capacity. It certainly can be the case that more than one request has priority. If so, it’s now a question of investment. Spend more and you’ll get more resources.

Bottom line: these decisions are made by the business, not by the IT staffer who’s just trying to do the right thing.

Internal end-users and IT may never have a love affair, but if roles are better defined and understood, all parties will be less frustrated, have greater empathy for where they are coming from, and customer satisfaction will be firmly focused on the quality of the product or service being provided.

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The impact of IT decisions on organizational culture

February 7, 2011 - 12:01 am

It’s said that with great power comes great responsibility. Among business functions, the IT group has disproportionate control over what can and can’t happen in an organization.

Let’s take instant messaging as an example. Assuming IT makes the final decision (which is often the case), enabling instant messaging both internally and with external parties can fundamentally change the way a business communicates. But prohibit instant messaging (which still happens today), and the IT organization is fundamentally dictating how communication will take place. That’s considerable power for a business function, and it must be managed carefully.

Should IT dictate how everyone works?

The obvious and most visible control the IT organization has is over product choices. If you’re reading this blog on a work computer, it’s likely you didn’t choose that model yourself. If your software is locked down, I’d guess you didn’t select the browser or the word processor or the email client. Fortunately some organizations allow staff to download applications of their choice, but they are often the freebies, and not the major business solutions. For those there is an approval path and it usually leads back to the IT organization.

Given that the IT organization has chosen many of your basic information tools, it has already predetermined what you can and can’t do.

Advice: Non-IT staff should participate in your standards and product selections process. Also, in addition to understanding what the technology will enable, it’s important to explore and articulate what it will limit.

Is IT enabling or killing ideas?

I’ve written often about the critical importance of IT governance. With all its significant benefits, the risk with IT governance is that it becomes the opposite of what is intended. The process in which a new idea becomes a great new product or solution can live or die with IT. That’s the power the IT organization has within a business. Executives know this and it is often a source of considerable frustration.

IT is often characterized as an enabler. While mostly accurate, to what degree have we acknowledged that through our decisions it can be a limitation? And more importantly, how do we manage that risk?

Advice: Don’t lock your IT governance down. It must be a process that quickly changes as constraints are identified. Stick to the principles but constantly look for ways to reduce friction.

Does your IT organization move fast enough?

Does the IT organization move as fast as the business? Ideally yes, but we all know that the sobering reality is that IT, largely due to its popularity as an enabler (read: demand for IT almost always exceeds supply of capacity), is often a bottleneck. I’ve seen it too many times: a request won’t even make it to IT because there is a perception that it will never get done or at least not get done in a timely manner. If this is the perception in your organization, then IT is stifling innovation. In other words, IT is limiting the possibility of a favorable cultural quality.

Advice: Look for ways to manage and prioritize ideas outside of those deeply aligned with business strategy. It’s important to explore and continuously evolve your processes to be more agile.

Living with your IT decisions

I’ve touched on a few examples here, but it must be clear to you now that almost all IT decisions today can have lasting negative implications (we already assume that we understand the benefits of our decisions). Choices like an ERP suite or architectural decisions around how data is stored and shared can have profound impacts on the ability for stakeholders to make timely business decisions. In many cases, and particularly in our new business environment, these IT decisions can make or break a business.

Smart organizations foster the culture they want. They make deliberate decisions to encourage and discourage certain behaviors. Today, business brand and culture are often intertwined and those that get it right consistently win in the marketplace.

While I believe we recognize the limiting qualities of IT decisions, I’d suggest we’ve insufficiently studied the degree to which those decisions in aggregate can have a large influence on organizational culture.

It might be time to better understand the relationship between the culture of your organization and the IT decisions that are being made.

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3 types of IT leaders: maverick, innovator, guarantor

January 17, 2011 - 9:00 am

There is little recognition that the operating profile of IT leaders can vastly differ from organization to organization. This is most pronounced when studying how technology vendors sell to this audience. It can often appear there is simply one type of person leading every IT organization. Variations in needs are seldom reflected in the way products are sold.

There is an array of independent inputs that determine the style of each leader. Take for example the industry in which the person works. The approach of a CIO that leads a B2B industrial products business is going to be vastly different from one that runs an IT department at a university. Now also consider the culture of a business. It’s not possible to have the same style leading IT at a highly risk-tolerant, innovative tech company versus providing the essential needs for a conservative and low-tolerance-for-risk insurance giant.

For many of you, this might sound obvious. But why then do marketers, analysts, consultants, and so many pundits (I’m probably guilty here too) so often sell to this community like it’s one dimensional?

I don’t mean to generalize too much. We should certainly recognize the brilliant jobs so many salespeople perform. Rather, the advice in this post is for the group of salespeople who could benefit from thinking differently about the diversity of every IT leader.

The following guidance can also be used by recruiters when thinking about filling IT leadership roles. In this instance, it can be asked: do the characteristics of the organization align to the skills, experiences, and personality of the person being hired?

Finally, if you work with or for an IT leader, it might help you in thinking about how to manage the relationship in a positive way.

Here I present my vastly condensed categorization schema for the IT leader:

1. The maverick

This IT leader works for an organization that thrives on taking risks. You’re likely to see lower levels of vendor standardization; this IT leader likes to try lots of different products and the organization’s broad portfolio of hardware and software reflects that.

The maverick IT leader is likely to have a higher level of comfort with open source and with quickly adopting less mature technologies. The background of this IT leader is likely technology-based and he/she has extensive IT knowledge.

The environment requires this person to move fast. Sitting on long, protracted RFP submission proposals, for example, will not go over well, nor likely be a common approach. Speed and agility are popular qualities with this IT leader, but there is a trade-off with standardization, repeatable processes, and predictability. Often this person succeeds with the sheer brute force of determination. But this benefit can often come at a price.

Advice: When working with this IT leader, be conscious of his/her low patience and less of a long-term commitment to any one direction.

2. The diligent innovator

This IT leader operates in an enlightened organization. He/she understands that IT innovation can bring considerable benefits, but this leader doesn’t necessarily make a first-mover play.

In this organization, occasional managed risk is supported with the caveat that homework is done and a back-out strategy exists. This IT leader is often asked to be agile in responding to needs while also being encouraged to push back on requests that don’t align with business objectives or may disproportionately introduce unnecessary complexity. It’s often a hard place to operate because the pull to take greater risks must be balanced with diligent decision-making. This can often result in a slower pace of activity, or in the worst case, in an impasse. The focus on diligence with underlying encouragement to innovate makes this a popular posture of IT leaders, but it can be the hardest of the IT leader categories to succeed in.

Advice: Be sure to provide this IT leader with plenty of assurances, good quality information, and support throughout any initiative.

3. The rock-steady guarantor

The ask of this IT leader is often the simplest: keep the essential systems running, don’t take too many risks, and keep the technologies moderately current. This person doesn’t need everyone to have the latest versions of software. They keep a close eye on new developments, but almost always take a late-majority approach to implementation.

While it sounds like this IT leader has it the easiest, that is the furthest from the truth. This person is being asked to keep everything working. Disruptions and surprises and not well received by management. Naturally, this makes the IT leader less agile, forces processes to be more bureaucratic, and change is much harder to make happen.

For most of history, this organizational profile has succeeded by being conservative and moving at glacial speed. The jury is out on whether this method is sustainable in today’s economic environment. The IT leader at the helm of this type of organization has considerable challenges ahead. He/she will see increased pressure to operate in a way that has been historically inconsistent with the risk profile of this type of business. A large amount of CIOs fill this category.

Advice: This IT leader requires a considerable volume of analysis to make decisions. Be sympathetic to rigorous approval paths, and prepare to support commitment to projects in the long-term.


I expect most IT leaders will have styles that overlap among all three categories, but it is highly likely that the predominant characteristics live in one of them. Of course, I’m really interested to hear from anyone who thinks they know an IT leader who doesn’t belong in any of these categories.

A short blog post can never do justice to an important discussion. I’ve left out a lot here, such as budget control and who the CIO reports to. But what I’m trying to do is raise awareness and provoke a dialogue. There isn’t a one-IT-leader-fits-all model. IT leaders are fundamentally different based on the organizations they lead.

Knowing and considering the subtle and not-so-subtle differences with each IT leader will help marketers better reach and resonate with them. It will help anyone who works with the leader to have more successful interactions and outcomes. Ultimately, it will be better for the IT leader and the organization.

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Can good IT managers make great business leaders?

January 8, 2011 - 2:20 pm

Recently, many people have been pointing out to me how my writings and the attendant observations on technology have been resonating outside of the IT community. Specifically I’m told, the subjects I’m writing on have meaning and value as general business management content. As I pondered on this notion, it struck me (and it’s obvious in hindsight) that in a world where technology is a fundamental foundation of almost all business, there’s not a great deal of difference between the skills required for good IT management and that of general management.

However, as true as that might be, as I further considered the thought, I concluded that good IT management doesn’t necessarily equate to great business leadership. We hear it all the time: today, CIOs and IT leaders must be able to partner with other members of the C-suite and in addition to running the operations of IT, be able to grow the business through IT enablement.

After all, the CIO is first and foremost a business leader.

Here’s the ask: the CEO wants more value from IT, the COO wants optimized operations, and the CFO wants it all at the least possible cost.

This requires the CIO to understand business and — surprise — have some form of general business background. That being recognized, the most common path to IT leadership is still through the IT organization, and that means the CIO strength may be of a technical nature with a nuanced flavor of management. That can often present a problem.

It’s important to recognize that to run an IT project or to manage a team of IT developers requires good management techniques. But all too often, IT professionals exist and operate in a vacuum resulting in a variation of management absent of inputs such as market forces. In other words, the typical IT manager, for example, may never be exposed to a P&L statement.

This is not by intention, but comes about as a result of how almost every IT organization operates. Largely shielded from the real work of the business, IT has both the convenience and the limitation of working with internal sponsors who are captive customers with no choice of supplier. That couldn’t be any more different than leaders who were groomed with and are working with the open marketplace. Put another way, acquiring management skills within the IT organization may result in a myopic view of general management.

The best IT managers I’ve seen have a background of both IT and general management. Many IT managers do not get to work in a non-IT environment. But the IT managers that do best are often those that have had more business exposure than their peers. Take that as a tip for any aspiring IT manager.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that a great IT leader doesn’t need a technical background or a good understanding of technology. That’s necessary and expected. After all, one assumes that the reason for wanting to be an IT leader stems from a passion for technology often reflected in a life of mild obsessiveness with geekdom. What I am suggesting is that a technical background with IT management skills may not be enough to cut it as a great business leader.

To succeed, an IT leader must learn to talk in the language of business. For example, cloud computing is about potential cost reduction and new business opportunities, not some abstract technology term that introduces a suite of complex new service models. The latter has a place at your IT team meetings, but will do little to invoke attention in the board room.

A great IT leader is also a salesperson who takes an idea and inspires the audience. He or she must drive emotional commitment from a team and sell a vision that people can buy. That killer combination of communicating IT innovation in business terms, understanding the numbers, and eliciting belief from the C-suite can form the backbone of highly effective business leadership.

Without these skills the CIO can often be relegated to order-taker and maintenance guy.

Being a good IT manager is hard. Being a great business leader is harder. What separates them is not just the ability to continually and uniquely inspire, but first to be a really well-informed and skilled business manager. Get the basics right, learn the business, understand the financial aspects, think big picture, talk the talk, inspire through your values, and then deliver. Hit many of these on the head and you just might shine as a business leader in the C-suite.

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My top 5 predictions for CIOs in 2011

December 15, 2010 - 9:00 am

We are living in amazing times. Technology is changing the way we work and play at a considerable pace and there is no letup in sight. Rather, the change we anticipate ahead will be greater and more profound than anything that has come before. If you, like me, are lucky enough to be part of implementing that change then you’ll likely agree that we are extra fortunate.

To me, being a CIO in the early part of the 21st century couldn’t be further from being in “just a job.” If you’re doing it right and having fun while you’re doing it, you and your team can be inventors of the future. And that’s really important and interesting work.

As we look to 2011, the to-do list and choices for CIOs are getting longer and more complex. The pace of change is adding a level of uncertainty that doesn’t make any specific path clear. Knowing this, as most of us do, is not particularly helpful. But that’s not the point to focus on: the enlightened CIO must help go after the most valuable projects and be a trusted adviser to those who commit dollars to organizational goals.

It’s in this context that I present my top 5 predictions for CIOs in 2011. I’ve pondered whether they should be characterized as predictions. Regardless of what we call them, these areas will be featured on most CIO agendas in the year ahead. Think of them as unavoidable big ticket items that will consume considerable discussion and may be deserving of a deliberate strategy.

1. Cloud computing enters the mainstream

Okay, so one doesn’t need to be a soothsayer to know that cloud computing is at a point of inflection. Emerging from a period of hype and niche investment, cloud computing is positioning as a transformative and central technology in the arsenal of enablers of value.

Worthy of particular note, with mobile increasingly at the center of our computing future, a strategy for the mobile cloud will be an essential subset of this space.

I’ve said it before, if the CIO is not driving the agenda on cloud in 2011, there are many in the C-suite who will be. This is because cloud computing provides solutions for reducing cost, simplifying and optimizing infrastructure, and shifting the role of the CIO from back-office manager to enabler of business opportunity.

The risk is no longer the cloud. The risk is not having the cloud as a priority in your strategy.

2. Real business intelligence

I have a term for business intelligence that I prefer and I believe conveys a more urgent sense of its value: I call it unleashing data. Somewhere on some system in your organization lie answers and patterns in data that could be worth millions of dollars. In an era where we create more data every two days than was created from the start of recorded history to 2003 (apparently that’s about five exabytes of data), to say data is underutilized is a gross understatement.

Now, more than ever, we have tools to mine organizational data — whether structured or unstructured — and unleash its enormous value. What strikes me about business intelligence is that the CIO doesn’t have to create anything new; it’s about using what already exists.

3. The cost and value of technology

A notable manifestation of our recession recovery is the absence of rigorous business investment. Put another way, businesses have been shell-shocked into hoarding their profits at the cost of spending on necessary technology maintenance and new systems. Rather, the modus operandi is conservative spending and trying to get more technology value with less cost. CIOs are feeling it.

The year ahead will likely continue this trend as the economy remains unstable and uncertain. It’s not the end of the world for CIOs, but it does mean that more work must be applied to developing watertight business cases and for increasing the innovative use of technology. For many CIOs, this trend will require necessary business skills that will be challenging. Break open that old college business textbook. You might need it.

4. Integrating social into the enterprise

While I don’t think that integrating social computing deep into existing systems will hit an inflection point in 2011, nonetheless I believe this will be the year where the subject gets increasing attention both in the CIO discourse and in the emergence of new supporting technology.

The business advantages of social capabilities such as internal crowdsourcing, collaborative virtual spaces, video-on-the-desktop, social network analysis, creating serendipity, and consensus building are being gradually proven out on an ad hoc basis. The future will demand that a deliberate and rigorous plan be applied to it. The time to begin strategizing on a path forward begins now.

5. Temporary staffing

If you’re an IT contractor, 2011 will likely continue to be a good year for you. Closely aligned with prediction No. 3, CIOs are increasingly reluctant to fill openings with full-time employees. Loath to risk further layoffs in the future, they continue to be highly conservative about growing the ranks. Market confidence will need to be restored before we see a sizeable shift to full-time employee hiring in the IT sector.

As a result, CIOs will be managing more hybrid-staffed organizations. These organizations will constitute full-time employees, contractors, and outsourcing. While not radically different from many IT organizations today, what makes 2011 different is the uncertainty around the extent and duration of the contractor requirements. Will it be permanent? What effects will it have on institutional knowledge, loyalty, and existing staff?


You may agree or disagree with my predictions and you may believe I left something big out. I’m confident that’s true. So I’d like to hear from you. Add your comment below if you think there is another prediction that every CIO must be aware of for 2011.

As I did in 2010, I’ll revisit these in late in 2011 and make an assessment of how they fared as the top ticket items for the CIO during the year.

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Taking stock of my 2010 tech predictions

December 8, 2010 - 9:00 am

Writing predictions is always fun because if you get one right it makes you look like you have extraordinary psychic skills. And if you get it wrong, well, so what? How could you really know?

On a more serious note, publishing predictions can be valuable content if they are formed by using unique insights to aggregate qualitative and quantitative observations, such as interviews with industry leaders or analyzing trend data.

In January 2010, I published a list of my technology predictions for the year ahead. I’ve been approached by many of you to revisit those predictions and state a verdict on each. While I hit a few right on, I certainly over-estimated the rate of change. In addition, like many of us who make predictions, we’re often caught off guard by the introduction of an unanticipated disruptor (read: iPad!). But that’s what makes our industry fun. Making technology predictions is somewhat of an oxymoron: innovation is by nature unpredictable.

So here are my top 10 technology predictions for 2010 and the assessment of how things actually turned out:

1. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Prediction: 2010 will be a big year for providers of software as a service (SaaS). The obvious big names in this space will release new offerings to compete with popular desktop applications.

Verdict: This was a slam dunk, although admittedly one of the easier predictions. Gartner predicts that the SaaS market will have grown an outstanding 14 percent in 2010.

2. Netbooks

Prediction: This popular form-factor will have outstanding sales and may even surpass laptop sales by year-end. Given its remarkable low-cost, we will likely see more offerings that make available free netbooks.

Verdict: Wrong. Netbook sales in 2010 took a nose-dive. After outstanding sales in 2009, interest waned and the market crashed. Some blamed the introduction of the iPad, although many have argued that the audiences aren’t necessarily the same. However, there is some agreement that the introduction of the iPad and the tablet format in general did impact the overall sales of portable computers as a broader category.

3. Cloud services

Prediction: An obvious growth area in 2010; we will see new and expanded services from all the usual suspects. Expect major announcements from large businesses and government agencies choosing to move some of their core applications and data to the cloud.

Verdict: Correct. An easy call. Major adoption and spending continues. This week alone the General Services Administration announced it is moving all 15,000 of its employees to Gmail and Google Apps. The continued expanded use of the cloud is anticipated to grow in leaps and bounds in the years ahead.

4. Mobile money

Prediction: By late 2010, paying for products and services via a mobile device such as a cellphone will begin to emerge in the mainstream U.S. Multiple flavors will be available including custom applications and text messaging.

Verdict: While we see progress in this area, I was too optimistic on where we would be by the end of the year. There is no doubt that there is considerable innovation taking place, but we are still a distance from seeing broad adoption of mobile money in the U.S. I do continue to believe strongly that this will be a major area of growth in the years ahead.

5. Free software

Prediction: If current trends continue, it’s quite possible that all software will be available in a form of free, but 2010 will be the first year that this trend reaches a point of inflection. A combination of enterprise-class open source, freemium, freeware, ad-supported, and alternate revenue-model software will have lasting and destructive impact on the notion of license-paid software.

Verdict: Mixed. The big winner in 2010 was open source. We continue to see high adoption rates in the enterprise from products such as WordPress and Ubuntu (implementation and maintenance costs assumed). Worth watching are those organizations that are permitting staff to bring their own home computers to work that in effect offloads enterprise software costs to the employee.

6. Harvesting the social graph and Web-Squared

Prediction: 2010 will see the introduction of the first widely available and easily usable products for better understanding the mass of unstructured data being accumulated across public and private clouds. The emergence of intelligent solutions to interpret massive related and un-related data in order to create forecasts and identify trends will help people make more sense of the world and see previously hidden signals.

Verdict: Some momentum building here, but no critical mass. A notable player, Hadoop has seen considerable growth over the year. But easy-to-use, mass-adopted applications are still a distance away.

7. More video

Prediction: Continued investment in video infrastructures will see greater use in work and non-work environments. It will be more common (but still not ubiquitous) to have video conversations with colleagues and external parties such as customers and suppliers.

Verdict: Notwithstanding the fascinating war-of-words this year between Adobe and Apple on the strategy to support video on devices, this was an outstanding year for continued broad adoption of video. According to a survey conducted by LifeSize, 51 percent of mid-sized enterprises polled use video conferencing and the majority of those that don’t are planning to use it.

8. Green IT

Prediction: This may be an inconsistent area of investment as continued tight budgets and more immediate costs (e.g. migration to updated operating systems) distract from major green initiatives. However, going into 2011 and beyond, broad adoption of virtualization and further movement toward hosting in the cloud may help organizations lower their data center carbon footprint.

Verdict: Mixed. As I predicted, the focus on tightening costs for many CIOs forced some distraction from this subject, although greater use of cloud computing, broader recognition and pursuit of LEED certification, and better system efficiencies in general remained consistent themes.

9. Mobile Location-based services (LBS) and augmented reality (AR)

Prediction: Expect to see an extraordinary number of start-ups and existing technology companies offering mobile LBS-related services. Proximity-based solutions will become more common. Mobile devices will begin to offer compelling overlay data for the real world that help people with existing and new activities. Lots of noise and confusion will ensue as both consumers and providers try to figure out acceptable services. For example: How will people respond when they stroll through a mall and are bombarded with text messages from different retail stores?

Verdict: Correct. Both LBS and AR continue to be exciting and innovative technologies that are growing in leaps and bounds. The exceptional successes of both FourSquare and Gowalla and the use of places in both Facebook and Twitter are indicative of consumer interest.

10. Social spaghetti integration

Prediction: More social features will begin to show up in enterprise resource planning (ERP) apps. New and increased support for ERP solutions that, for example, integrate social networking, will see a further blurring of the lines between work and non-work applications and activities.

Verdict: Mixed. With two major standouts: Salesforce Chatter and Facebook integration, this space is seeing growing interest, but considerable lack of coordination and direction. At the Web 2 Summit in San Francisco in November, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, went to great lengths to suggest that social is coming to all applications over the next few years. This will be a fascinating area to watch and participate in.

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The four pillars of O’Reilly’s IT strategy

November 23, 2010 - 9:00 am

This week I delivered the detailed framework for a 3-year IT strategy for O’Reilly Media, Inc. The strategy is the culmination of several months’ work to fully understand the current state of the business and the vision for its future. Together with the goals for growth, the strategy focuses on many of today’s common IT requirements, such as: delivering more for less; increased agility; greater access to decision-enabling data; and improving customer service. It also directly addresses stress points in the existing technology environment and forms the basis for the IT organizational design required to support future business goals.

As I wrote about in a previous blog, it was essential that the context of this strategy consider O’Reilly’s culture of innovation while introducing the right level of predictability. Too much of either unmanaged innovation or codified predictability could limit our ability to grow and, in my view, be a recipe for IT failure.

While there is considerable depth and breadth to the strategy, I will share the simplified, four core concepts on which it is formed. Each is essential to move us forward. I’m not giving away any secrets here, as these are all fundamental concepts. But, it does achieve my objectives of being highly transparent in our thinking and for providing ideas to others.

The four pillars of our IT strategy are:

1. Governance

IT governance is all about making smart choices in allocating scarce technology resources and being accountable for the resulting performance of those decisions. These choices include those that consider cost, risk, and strategic alignment. While governance almost always exists in some form — i.e. without it being explicit, somehow decisions get made — maturity and predictability of process will really only be achieved by clearly understood and agreed upon governance processes. We’ll focus on the right quotient of governance, lest it stifle and suffocate the things we do really well.

2. Architecture

As systems become increasingly interdependent and a small change in one application can have significant downstream impacts, it’s no longer possible to take a narrow, single-system view of solution development. New requests must be handled with an end-to-end process mindset. Introducing new capability will now require an architectural perspective that considers qualities such as reuse, standards, sustainability, and data use. Over the medium- to long-term, smart architecture can lead to higher-quality solutions and reduced overall costs.

3. Strategic sourcing

Contrary to popular belief, strategic sourcing does not automatically equate to either staff reductions or outsourcing. Sure, unfortunately for many organizations this is the way it has manifested, but for many others it is about creating flexibility in identifying and temporarily acquiring talent from wherever it can be provided when it is needed. That talent may be internal, for example: Is there someone outside the IT department but within the business who can help with a project on a temporary basis? But it could also mean quickly finding a scarce development resource in Argentina. We’ll use strategic sourcing as a supplemental talent management approach to developing and supporting technology solutions.

4. Hybrid cloud

Historically, many organizations, including O’Reilly Media, built and hosted their own IT solutions. There’s often good reason to do this, particularly those systems that use proprietary innovation and are essential for market differentiation. Outside of this category, IT has become increasingly commoditized — i.e. basic services offer no competitive advantage but are essential to core business functions (think of email or file storage as examples). Utilizing more commodity-based IT products and services enables the IT organization to elevate its value proposition: to work on the most complex business problems and be a true enabler of business growth. At O’Reilly Media we’ll continue to build out our internal cloud infrastructure and pursue more external cloud capability and software-as-a-service solutions.


We’re under no illusion that making significant progress in all four of these areas will be easy. There’s a level of change management that will challenge us in new ways. But we’ll gauge the pace as we progress and make corrections as necessary. To me, inherent to our strategy is the capacity for flexibility. It’s not possible to get everything right, but it is essential to quickly correct when things go wrong.

I’ll continue to report on our progress and I welcome your feedback.

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The CIO’s golden rule of management

November 17, 2010 - 9:00 am

Evidence-based management is an approach where hunches are discarded and instead decisions are based on hard facts. It’s pounded into aircraft pilot training: when there is no visibility, regardless of what senses are suggesting, pilots must trust their flight instruments. In medicine (where the practice of evidence-based decision making originates) new diagnostic technology can trump the wisdom of physicians and can make decades of experience only an input into a course of treatment and not the final call. With few exceptions, good data is the best way to make great decisions. Without it you’re essentially flying blind.

We use evidence-based management all the time in business. Historically, we’ve just called it something else. In business we’re consumed with data and metrics. We make decisions with data and we measure performance with metrics. It’s letting the data and metrics — the evidence — tell the story and then taking some form of action on it.

As a business function, we can all agree that internal IT is replete with data and opportunities for metrics. Even still, it is surprising how poorly IT organizations measure what they do and how they make decisions. In my firsthand experience the problem can be attributed to at least three characteristics:

  1. Lack of recognition for the value of data and metrics.
  2. Insufficient skills in determining how and what to measure.
  3. System limitations/issues.

The effective CIO must address these and knock all three out of the ballpark. The success of an IT strategy is predicated on good metrics. Clearly that’s easier said than done. What every IT leader quickly learns is that without even a basic set of metrics, management of processes is close to impossible (at least in any quality manner) and making an argument for a course of action, particularly to the boss, is exponentially more difficult. To paraphrase Druker, who I believe got it exactly right, if you want to manage something you had better measure it. That’s an important rule.

Choose wisely if your metrics are currently far and few between. Go after the most valuable items, but keep the list relatively short. Produce a long list and you risk pushing your team into a tizzy. If you inherit an environment that appears to monitor and measure in excess, find a way to reduce it to a list where each item has merit. Simply asking the purpose of each metric will truncate the list quickly!

I’ll be the first to admit that metrics aren’t the most glamorous part of IT leadership, but they must be a priority. If leveraged in the right way, quality metrics can be the difference between dysfunctional operations and high-performance. That’s a golden rule that any CIO should want to follow.

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Being CIO: 5 tips for surviving the first 90 days

November 10, 2010 - 9:00 am

I’m fast approaching 90 days as a CIO. On the one hand it sounds and feels like a short amount of time, but as I’ve learned it is also a critical and long enough period where the tone and pace of your leadership can be established. Too many mistakes during these formative days can temporarily, and in some cases, permanently hamper the ability for a leader to succeed.

While much has been written on the importance of the first 90 days, nothing beats the real experience. So many of you have asked me about my experiences, I’ve assembled five top of mind tips that have shaped my tenure to date. For obvious reasons I won’t call out the tips I learned from the mistakes I have made, but simply suggest that every good intention is open to revision.

Tip #1: Do a lot of listening

You’re the new guy and people will want to bend your ear. Sometimes if a person can get to you early they can try to influence your agenda in their favor. You’ll hear both sides to everything, so it’s important not to make up your mind too early. This is not a bad thing since you can quickly get insight into how the organization thinks and behaves. Mostly though, listening is about formulating where some of your priorities are going to be. If you’re hearing consistent messages, that’s probably indicative of something important. After the first 90 days, keep listening. I would argue that great listening skills are an essential business and social quality regardless of your role and level.

Tip #2: Learn about the business you are in

You might know how to manage a datacenter, deploy Apache, or write poetic code, but do you know how the product or service that your organization produces is designed and delivered? More importantly, do you know why it’s done that way? Increasingly, business leaders want an IT leader to be a partner not a supplier. Being a partner means understanding and talking the language of the business. They want someone who understands where they are coming from when they describe an issue or solution that requires a technology input. In addition, knowing the business gives your work (and the environment you have inherited) context early and can aid in the initial learning curve.

Tip #3: Think carefully about what and how you communicate

Today, the role of the CIO as both business enabler and innovator has the ability, more than ever, to influence and be held accountable for organizational success. This means that the audience that is listening to you is broad and influential. When you’re in middle management your input can be considered, but not necessarily acted upon. The same doesn’t hold true for the CIO. During the first 90 days (and beyond), it is crucial to be deliberate and thoughtful in your communications. Flippant comments and mere suggestions should be avoided. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Lastly, use all forms of communication channels: in-person, email, instant messaging, telephone, and video. Being available and responsive demonstrates your level of engagement.

Tip #4: Make progress

While you are listening, learning, and communicating during your first 90 days — three things you’ll do a lot of — there is also a business that needs support and an IT organization that needs leadership. You were hired to get things done. In a highly competitive business environment patience is low and expectations are high. So figure out things you can address quickly. CIOs are problem solvers, so I suggest you find something that you can help solve, something that takes a fresh set of eyes to assess or a risk that a predecessor was unwilling to take. In addition, look for ways to demonstrate your ability to make decisions, such as enabling a useful process or approving a purchase. The amount and methods in which you initially make progress will be indicative of your pace and style. Getting it right can ensure you are in sync with the business. Being too slow or too fast has considerable inherent risk.

Tip #5: Work hard not to break anything

Last and most importantly, make your best effort not to break anything. In the future it will be okay to make some big bets that don’t work out the way they were intended. However, in the first 90 days, there is little appetite for a new leader who appears on the scene with ideas and intentions ablaze, only to disrupt and confuse. Put another way, make sure you’re aware of existing priorities and critical systems and avoid partially-baked decisions that could jeopardize essential business functions. While somewhat tongue-in-cheek, this tip is probably the most serious. While you won’t be measured on this quality alone, combined with the other tips, you’ll get credit for keeping the ship afloat while demonstrating authenticity and making meaningful progress.

There’s some irony that the qualities of the technology leader I’ve described above are completely absent of technology skills. But that is deliberate. The CIO is increasingly a business role. And in business, leaders win or lose by their soft skills. Sure, technical skills are important, but it won’t be those skills that your stakeholders will be initially assessing.

Your first 90 days are important. Perform a few important things right and you’ll move forward. While you’re at it, have fun. It’s exhilarating work.

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5 cloud computing conundrums

November 3, 2010 - 9:00 am

With all the attention being paid to both public and private cloud computing these days, it would be easy to believe that it offers a panacea for the woes of every CIO. If only! The reality of designing and implementing a cloud strategy, particularly the public component, is far more complex than any technology vendor or analyst paper would have you believe. Faced with an array of trade-offs, public cloud computing is creating considerable challenges for CIOs and their teams.

Like every new technology paradigm that has come before, cloud computing presents both clear advantages and near-term limitations that need to be addressed ( I deliberately say near-term, as IT innovation has a neat way of figuring stuff out eventually. Sadly, not always when you need it, and certainly not for the benefit of early adopters.)

With the C-suite continuing to apply pressure to get more value from IT and reduce cost, moving technology services into an externally hosted environment or subscribing to an online business solution can be a quick and convenient win. But can a strategy like this be applied successfully in a repeatable fashion without significant trade-offs?

While every business needs to consider public cloud computing in the context of its own needs and risk profile, I’ve identified a sample of puzzles that most CIOs will likely need to address. There are many others of course, but these should be sufficiently provocative.

Puzzle #1: Create flexibility by being less flexible

Moving capability to the cloud can provide clear advantages such as storage elasticity (the ability to increase or decrease needs as necessary and only pay for the amount used) and pay-per-feature options. But these flexibilities may come at the price of vendor lock-in and limiting feature sets. Will this compromise be acceptable? Difficulty level: Medium.

Puzzle #2: Determine the cost of an existing IT solution

Whether an IT service should remain internal or be hosted in the cloud requires a level of cost accounting (the true costs of labor, utilities, backups, disaster recovery etc.), which is seldom applied to the cost of running a technology service. This puzzle requires the CIO to understand and allocate the appropriate costs for each service being considered for the cloud. Hint: Don’t forget to include opportunity costs. Difficulty level: High.

Puzzle #3: Simplify the environment by introducing more complexity

Move a complex business process to a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider and you immediately eliminate the complexity of developing, managing, and hosting the solution internally. However, move lots of processes to a variety of providers and you may introduce challenges in getting these applications to interface with each other. You also provide a considerably less unified experience to the user. While standard APIs ease the flow of data, supporting disparate vendor solutions adds a new level of complexity. Difficulty level: Medium.

Puzzle #4: Provide assurances of sustainability in a domain of uncertainty

Public cloud solutions remain largely nascent and unproven over the long term. With the benefits so compelling, it can be hard to resist moving forward with what may appear to be a great fit. With little ability to ensure that the solution will be available in the long-term, the challenge is to receive and provide assurances to already skeptical stakeholders. Difficulty level: High.

Puzzle #5: Maintain security while reducing it

Providing a secure computing environment is the priority of every CIO. With threats increasing and becoming ever more elaborate, this is a space with little room for error or oversight. By moving services to the cloud, you may essentially be outsourcing your security. Difficulty level: High.

One could assume from this posting that I’m not supportive of the movement to the public cloud. But nothing could be further from the truth. The opportunities such as lower cost, increased agility, and new business possibilities are obvious and compelling.  Given what’s at stake, a deliberate and diligent approach is absolutely essential. It’s clearly not all or nothing; migrate only what makes sense. Since moving services to the public cloud is often a unidirectional process (they’re unlikely to move back in-house without significant cost and serious disruption) it’s important to avoid buyer’s remorse.

If you’ve solved some of these puzzles I’d love to hear how you did it and any trade-offs you had to make. I’m also interested in other conundrums that cloud computing presents. Tweet to @reichental.

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Can predictability and IT innovation coexist?

October 25, 2010 - 9:00 am

Organizations that succeed in consistently converting ideas into value, and then profiting from them — the art and science of innovation — are often those that have balanced rigid process with agility. The reconciliation of predictability and innovation is at the heart of many IT transformations, even if it isn’t an overtly focused intent. In other words, leadership wants more value from IT and more contribution to the bottom line, but they want it without compromising the core business functions that technology supports.

Typically, IT transformations try to achieve two things:

  1. Improve existing services by increasing quality and capacity while finding ways to radically reduce cost.
  2. Spend less time managing and maintaining back-office systems and redirect resources and capacity in order to enable new business opportunities.

To address item 1 usually requires the implementation of optimal processes, and to support item 2 necessitates innovation. Unfortunately, in the effort to ensure the compliance of processes, an organization can stifle, or in the worst case, create high entry barriers to innovation.

As an example of rigorous process, IT project governance often requires a level of analysis and support that just isn’t available to risky new ideas. Since the absence of concrete evidence can be a showstopper for many decision-makers, ideators are deterred from proposing their ideas in the first place. After all, who would want to expend energy and enthusiasm championing an idea when there is a very good chance it won’t even be entertained?

An IT organization can overtly follow a path that is predictable (read: rigidly process driven) as it may be right for its profile. Think about financial organizations like banks and insurance companies, or the constraints of regulation in healthcare industries. These types of organizations lend themselves to a sharper focus on process.

Then there are businesses that make innovation their modus operandi. I think about technology-based start-ups and industries where complacency means certain obsolescence. For example: miss a beat in the fast moving mobile phone domain and you’re toast.

Lastly, there are a large percentage of businesses that want to be both predictable and innovative. Most importantly: they don’t want one aspect to trump the other.

Today, every IT leader needs to consider this dichotomy for the business domain in which their business competes: whether to run an IT organization that is equal parts predictable and innovative. Strategies that can reconcile these two agendas have positive observable and measurable results. At the same time, organizations that don’t reconcile these aspects often see lower levels of IT innovation. I’d bet that we each know the category in which our own organizations belong.

In O’Reilly IT, ensuring that we achieve the right degree of process while charting an innovative course is an important part of our transformation journey. As I’ve written before, it begins with winning over your IT staff and your internal customers. Then it’s about clearly defining the limits of process within your organization. What will the culture permit?

When process overrides its benefits, it couldn’t be clearer: your business stakeholders will reject it and it will fail. So tread slowly. Look for those organizational signals. Examples will include decreasing participation in process-based meetings; non-responded emails; and missed deadlines. Above all, when you begin to find the right balance, loudly communicate the benefits of the process. It needs to resonate with the participants. When it does, you know you’re headed in the right direction.

If you’re unsure whether your IT organization reconciles predictability with IT innovation, test it. One of the simplest ways to do this is to ask. You might be surprised at what you hear.

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IT transformations must begin with hearts and minds

October 11, 2010 - 9:00 am

The role of the information technology (IT) department is changing. In simpler times it was the bastion of back-office services like data storage, network operations, and ERP systems. Today, both its purpose and the demands placed upon it are quickly evolving. Driven largely by economics, the IT function is outsourcing many of its commodity-type activities; looking for ways to rein in out-of-control support costs; and being asked to be more central in helping to enable new business opportunities. Simply put: the C-suite is demanding more value on its IT spend.

For many IT departments, moving from a largely back-office role to being an enabler of business growth requires nothing less than an IT transformation. This can often translate to painful, but essential change in the way IT is sourced, organized, and operated. But more importantly, it is about shifting the mix of IT dollars spent away from maintenance and into new investment. A successful IT transformation should result in 60 percent or more of all IT spend being available for new projects that can be directly tied to business growth.

Getting there is not easy.

Many IT leaders tasked with this directive leap deep into the strategy by quickly shifting priorities, shutting down projects, and using sheer brute-force to change the dynamics. This approach can work, but it will come with a price.

Like all change, and given its particularly complex nature, an IT transformation must be managed in a deliberate and multidimensional manner. Sure, the heavy lifting is essential, but it should not be the first thing that gets done. This kind of radical change must start with the CIO and his or her managers engaging in collaborative discussions concurrently across the business and with the IT team. As the impact of the change will be experienced by almost everyone, setting expectations and getting as many people as possible bought into the strategy at the outset is essential. An IT transformation will be tough, but it will go smoother and will be better understood and accepted when leadership has won hearts and minds.

As CIO of O’Reilly Media, I’m leading our own IT transformation. Driven by our desire to get more done, more quickly, and to continue to be at the leading edge of innovation in the business areas in which we compete, requires nothing less than a significant shift in how we execute our IT function. We’ll keep doing the things we do well, but we will take a careful look at everything else.

Over the next few months, I’ll be blogging candidly about our experiences: both what is working and where we are being challenged. I want you, the O’Reilly Media community to be part of the conversation in this change. We’ve started to work on hearts and minds and that also means we’ve got to do a lot of listening. So go head, tell us what you think.

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CIO: Chief Inspiration Officer?

October 5, 2010 - 9:00 am

Earlier this year, as a member of a panel speaking before IT leaders from various industries, I was asked what single, most important piece of advice I would give a chief information officer (CIO).

Just prior to the question, I was struck by how our discussion had been rather sobering in nature. We were dwelling on some of the more negative issues facing our profession: shrinking budgets in the face of a difficult economy; excessive and increasing demand to deliver more with less; and overworked and under appreciated staff. Deep inside the discourse on the state of any profession, it’s understandable that the pain points often get all the attention. While careful discussion of current issues is vital, it’s also incumbent on leaders to balance debate with positivity. To focus entirely on challenges in this forum risked the potential to miss the complete story: a CIO has the ability to lead important and meaningful business change; to create enormous value; and to impact staff and customers in positive ways.

When the master of ceremonies turned to me to address the advice I would give CIOs, I wanted to directly speak to what had been on my mind. I responded, “The CIO should not think of him or herself as the chief information officer, but rather as the chief inspiration officer of the technology organization.”

I went on to explain that in an environment where it can be easy to be dragged down and feel beaten by some of the realities of the job, it was essential to find ways to keep staff focused on the business value of technology and the magic it can create. My point was that to inspire could complement a CIO’s arsenal of genuine leadership behaviors.

After the meeting I considered whether what I had said made any sense at all. I didn’t think of it again until just a few weeks ago.

As I anticipated, in my role now as CIO of O’Reilly Media, there are a lot of pressing priorities, and demand for my attention is high. But more visibly I can see that team members feel the burden of delivering increasingly more complex solutions with less available capacity and in faster time. It is only now that I can reflect on the advice I had given to other CIOs. What I said may have actually made some sense. It turns out that inspiring staff by creating a vision and strategy for technology is one of the lowest costs, yet most effective activities a CIO can do. A vision that produces positive results reminds everyone why we do this work in the first place.

It’s hard to learn inspiration, but if you find a great way to express your passion and have it connect with the audience, that will usually get you to the right place. It’s also fair to say inspiration is not limited to the CIO. Regardless of your role, inspiring others has considerable value and it feels great.

Often we each need a reminder of the core behaviors that make great leaders. I’m taking my own advice and making inspiration my own job requirement.

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Innovate or go home

July 13, 2010 - 1:07 pm

How much new value did you provide your organization today? Did you suggest creative ways to go about a common task that resulted in better outcomes? Are your work behaviors keeping you relevant? If these questions are not top of mind for you yet, they will be. Your future gainful employment may depend on being able to answer them with resounding positivity. Intrigued? Read on.

Much of the discourse on innovation has been focused on that which takes place within the enterprise. Innovation as a personal behavior has not nearly received the attention it deserves. For one thing, it is imminently relevant and personal to every American and not simply an abstract concept that they can mostly only observe and barely influence. In previous blogs I’ve argued that enterprise innovation is increasingly essential, but I’ve not addressed the most intimate of all innovation: that of personal innovation.

So what is personal innovation? It contains much of the same elements of organizational innovation: qualities such as converting ideas into value; creating new ways of doing things; and creative problem solving. It’s about taking these concepts and applying them in a personal, individual manner. Testing personal innovation is about asking these types of questions and answering in a position fashion: Do I add new and increasingly more value each day? Do I use creative thinking to solve complex problems? Am I perceived by others as an innovator in how I go about my work? And one of my favorites: Am I looking for ways to regularly reinvent and brand myself consistent with the needs of my organization or the marketplace in general?

The author Daniel Pink  argues convincingly that the future of employment in American will increasingly rely on qualitative right-brained thinking.  That is, thinking that is highly creative in nature and not that of the left-brain which is rooted in repetitive, process-driven activities. The premise is that left-brained work is ripe for outsourcing since it can be easily replicated outside of the U.S. Right-brained activities on the other hand; tasks such as creative problem solving and idea generation are difficult to package and ship offshore and therefore hold the key to gainful employment in the long-term.

Those in left-brained work must consider whether an evolution to right-brained work makes sense.  In our new business environment reality, personal innovation becomes paramount. If you aren’t creating new value, if you aren’t reinventing yourself on a regular basis, and if you’re not being creative in how you approach problems, you are certainly increasing the possibility that you may become irrelevant. And if you’re irrelevant you might as well go home. And that, my readers, is my point; future success in our post-industrial society will rely on each of us innovating as a core behavior. Therefore, it’s completely possible that If you’re not innovating, you might as well do yourself a favor and go home.

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Can cost-based innovation help solve our debt crisis?

June 21, 2010 - 11:38 pm

Each of us are painfully aware of the new economic reality in which we find ourselves: national, state, and local government debt is skyrocketing. Simply put, it costs a lot more to provide and maintain government services than is taken in through taxes and other sources of revenue and thus we are forced to borrow to cover the difference. Every commentator on this subject offers essentially only three near-term solutions to the problem: raise taxes (some argue for lowering taxes), cut services and programs, and reduce the civil service payroll.  And while all of these have historically played an important role in some form of debt remediation, I’m struck by the absence of the role of innovation in this national discourse. I’m not talking about entrepreneurial innovation which of course is a considerable generator of income and taxes; I’m talking specifically about cost-based innovation.

Cost-based innovation is all about applying ideas to reducing the cost of a product or service while still providing a similar or acceptable outcome. For example, during the great recession businesses didn’t stop having regional and national meetings (although they had less), they did them differently. Instead of flying all participants to a location and paying for the transportation, lodging, and food costs, they had participants attend the meetings virtually (more than ever, cost-based innovation often relies heavily on technology innovation). The outcome resulted not just in considerably lower meeting costs, but staff enjoyed the convenience of attending from their office, and businesses could claim an attendant reduction to their carbon footprint.

States are struggling with the costs of critical services such as healthcare, education, fire services, welfare programs, and infrastructure upkeep. With a public increasingly opposed to tax increases (I often remind my friends that when America was booming in the 1950’s, the highest tax rate was over 90%), governments have been reduced to eliminating services, programs and cutting payrolls (might there be higher unanticipated costs in the long run as a result?). Okay, so it may be prudent to cancel some nonessential programs. In many cases that’s the right thing to do even when the economy is good! However, instead of such radical measures, where possible, could we ask some probing questions: can the service be provided differently? How can we approach the problem from an entirely different perspective? Cost-based innovation is used in business all the time where it is often applied as a matter of survival. Shouldn’t the same principles apply to government?

Let’s assume most of our politicians are bright and well-intentioned individuals and let’s assume that they largely hire competent and energetic teams. Even these great leaders and teams may not have all the solutions. For this I propose that they ask the electorate for ideas. This is called open innovation. Granted, many governments are experimenting with this approach, but it remains as yet a largely untapped strategy. To solve the BP oil spill, people from all over the country have been submitting thousands of creative ideas. We are increasingly seeing business after business tap into their customers for ideas on improving and creating new products and services. This combination of cost, open, and technology innovation offers great potential to help solve our debt crisis. And don’t stop there; let’s use this approach to solve lots of problems. For every problem that our country or state has, I’m willing to bet people have good ideas to address them.

The problems we face and those we anticipate in the future will not be solved by business-as-usual. Regardless of political persuasion, all of us and our elected officials are going to have to do things differently. And doing things differently is what innovation is all about.

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To Tweet or not to Tweet?

June 16, 2010 - 8:00 am

Since it started in late 2006, I’ve been a registered member of Twitter—the popular 140 character-limited microblogging service. However, I’ve only recently started to use it on a regular basis. I’ve suddenly found it quite useful. Many of the folks I socialize with are confounded by its value; they cannot see why people post the detail of their most inane activities and they are equally baffled by those that read the postings. I do neither of these things and yet I am able to derive value from it. To understand how, I thought it would be worthwhile to briefly outline the reasons why I think it is a rather compelling service.

While 40% of Twitter content is considered pointless babble according to this study: http://bit.ly/9K4RNE, the same report cited the combination of news, conversation, and pass-along value as approximately 40%. It is likely that the content of my interest falls into news and pass-along value, which appears to be around 12%. It is a small proportion of the content, but when you consider that tweets—the messages posted in Twitter—number around 50 million per day; suddenly 12% is a very large number. I don’t read a lot of what is on Twitter and frankly, I’m just not interested in most of it. However, the small group of people and organizations I follow disproportionally represent the 12% of content I am interested in.

So why would I read content posted on Twitter? There are three main categories that currently appeal to me. First is information that is newsworthy or timely. I find Twitter to be quite effective around alerting me to items of interest in a succinct manner. Typically a tweet will include a link for more information, but by scanning the initial tweet I can quickly determine whether following the link is worthwhile. The second category is getting a novel perspective from someone whose opinion I respect. The last category is pure entertainment. I follow a number of comedians and I find their random musings pleasantly diverting. Clearly there are many other reasons beyond my own why people read Twitter which include education, notifications, surveys, and fund-raising.

The final item I want to address is why someone like me would write a tweet (remember I’ve only been discussing why people read tweets so far). I think it’s highly flattering when someone decides to follow me on Twitter. My assumption is that they have made this choice because they believe I may repost other Tweets of value or I might have something of value to say myself. Without a scientific analysis, I would say the mix of my Tweets is 66/33 respectively. And while I don’t have millions of followers, I am always humbled when someone retweets (forwards) an original post of mine.

It’s too early to tell whether Twitter has staying power. But it’s evident that it is more than a novelty. Its current subscriber growth rate is spectacular, while its future is far from certain.

You can follow me at http://www.twitter.com/reichental

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Essential innovation: Essennovation Part 2

May 28, 2010 - 8:00 am

In a recent blog I argued that in order to prosper as an IT professional in the new, sobering world of alternative sourcing, new skills may be necessary. These skills are being necessitated by the changing role of IT within organizations. While it is possible to outsource much of the commodity technology and related services required by organizations, there is an increasing need for creative, complex problem-solving technology skills. This layer of technology need requires high doses of innovation and the attendant right-brained skills to make it happen. Rather than discretionary innovation for both the IT professional and IT organization, I called this essential innovation and coined the term essennovation. While my intent was to bring clarity to a common theme currently being discussed within IT circles and in board rooms across the world, I was delighted by the high degree of new conversation the blog provoked.

There was broad agreement with my thesis. Across social media sites and at water coolers, people said that, with a few exceptions, IT innovation was essential. When describing the ideal new-era IT professional, I said that business skills were a bonus. Many corrected me and said business skills were essential. I agree. What was clear–and certainly my intent–was that my blog focused on a very thin slice of essennovation: the IT professional and the role of IT. However, it got me and a lot of other people thinking: what other areas of an organization require a posture of essennovation and even more importantly, what industries are required to essennovate?

In several follow-up forums I suggested that industries such as healthcare and mobile clearly survive because of essennovation. I maintain that innovation is part of their DNA. Resting or gloating in market share does not cut it, lest a competitor quickly out-innovate them. Others chimed in with an interesting counter-point that caused me to pause in thought: did an industry or business exist where innovation was not essential? Upon reflection, I determined my response as yes. But it is a conditional yes and I dedicate the remainder of this blog to its defense.

The answer lies somewhere between my definition of innovation and the maturity of innovation leadership and processes adopted within organizations. First, to address the definition: I generally support the theme that the conversion of ideas into value is a decent description of innovation. But does that mean that process improvement or re-engineering initiatives are also innovation? Somewhat.  When we implement Six Sigma initiatives, for example, are we innovating? Maybe. But, inversely, when we innovate are we delivering Six Sigma initiatives. Probably not. This takes me to the second point, the context in which I consider innovation. To me, innovation is a deliberate and mature set of processes in and of themselves. Couple that with sincere and focused organizational support and leadership and you have my view of innovation. In this context, let’s go back and review the question that was posed: Did an industry or business exist where innovation was not essential? Sure, many organizations have process improvement activities, or they look for ways to improve products and services, but do many of them have mature and supported innovation processes? In my experience and observations working with a vast array of businesses and industries, the conclusion is that many don’t.  Often, the way in which they are tackling the marketplace is working just fine; essennovation is not a factor. For others, it is a matter of education and understanding; they just don’t have the skills or haven’t yet recognized a need to have a mature innovation process. And then there are many who are trying and having limited success. Essennovation belongs to those organizations that live and die by innovation. Essennovation belongs to those who have aggressive revenue growth and performance objectives and they execute upon them by having deliberate, leadership-supported, mature innovation processes. Thus, I conclude that for some decent chunk of organizations, essennovation is simply not a factor.

For me, this provokes a new question: under what scenarios or triggers does an organization move from a non-essennovation state to one of essennovation?  Let me know your thoughts.

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Essential innovation: Essennovation Part 1

May 7, 2010 - 8:00 am

It’s likely not lost on many of us that large chunks of the internal information technology (IT) department at businesses are being outsourced. Rather than a new phenomenon, strategic sourcing–a term that covers the myriad ways resources and services can be alternatively provided by vendors– is picking up pace. We’re seeing more and more organizations choosing to move many of their technology functions to an external provider.  Among many factors, increasing commoditization of technologies and services make them easier to offload to someone else. When we say commoditization in this context, we mean, for example: standard hardware and software, and services that can be relatively easily documented, then duplicated and repeated.  Think about common technology needs such as data storage or software testing.  By outsourcing, organizations can take advantage of, for example:  lower labor costs; larger pools of scare talent; and the ability to easily increase or decrease needs, and subsequent cost, based on demand. In fact, strategic sourcing has been a boon for these types of business objectives. Only in the long term will we be certain of the wisdom of this strategy, but there is no doubt that short-term value is being recognized. At some point, one could certainly conclude that IT is simply becoming a utility and from a strategic perspective, ‘IT may not matter.’ But this conclusion, in my view, would be wrong.

It’s become clear that most business functions now depend on technology in some form or another. If there is any doubt, just look at what happens when email is unavailable for 30 minutes.  Indeed, in the absence of technology, strategic imperatives such as reengineering efforts and the introduction of new products and services become almost impossible. In this equation, it is possible to separate the use of commodity technology and resources from the technology and resources needed to innovate. Nobody is asking for IT to be eliminated as an internal function in its entirety; moreover, most business leaders are recognizing that IT is essential for success and are willing to pay a premium for it; we just have to spend the right amounts on the right things. IT is being tasked with flipping the cost model from a typical maintenance-value ratio of 60/40 to 40/60 or better. Not a simple task, but a reasonable objective assuming you have the right strategy and leadership in place.

And herein we identify the opportunity for technologists everywhere. If we recognize that the IT needs of organizations going forward will be increasingly focused on innovation, creativity and  other right-brained activities, we soon realize—assuming, if necessary, we invest in personal retooling—that the future is indeed much brighter.  Organizations will retain and promote those that are best suited for this type of new IT work.  Where there are gaps they will need to recruit a different type of IT individual. In addition to a basic computer science foundation, this person will be increasingly skilled and educated in some creative field, and for added bonus, will have an acumen or experience in the business side of the house. The traditional technology professional such as those in system administration, software development, and call support, will still have opportunities and those needs will continue to be sought by organizations. But that workforce will be considerably smaller and will live with some ongoing vulnerability.

It’s my view that the future of IT is solidly rooted in innovation. The quicker both the IT professional and the organization realize this, the better the long-term outcome will be. For both parties, significant investment will be required.  Future organizational success will be more dependent on IT innovation than many have yet to make a bet on.  While some may argue the validity of innovation in certain scenarios; in my opinion, IT innovation is not an option. It is essential innovation and that’s something I call Essennovation.

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Why the next big thing may, in fact, be a really big thing

March 11, 2010 - 8:00 am

Every second, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, Switzerland produces 40 terabytes of data.  That’s more data than can be currently stored and analyzed.  The scientists working on the project are forced to collect just a slim set of the data and they hesitantly ignore the rest.  While this example is at the top end of the data deluge that our increasingly digitized world is creating, we can all relate to other, closer to home examples:  Every minute, 20 hours of video is uploaded to the popular video-sharing site, YouTube.  On Facebook, the biggest and most popular social networking site, 2 billion photos are uploaded each month.  Whether it is our text messages (a volume greater than the population of the earth are sent each day), or credit card transactions that reveal the intimate details of our purchasing behaviors, or recorded search entries in search engines that tell us so much about the human experience, or the cameras that photograph and video us as we go about out daily activities, the quantity of data that humanity is collecting and storing is staggering.  And it’s increasing exponentially.  We are moving from data scarcity to data abundance and disrupting our conventional view of economics. We call it big data.

You might ask why is big data happening and what are the implications?

This data deluge is being driven by a number of factors.  First, we are increasingly migrating from an analog to digital world.  We don’t use the gelatin silver process for photos anymore; we store them as bits in an ethereal cloud.  The same applies to such things as movies, music, newspapers, books, our bank records, our bills, and our airline tickets.  It’s a very long list.  Second, it’s become cheap to store digital data.  At the time of writing, the estimated cost of a gigabyte is 10 cents.  The hard drive I am writing this blog on has 100 GB: a total cost of $10 that includes every digital photo I have taken and every song I have purchased and there is still plenty of room left over.  Finally, the tools for us to produce content, store it, and share it have become highly accessible and quite often: free!  Today, any one of us can be a publisher or credit-card collecting retailer.  This creates enormous amounts of data.

Collecting and sharing all this data clearly presents a number of challenges and in my view, incredible innovation opportunities.  This is not last year’s data-mining.  This is data-mining on steroids!  While I won’t dwell on the challenges, they are clear: increasing transparency in our lives potentially results in less privacy.  More information and equal access to it means that the value of some intellectual property is trending downward.  Easy access to content and communication tools means even the bad guys have a voice on the global stage.  And while the risks and challenges are many, I want to turn our attention to the innovation opportunities.

In order to track the spread of the H1N1 Flu virus, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) was able to leverage the search entries of a popular search engine.  Since people search for things like symptoms when they are sick and since the search engine knows where the search is located, we can easily see how large volumes of searches produce a beautiful visual of how a disease is spreading both over time and in what direction.  It’s the invisible knowledge that the data deluge unveils that makes me excited about this area.

I’ve identified five net new possibilities that big data presents:

  1. Answer formerly unanswerable questions. With so much data being collected in so many different ways, it is now possible to ask and get answers to questions we just couldn’t before.  For example, if we analyze the social connections between employees that their digital footprints create, might we be able to identify specific knowledge domain experts? Sometimes the questions will be deliberate, but I’ll bet we’ll accidentally be able to answer insightful questions we didn’t intend to.
  2. The formulation of new questions. Now that we know certain data is being collected, what new questions could we ask? Imagine how empowering that could be to C-suite executives!
  3. More informed, evidence-based decision making. How many times have you wished you had more detail on a subject in order to make a better decision? Better data can mean better and timelier decisions.  Big data opens up a whole new opportunity for competitive advantage.
  4. Democratization of data. We no longer need to build systems that silo critical data and create an enterprise digital divide.  Aggregated data in volume can be easily made available so everyone can benefit.  It can be re-purposed resulting in new value that goes way beyond its initial intent.  For example, governments all over the world are embracing open-data policies.  This gives the electorate unprecedented access to local, state, and federal insight.  For example, local community groups are using the data to combat crime and to discover societal inequalities (is this neighborhood getting an unfair access to a resource?).  Give data to your employees and they may tell you something about your organization that reduces costs or builds your next billion dollar product or service.
  5. Visualization of invisible knowledge. Big data creates amazing and valuable visualizations.  And these visualizations unveil secrets that were previously hidden.  For example, tag clouds (groups of words that become larger the more each word is used) tell us what people are talking about on social networks.  A map of the world superimposed with real-time stock trading data flows tells us a lot about global commerce.

Of course I’m only skimming the surface here.  What I’m trying to convey in this introductory blog on the subject is that big data is a big deal.  Moreover, rather than viewing it as a threat–which many folks will–this is an opportunity for incredible innovation.  Big data will bring entirely new value propositions and it will force the reinvention of entire industries and business models.

In my view, big data is the next big thing.

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Why digital abundance may be good for quality

February 15, 2010 - 8:00 am

If you’re reading this blog entry then you’ve made an important decision.  You’ve decided that among all the different ways you could spend your time, reading my blog is a worthwhile option.  So, in the same way those in the airline business do, I say to you: we know you had a choice of blogs to read today, so thank you for choosing to read my blog.

We’ll come back to this thought in just a moment.

Classic economics deals with demand in the face of scarcity.  In business school it is pounded into you that price is a function of the demand for something relative to its supply.  In the digital arena of consumer-produced (largely free) content, these principles have been knocked on their head: scarcity has become abundance.  Supply massively outweighs demand.  The price, in this case, becomes the opportunity cost.  With so much supply, we can only consume so much and, therefore, must sacrifice something in favor of another.  Competition for our limited mental capacity has created a new economy: the attention economy.  For example, with thousands of blogs to read and a finite amount of hours in the day it is simply not possible to consume but the smallest, most trivial amount of content.  Might this partly explain the popularity of Twitter: that the short bursts of content from multiple sources provides an illusion of editorial breadth and depth?

Ok, so having more choices is not new; there have always been more newspapers or more movies to watch than any one individual could ever get to in a given period.  What makes our choices infinitely more complex is the magnitude of choices.  Today we can get our news from thousands of sources.  The entry barriers to content creation have largely been eliminated resulting in the ability for each of us to be a printing press or movie director.

So what?

A popular argument is that more content doesn’t mean better content.  It may just mean lots of really bad content.  That is often largely true: lots of videos of beer pong tricks are often nothing more than a collection of bad videos of beer pong tricks.  But it’s not an argument that can be used to prove that digital abundance is the same as digital waste.  I propose that the same market forces are at play that helps individuals make choices: collectively a large group will review and surface the things they like and relegate the things they don’t to the far end of the long tail.  For content to emerge above all the noise requires a type of pseudo-Darwinian selection.  Further, I argue that abundance may in fact improve quality of content.  Sure, in an economy of abundance there will be a lot of videos of cats playing the piano, but among the volume of garbage there will be a handful that will be quite good.  And if you’re a person who finds cats playing pianos funny, that’s a good thing.

If you are a creator of digital content, you still need to create content people want.  And that means you need to innovate to stand out.  You need to produce quality–defined in so many different ways–and add value for the consumer.  In an economy of digital abundance, innovation is king.

If you’ve reached this far in my blog, again I thank you.  You had a lot of choices and for some reason; you chose to read my blog.  In an environment of millions of blogs and many other choices of how to spend your time, you chose to spend it here.  And that proves in some small way that the ease at which one can create bad content hasn’t resulted in a dearth of digital content of value to you.

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My personal Top 10 technology predictions for 2010

January 1, 2010 - 8:00 am

One of my responsibilities as the Director of IT Innovations at PwC is to spend a good deal of time researching and developing insights on the impact of emerging technologies. This year, for the first time, I thought it might be fun and, frankly, quite useful to share with you my thoughts on what I believe may be the big IT trends in 2010. While I was somewhat tempted to be bold and creative in my forecast, I decided to ground the Top 10 in areas that have some real momentum. If you agree with the predictions, what might that mean for your work and your industry? In what area do you think I got it completely wrong? I’d love to know what you think.

1. Software as a Service
2010 will be a big year for providers of software as a service (SaaS). The obvious big names in this space will release new offerings to compete with popular desktop applications. New and existing operating systems that are built primarily to support the SaaS model will begin to be more widely accepted and adopted.

2. Netbooks
This popular form-factor will have outstanding sales and may even surpass laptop sales by year-end. Given its remarkable low-cost, we will likely see more offerings that make available free Netbooks.  In addition, the ubiquity of embedded Web-cams will drive further use of personal video in both non-work and work environments.

3. Cloud Services
An obvious growth area in 2010; we will see new and expanded services from all the usual suspects. Expect major announcements from large businesses and government agencies choosing to move some of their core applications and data to the cloud.

4. Mobile Money
By late 2010, paying for products and services via a mobile device such as a cellphone will begin to emerge in the mainstream US. Multiple flavors will be available including custom applications and text messaging. More likely in 2011-12 will be the emergence of banking services from the big Telco’s. Rather than simply being a middleman, the telecommunication companies may announce banking divisions.

5. Free Software
If current trends continue, it’s quite possible that all software will be available in a form of free, but 2010 will be the first year that this trend reaches a point of inflection. A combination of enterprise-class open source, freemium, freeware, ad-supported, and alternate revenue-model software will have lasting and destructive impact on the notion of license-paid software.

6. Harvesting the Social Graph and Web-Squared
2010 will see the introduction of the first widely available and easily usable products for better understanding the mass of unstructured data being accumulated across public and private clouds. The emergence of intelligent solutions to interpret massive related and un-related data in order to create forecasts and identify trends will help people make more sense of the world and see previously hidden signals.

7. More Video
Continued investment in video infrastructures will see greater use in work and non-work environments. It will be more common (but still not ubiquitous) to have video conversations with colleagues and external parties such as customers and suppliers. Rigorous competition in this space between the major players and many start-ups will continue to push the price down for high-quality video. Greater use of PCs and Netbooks with Web-cams will continue towards critical mass. In addition, content creation will continue its profound migration from text to video, further consuming bandwidth and forcing more enterprise investment in network infrastructure.

8. Green IT
This may be a inconsistent area of investment as continued tight budgets and more immediate costs (e.g. migration to updated operating system) distract from major green initiatives. However, going into 2011 and beyond, broad adoption of virtualization and further movement towards hosting in the cloud may help organizations lower their data center carbon footprint.

9. Mobile Location-based Services (LBS) and Augmented Reality
Expect to see an extraordinary number of start-ups and existing technology companies offering mobile LBS-related services. Proximity-based solutions will become more common. Mobile devices will begin to offer compelling overlay data for the real world that help people with existing and new activities. Lots of noise and confusion will ensue as both consumers and providers try to figure out acceptable services. For example: how will people respond when they stroll through a mall and are bombarded with text messages from different retail stores?

10. Social Spaghetti Integration
More social features will begin to show up in ERP apps. New and increased support for ERP solutions that, for example: integrate social networking will see a further blurring of the lines between work and non-work applications and activities.

Do you agree or disagree with any of my predictions? I’d love to know what you think.

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Why it may be time to put your head in the cloud

September 23, 2009 - 8:00 am

One of the most widely discussed technology buzzwords of 2009 has been Cloud Computing. However, unlike other hyped technology, this one exhibits significant substance. It is worth understanding what it is and why it matters.

While the term is relatively new, some of the core features have existed in different forms for some time. Cloud Computing is all about hosting business technology, typically in an external environment, with application support, infrastructure, and operations managed by a third party. Does anyone remember application service providers (ASP’s)? Since the enterprise is less concerned with where the service lives and more focused on the functionality it enables; it is said to exist somewhere in the cloud — with complexity hidden from view. Similar to the shared nature of municipal power stations, enterprises are able to tap into a supply of technology resources as needed. Since it is on-demand, cost is determined by consumption and the required level of service. Simply put, when utilization of IT resources increases, so do costs; but equally, costs decline as usage decreases.

Cloud computing provides an organization with scalable and disposable technology services without the need to procure and manage a large, internal infrastructure. It provides a pay-as-you-go model for software applications, software services, and full-service application development environments. These can be complemented as needed with the ability to easily reconfigure performance, bandwidth and storage. For example: if you need more space? Simply request it!

The advantages of cloud computing largely depend on the size and nature of the business. For a small organization or start-up, the benefits are clear: low-cost (often free) applications, no infrastructure costs, and considerable speed in making essential, core IT services available to users. With larger organizations, there are additional considerations when evaluating cloud computing as an option. Typically processes are more complex and therefore require a larger degree of systems integration. Currently, this integration makes the cloud option riskier; however this will become less of an issue in the future.

Finally, in all scenarios, security concerns remain central to any hosting solution (but when has security not been a concern?). The organization must assess the ability for the cloud vendor to ensure the integrity of data and applications. For most organizations, cloud computing is not an all-or-nothing proposition. It is likely that applications and data inside and outside the firewall will co-exist in a hybrid manner.

Today we already see this model implemented across businesses. In many ways, large organizations have the ability to evolve their own infrastructures to provide an internal cloud. IT architects and other technology professionals need to consider a cloud computing delivery model to solve business problems. Business leaders should be informed about the opportunities, costs, security and risk considerations.

What should you do now? If you’re a business or technology professional, I encourage you to learn more about cloud computing. This important technology paradigm is rapidly rising in importance and will become an essential part of your technology toolkit. It’s time to put your head in the cloud!

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Presentation: Succeeding by connecting across boundaries and generations

April 29, 2009 - 2:00 am

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