featured, General, IT, Mobility, Uncategorized

The CIO Role – From Tech Manager to IT Services Broker

27 Mar , 2013  

Recently I was asked to define the role of a CIO in medium-sized businesses so I thought I would share my thoughts and research on the topic. There are many definitions of the CIO’s role. Traditionally the CIO role is defined as managing technology for the business and managing how information is utilized. Views vary whether the role is best served by a business person or a technologist.

In fact, the role of CIO has changed significantly  in medium-sized businesses over the past several years. Once viewed as order takers and leaders of the “techie group”, CIOs now work with the CEO and senior executives to understand current and future business goals, develop technical strategies that enable and facilitate those goals, bring technology enabling opportunities to the business, and create alignment within the IT organization and across its actions.

Effective CIOs see the big picture, understand and anticipate where the business is going, anticipate what challenges may be faced and what opportunities might arise that can be leveraged to benefit a medium-sized business.  CIOs take the initiative to distil changes in the technology marketplace, translate those changes into business value, surface technology-based opportunities, innovate and experiment, and lead cross-organization initiatives to achieve the strategic and tactical business goals.

As an example, the CIO must anticipate the impact of changes from a workforce that is more mobile, works from many locations, uses multiple devices (corporate and personally owned), and has “consumer expectations” of IT technology.

The CIO’s new role is to serve as a broker or conduit to business and technology solutions, assist in re-engineering business processes, educate the organization about potentially valuable technologies, and negotiation with and manage vendors. Most importantly, the CIO facilitates the organization’s access to online services, business applications, hardware and software tools, and technology-based services.

CIOs constantly ask themselves and the organization questions such as:

  • What are the impacts of business decisions on how we work, who we hire, and what business processes must change?
  • Are we capitalizing on technology for shareholder/member value and business profitability?
  • How do we foster a high-performance, creative and collaborative culture?
  • How can we better empower the organization with technology to make it more productive, efficient and lean?
  • What new innovations can IT bring to the business?
  • What technical skills are needed, and how do we develop internal staff and leverage external talent?
  • How do we identify and leverage the company’s knowledge resources?
  • What information exists or is needed by the organization, and how can we transform that information into company-wide solutions?
  • What new or changes in technologies have implications to the business?
  • What can IT do to be more efficient and effective in our use of technology?

Sources for this post: In addition to my own views on the topic, there were also several useful resources if found as part of my research. Some views matched up very well, while others held a differing opinion. Feel free to check out these resources.

Short URL to this post: http://goo.gl/fzH5K

IBMThis post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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featured, Games, Hardware, IT, Mobility, Uncategorized

CES 2013 – Day 2 Highlights

10 Jan , 2013  

Day 2 at CES was just as exciting and exhausting, filled with too many products, innovations and ideas to mention. Here are a few highlights.

Sharp IGZO smartphone display

Sharp IGZOSharp demonstrated IGZO, underlying display technology present in Sharp smartphones and to-be-commercial monitor offerings. Bringing improved performance, lower power consumption, and 10 point touch interface technology, what I found most impressive was its responsiveness to the touch interface. For example, scrubbing forward/backward through a video on an IGZO smartphone was smooth and lacked the jumps and starts present on the iPhone (even with Retina). I find the scrubbing scroll bar in iTunes and watching videos difficult to use on the iPhone because of its poor detection of touch and stickiness when sliding the glide bar, whereas it was accurate and effortless on the IGZO smartphone display. Watch this IGZO smartphone demo on Phandroid.

StickNfindStickNFind Bluetooth locator

Stick a small Bluetooth sensor on anything and it’s now easier to find with StickNFind. Utilizing small a small transmitter (quarter sized) emitting a low power Bluetooth signal, tagged items can be located with a range finder type smartphone app. You can also set the app to alert you when the item comes within range. Attach a sticker to just about anything; TV remote, computer, pet, luggage, keys, etc. Stickers operate on watch-sized batteries and can last up to one year. The smartphone app is free but stickers aren’t cheap (2 @ $49.95, 4 @ $89.95 retail) — you can get a price break on them at indiegogo for the next few days.

Corning Gorilla Glass 3Corning Gorilla Glass 3

An incremental improvement rather than a revolutionary announcement, Corning brings us the third iteration of Gorilla Glass. Scratching your smartphone screen has more implications that just the scratch itself — small micro fractures are created all along the scratch, making it much more likely the display will fail in a future stress event. With Gorilla Glass 3, edges along any scratch bond more tightly together and suffer fewer micro fractures. Anything that helps prevent our smartphone screens from failing during a drop is a good thing.

Samsung Galaxy cameraSamsung Galaxy Camera

Samsung’s had an interesting approach to marketing the Galaxy Note (I & II) and now the Galaxy camera at CES, promoting its “artistic” capabilities and image effect features. The entire back of the Galaxy camera is a touch screen where the images are viewed, manipulated and setting changes are made. The Galaxy camera is Wi-Fi connected and will immediately upload photos to Dropbox or other online services. (I would love to have one of these for blogging while at events like CES.) Samsung had attendees lined up again at this years CES, printing attendees’ enhanced photos on tshirts, mugs and small picture blocks.

3 screen Angry Birds3 Screen Angry Birds

In the “just for fun” category, how about Angry Birds spread across three contiguous screens. A bit excessive? Not necessarily, if you love Angry Birds enough. Seeing this made me smile, so I had to include it to this post.


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featured, Games, Hardware, IT, Mobility, Uncategorized

CES 2013 – Day 1 Highlights

9 Jan , 2013  

I’m on my second annual visit to CES in Las Vegas. While it’s nearly impossible to see everything, there are products, technologies and companies I wanted to seek out, and along with others I came across while cruising the show floor. Here are a few of the highlights from my first day.

Ubuntu Phone OS

On my list to seek out, Canonical Ltd was a high priority visit. The Ubuntu phone demo didn’t disappoint. Ubuntu takes a decidedly different approach in its UI – no physical phone buttons and the OS and apps maximize screen real estate use by putting options and controls on slide outs from the left, right, top and bottom of the screen.

No word on a release date, developer information is on the website, there will be an online store similar to that on Ubuntu desktop. And yes, users will have access to the Ubuntu command line. If Canonical plays their cards right, Ubuntu phone could be a big hit in what’s generally considered to be a phone OS market already owned by Apple and Google. HTML 5, QML, Qt Framwork and an open source model could make Ubuntu phone a favorite with techies, jail breakers and open source advocates.

3D Printers

While I’ve heard about 3D printers, it was even cooler to actually see two of them in action; one that prints with heated mesh and another that lays down a polymer as thin as 6 nanometers. Sample items at the show were chains (motorcycle), gears, computer mice, and many others. Used primarily to create prototypes of to-be-manufactured objects, seems we’re at the beginning of what this technology might bring to us.

Samsung Smart Life

Is the TV remote control a thing of the past? I think so, to be replaced by your smartphone and/or tablet. Not just to control the TV, but to manage everything; home devices, lighting, HVAC, energy consumption, multimedia, etc. Samsung had a nice “home life” demo.

Sony SimulView / Full screen multi-player gaming

If you’ve played multi-player console games, you’re experienced split-screen gaming. The screen is carved up in half or in quadrants for 2, 3 or 4 players — a big compromise each player makes, sacrificing major screen real estate.

Sony had an amazing demo of SimulView. All players utilize the full screen for their own view of the game, simultaneously. To separate their respective views, players wear passive glasses, making the screen appear to only show their view of the game.  Now, play the game using SimulView on an 83″ 4KTV and you’ll be impressed too.

Sensors, sensors, sensors … collecting lots of big data.

Whether it was a device simulating a Ferrari formula 1 race care steering wheel, or body monitors that help you lose weight and maintain your health, sensors are appearing in just about everything. Sensors are everywhere and we’re only at the beginning of their proliferation.

An interesting question: Will products, services and companies want data from the products we use, what can they do with it, where will that data live, and what privacy concerns arise? If your workout body monitor asks you if you’d like to participate in their product improvement program by sharing your data with them, should you?

Mobile, Smartphones and Tablets

If it’s not gone mobile yet, it will. Smartphones and tablets are taking the place of PC apps and specialized hardware control devices. Mobile and tablet apps where everywhere, reporting information from Wi-Fi home weather station sensors, controlling strange little roll’y balls that almost emoted a Star Trek tribble-like personality, and NVIDIA powered tablets embedded as the UI and control surfaces in Tesla and Audi cars. The primary use case for smartphones is rapidly being displaced by our universal ‘life’ remote, used to display content and information, and control so many objects throughout our daily lives.

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General, Uncategorized

New Cobia modules – The vision is still alive

24 Oct , 2008  

A week or so ago, Alan Shimel announced on his blog that StillSecure released some new modules for the Cobia platform. Cobia is a software platform for networking and security that runs on general purpose Intel computing hardware. VPN, DNS, anti-virus/spyware/spam, and URL filtering were added to Cobia. You can check out/download/find out more about Cobia on the Cobia website.

I had the pleasure of working on and launching Cobia as well as StillSecure's award winning NAC, IPS and vulnerability management products. It's been almost  a year since I decided to leave my post as StillSecure CTO, and I'm still very thankful and proud of the work the team past and present does there. There are a lot of great people at the company and I appreciate that they've kept the Cobia vision alive and continue to move the ball down field on all the products.

I've often said that being CTO is the best job in the company and so many people I worked with at StillSecure helped make that a reality for me. A wise man once told me that you know you've done a good job building something signifcant when you create a team who can eventually execute without you…you're job is to work yourself out of a job. I'm glad that's the case with StillSecure.

Thanks everyone and congratulations on the new Cobia functionality.

General, Uncategorized

Virtualization Management Wars

22 Jul , 2008  

If you follow the virtualization market, and I know you probably do, you mayhave come across the very vocal advocate Simon Crosby. Simon is the CitrixVirtualization CTO, and was formerly with XenSource and Intel. I had thepleasure of interviewing Simon on my Network World ConvergingOn Microsoft podcast last week. The Interview is in two parts since eachpart runs around 20+ minutes. Also, here’s a video interview with Simon Crosbyat Interop 2008, courtesy of Network World’s Jon Brodkin.

I’ve changed some of my views about how virtualization will roll out andimpact our industry. A while back I blogged that the hypervisor would become amore important choice than even the operating system. You’d choose yourhypervisor technology and then build your data center around that choice. ButSimon’s all about helping virtualization unfold in a much different way. Hisbelief is that the hypervisor should simply be a feature set, something thatcomes with the server. (I can hear Hoff’s "it’s a feature, not a market"argument reverberating in my head now.) And while I’m sure Simon loves Xen’shypervisor, he’s also happy to see Sun, Oracle and others, build around the Xenhypervisor. He’s even a proponent of Microsoft’s Hyper-V, both because it usesXen’s hypervisor as its reference model (though no open source code from Xen isin Hyper-V), and I’m guessing, it’s a lot easier to beat VMware by letting thembattle it out with Microsoft, rather than take them on by yourself.

The differentiater is to be management tools, and even more so, managementtools that can manage other competitors virtualization technologies. Citrix’sProject Kenhso is all about creating tools that work across virtualizationtechnology boundaries. Now, I understand the argument that IT shops might behesitant to align with just one virtualization technology. After all, what doyou do if you lose by making the wrong virtualization choice? But then againrunning multiple could also bring it’s own headaches. Vendors, particularlyCitrix, must be hearing the call of heterogeneous virtualization ITenvironments.

That strategy hasn’t fully played out yet, but by adding the Microsoft 800lbs. gorilla to the virtualization contest, things are sure to get interesting.So, take a moment and read MikaelRicknas article about Project Kensho, listen to the podcast (part1 and part2) and the video interview with Simon.

General, Uncategorized

Measuring Leadership – What Happens When You’re Not There

6 May , 2008  

Last week a close friend lost her spouse very unexpectedly. All of us whoparticipate under her leadership in our music program (band) at church wereshocked and grieved for such a devastating loss for a close friend. It was trulyheartbreaking. The experience is one I would of course not want to have gothrough if given the choice, but it did reawakened for mesomething I’ve believed about leadership for some time. So I share thesethoughts about leadership, keeping in mind they pale in comparison tothe gravity of last week’s events.

House_of_cardsThere are many ways to assess, evaluate and measure leadership. Bottom lineresults, leadership style, strengths surveys, 360 degree performance reviews,action under fire… I could go on and on. But one measurement that is oftenoverlooked is, what happens when the leader’s not there?

I enjoy, respect and thrive under many leadership styles, but value much lesscharismatic and personality driven teams. They rarely hold up in the long term,and usually hit some ceiling frequently not surpassable without a significantchange of leadership. Those approaches are usually too dependent upon thecapabilities and characteristics of one person. Leadership solely vested in thatone person also means you live with their limitations too. At least that’s beenmy view.

I believe leadership is about enabling the team and organization to achieveits best results, growing and thriving in the process. Flourishing is a greatway to describe a high performance team. It’s about enabling people tosucceed. It’s also about creating a shared vision, with clarity of purpose,goals and a high degree of mutual accountability within and outside the team. Ialso subscribe to the view that if you believe in people, truly believe in theirpower to succeed, they’ll do just that, and more.

Want to see how effective leadership is? Remove the leader and see whathappens. You’ll quickly spot where there’s deficiencies in communications,continuity, goals, empowerment, decision making and many other areas. You’ll seebottlenecks or pent up issues pretty quickly. If the team can’t continueto excel, at least for a reasonably short time, you don’t have a team, you havea group of followers. Now, see what happens when a curve ball shows up. Thatalso gives great insight into how effective the team’s leadership is.

So, bringing this all back home to last week’s experiences. Sunday’s serviceswent off without a hitch, even without the week’s normal 2 1/2 hour rehearsal.Some band members had never even heard the music prior to Sunday’s earlyrehearsal. Everyone involved (probably 25-30 people) all to a person stepped upand volunteered to help out in whatever way was needed. Teammembers changed previous commitments to be available. And we’ll continue thisand more until our leader returns, whether that’s one week or six weeks fromnow. We have a shared vision and purpose for our music, we know how to executeand fill in when someone suddenly needs to step out, we know how to adjust(flexibility is one of our key attributes), and there are many capable leaderswithin the team who can step up and fill the gap until she returns. 

Most importantly, none of us wants to let down the leaders in ourorganization. Our mission is to continue delivering on our goals without a drop inthe quality or capabilities of our music. Matter of fact, our goal stillcontinues to be raising the bar of our music program. We value our leaders toomuch to do anything less.

General, Uncategorized

We’re Hiring – Sales, SE, QA and Exec Assistant

2 Apr , 2008  

Absolute_peepsWe have a number of job openings at my SaaS application performance management software company, Absolute Performance Inc.

The following positions are open:

  • Regional Account Manager – West Coast
  • Sales Director – Boulder, CO
  • Sales Engineer – Boulder, CO
  • Software Quality Assurance Engineer – Boulder, CO
  • Executive Assistant – Boulder, CO

Send your information and inquiries to jobs@absolute-performance.com. (And let them know you read about it on my blog.)

General, Uncategorized

More micro-podcasting

5 Mar , 2008  

I’ve posted up a 2nd micro-podcast interview with Treb Ryan, CEO of OpSource, on my Network World blog.

Any feedback is appreciated.

General, Uncategorized

TechStars: 29 Days Left To Apply

3 Mar , 2008  

TechstarsI’ve made it a personal goal to be more involved in the entrepreneurial community instead of my usual "singular focus" when doing start up companies. One of the reasons is to give back and help others as they develop their ideas and businesses. It’s a part of my thoughts about flourish and how to help make that happen.

I’m happy to announce that Brad Feld and David Cohen have asked me to be a mentor for the TechStars program. What a great way to get an idea developed and possibly funded. And, it’s a great way I can help others in the process.

If you still have a business idea but haven’t applied, I would encourage you to do so. There are only 29 days left to submit your application. Maybe submitting your business plan or idea to TechStars is that calling you need to put your idea into action. Plus, you can’t get selected if you don’t apply, so here’s your chance.

I hope you’ll consider becoming part of the program. Yours could be the one that gets selected!