Friday, December 12, 2008

Fun or Work?

A funny thing I ran across, in the midst of the pay-for-play thing going on in Illinois. You have to know someone was going to mention this guy's hair.

New technology is all around us. Every day I run across something new. For CIOs that make it habit to stay current, it is a challenge to just be aware of these tech changes, much less become proficient with them.

Another aspect of this is for people at the top to consider the tone and example they set. If I want to mold an organization that is curious, innovative, restless and seeking, then I better be willing to act like that too. It is a huge disconnect when leaders try to make their organizations in an image other than their own.

Moore's Law tells us that the pace of change with technologies is not linear, but rather exponential, doubling every year. Number of transistors per microprocessor, bandwidth to the home, mega pixels in cameras, etc. are all examples of Moore's law. We cannot stop the inexorable march of technology or it's pace.

So what s an overworked CIO to do with new technologies?
  1. Nothing - This is easiest. Ignore new stuff and just focus on what people want you to do.
  2. Delegate - Get some smart folks to do the research, experiment, prototype and then have them explain it to you in terms you can regurgitate.
  3. Research - Get all your facts and talking points from Gartner, Forrester or another service. Afterall, they will always know more about it than you do.
  4. Do It - Get the hands dirty, play with it, get involved, expereince it from different dimensions.
I think the right answer is a mix of 2, 3 and 4 depending on the technology, the cost of entry, the urgency and the technical acuity of the CIO. As a former C coder and systems programmer, I lean towards 4 more than many of my ilk.

It is tough to truly communicate the value of something when all you have is academic knowledge of it.

Which brings me to my quandary. When I tweet from work about what I heard at lunch, or an article I saw in a magazine, am I having fun or am I working by performing #4 on the list above? CIOs are constantly being scrutinized for how we run our operations (since no one really understands what we do anyway). People are somewhat suspicious of us naturally. Last thing I need is a perception that I am "playing" because someone can't tell the difference between a web2.0 technology and a leisure pursuit.

My kid noticed all these updates on my FB page and commented to me that it looked like I didn't have enough to do. She was worried about appearances. My tweets update FB automatically.

So, I have no good answer here. I do make sure my boss knows my attitude on this: My job is to stay aware, to be curious and to be the technological tip of the spear for the rest of the company. Plus, I avoid purely leisurely pursuits like on-line gaming from the office. Still gotta be careful though!

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