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  • Thursday Tech Talk – AI, Analytics, and Activate

    I attended the Canadian CIO Peer Forum for the past two days. The discussions were valuable and the people – both speakers and participants – were amazing.

    Presentations covered a wide range of topics including AI and analytics, networks and Integration of services, and workplace experience (WX). The speakers ranged from Kevin Peesker, President of Microsoft Canada to Zaynah Bhanji, a 15 year old (female) machine learning and virtual reality developer, and multiple technical specialists across the industry.

    The overall messaging was invigorating about the potential in front of us. Technology is changing products and services, and more interestingly human experience. CIOs and technology teams are involved in business strategy and in some cases opening the dialogue on potential that is also driving options for the business strategy.

    It is an incredible time to be a CIO and technology executive. And an exciting time for everyone participating in this journey!

    The panel discussion on women in technology was also a huge hit with the audience resisting the need to end the session to stay on schedule. The men and women at the forum are passionate about creating, supporting, and retaining diverse teams. And thankfully, going that one step further to ensure the team members feel included and heard and valued. For if we believe the diverse team brings stronger outcomes through the different background and perspectives and thought processes, the only way to leverage that power is to listen to it. Listen to the loud and the quiet, listen to the ideas boldly and calmly presented, and then stop and think to let the messages actually be heard.

    I could quote so many messages, but I’ll just pick this one.

    “We need to activate the women on the team”.

    Think about it – activate: to energize. It’s not enough to hire a diverse team. Listen to them, support them, and energize them.

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  • Thankful Tuesday – Expertise and Kindness

    I had two opportunities today to reflect on expertise and kindness and the relationship of these two attributes.

    I had an update meeting with a company where I am providing consulting in my area of expertise – technology strategy as a CIO. The three people I met have no technology background and are currently challenged with overall technology issues at their company. They described the issues and it was obvious they were frustrated and a bit perplexed how things had evolved to the current state. They wondered aloud if they could have done anything different along the way to prevent this outcome.

    I described how we could make specific changes to resolve the issues and create a foundation. This would allow visible progress to be made quickly on small items as we created the roadmap for continuous improvements. I added that the issues were not unique to their company or even to companies of their size, and also talked about what they had done right that enabled the ongoing execution of their critical business services. They were doing a lot of things right and one of the most important things was that they cared about their business and supported their team members.

    After this meeting, I ended up in a small cafe through pure chance. Traffic was heavy, the sun was out, and I decided to explore the area of town I was in to find a place for quiet reflection. The cafe was one of the cute, comfy types where the tables are approximately one foot apart.

    This led to a second less expected encounter for the day. I witnessed three young women having a business meeting. One of the women was pitching an idea to the other two and I could feel it wasn’t going well. The woman pitching was aggressively stating that once they agreed to hire her and pay her, she would share her ideas for how she could help their business. The other two women were trying to understand details of the services that would be provided and what they could expect in terms of timelines and costs.

    I didn’t listen to details of the business, but I was intrigued by the interaction and the professionalism of these two women.

    When the ‘pitcher’ left, I asked if I could share my perspective. I apologized for listening in, but said I didn’t think the pitcher was up to the task of delivering on what they needed. I went further to say I thought these two were confident, professional, and organized and should expect no less from people who would provide services to them. They thanked me and said they were relieved becuse they didn’t think this pitcher was right for them, but wanted to make sure they weren’t being too rash. After 15 minutes of conversation, they asked me to stay in touch and I offered to be a casual advisor if they ever needed someone to help assess their suppliers or ideas. We exchanged contact information and said goodbye.

    I felt the thread of expertise and kindness. My only intent was to help. I came away with as many learnings as I contributed, and met some amazing people in the process.

    I was heartened to think about how I was able to provide expertise (technology in the first case, and an outside perspective in the second), and do it in a kind way so the people involved didn’t think I was talking down to them or trying to show that I was smarter than they were. In both cases, these people have loads of expertise in areas I don’t and I was also able to learn from each of these interactions.

    Thankful Tuesday indeed.

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  • Thursday Tech Talk – Code Freeze

    I provided consulting expertise last week to a company who was experiencing technology outages with negative customer impact. One of my first questions was how they handle code freezes.

    From the response, both body language and words, I could tell this was a sensitive subject. For context, as a CIO I know this is sensitive for a lot of organizations so I took it in stride.

    The conversation went something like this:

    How do you handle code freezes?

    We really can’t afford them because we have to make changes right until the last minute to get as many features in as possible, and we multiple deployments a week to be responsive.

    How’s that working for you?

    Silence. And then a laugh.

    Technical changes are prone to error. To reduce error, I suggest a freeze. The freeze doesn’t need to be weeks or months, but there needs to be a moment in time that you have some way to either confirm the changes will work as expected or take a risk that it won’t. There are times the risk is acceptable, but not usually with financial transactions or personal data.

    In a digital world where your customers will experience your issues immediately, you need to be good at either a) freezing code and deploying cleanly, or b) identifying issues with a plan you are ready to execute for backing out immediately.

    All techies who are held accountable for the stability of the platform and application’s and services will try to implement some aspect of code freeze. Every business person who wants to be nimble and responsive and dare I say the word agile will push back on the whole concept of code freeze.

    Make a choice. Take the time to freeze, confirm the build, deploy, and confirm the deployment. Or take a risk and live with the fall-out. Just make the decision with eyes wide open.

    I’ve led stability programs in two Fortune 500 companies when system outages were severely impacting credibility and bottom line financials. One learning from both experiences was the price of good governance is almost always less than the price of a remediation program.

    Keep talking about it. And listen to both sides to understand the real risks and options. The answer is always in the balance.

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  • Thankful Tuesday – Busy!

    What a fantastic day. Busy from early morning to late evening. I reflected that being busy can be experienced as a good or bad feeling, in response typically to whether the busy-ness is filled with things of joy or not.

    My day was filled with meetings, connections over lunch and coffee with friends, an update meeting on my interim CIO engagement, a focused discussion on culture and innovation with fellow CIOs, and a meeting with my co-author Debra for the book we are writing.

    All interesting hours, and all enjoyable people. And after all that joy, three mini-bonuses:

    1. I saw this sign in the photo above as I finished up and headed for my commuter train – It’s a good day for a good day.
    2. I opened my Perrier on the train to celebrate this great day and it exploded on me. I must have been walking and shaking that beautiful green bottle more than I realized. The man beside me, without a word, pulled two napkins out of his pocket and handed them to me with a smile. I only lost a small amount and enjoyed the rest.
    3. When I got home, I received an update from my co-author – the grandchild had been born and all are healthy and happy.

    A good day for a good day. Indeed.

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  • Thursday Tech Talk – Data Centre Strategy

    Cloud Strategy

    Do you have a data centre strategy?

    If you work in technology at a tech company or the technology team supporting a business strategy, you should have a comprehensive data centre strategy. This will typically include Cloud, but not be only Cloud.

    Have you ever had one of these conversations?

    • Do we need all of these data centres?
    • Why do we have data centres? Aren’t we in the Cloud?
    • Is there opportunity to outsource some of these services?
    • Are we in compliance with data security laws with our current data centre locations?
    • Do we have appropriate redundancy for our critical applications and services?
    • Why is this application down? I thought we had a DR plan.
    • Has this been architected, built, maintained as a hot / hot application or service?
    • The only person who knows those answers has retired.

    These are just a few of the signs you’re in need of a data centre strategy. It’s easy to wave your arms and talk about Cloud, and get people excited about the future implementations. It takes a real leader to create and execute the strategy that defines the target state and a realistic roadmap to get from here to there.

    It can be fun if you approach it right and engage your team. Step up, show your leadership, and develop that comprehensive data centre strategy! When you do it right, you’ll see how the Cloud integrates with everything else. Just like in real life.

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  • Thursday Tech Talk – Sleek Hard Drive!

    Who knew? I was moving to a new laptop for personal use and needed to move a lot of data, okay … 11 years of photos and music. I talked to my resident tech support, a.k.a. computer science graduate child. If you don’t have one of these in your family, I highly suggest you nurture one in this generation or the next. Not only are they highly marketable for employment, but they also come in handy for help in the home when they are in the right mood.

    So, back to the challenge. I needed to move a lot of data and I didn’t want to do it in multiple copy / paste / delete, start over steps and I asked for help.

    My son came home with an external hard drive (HD) for me. When I took this out of the box, I couldn’t believe my eyes. This hard drive, now called “mobile drive” is beautiful, stunning, sleek, and attractive. It’s a Lacie Porsche Design one terabyte (1T) hard drive. It’s described in marketing material from Lacie as a combination of speed, design, and technology resulting in a different breed of mobile drive.

    I was so taken by this HD that I looked up the Lacie brand and learned they make many beautiful technology products, and I also looked up the Porsche Design to find out if this was really the same Porsche. You know, the ones who make cars.

    Yes. It is. The same company who makes cars designs technology for the everyday user. The idea of Porsche Design was started by the grandson of the Porsche founder, and this same grandson, Prof. Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, also designed the Porsche 911.

    They also state … “Out of a collaboration born in 2003, a trailblazing Tech firm and an iconic design house have forged another functional showpiece.” No debate from me.

    I tested it out and this HD works like a charm. It’s fast, quiet, and reliable. The device itself is smaller than my mobile phone and light, yet sturdy. It comes with two cables (USB-C and USB 3.0) and works with PC/Mac and next-generation computers.

    One terabyte storage for less than $100. I still remember when we bought “jump drives” with 250MB for about $19.99. And they weren’t even cute.

    Well done, Porsche and Lacie, well done.

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  • Thursday Tech Talk – Application Strategy

    Do you have an application strategy?

    If you work in technology, either at a tech company or the technology team supporting a business strategy, you should have an application strategy.

    Have you ever had one of these conversations?
    – How many versions behind is okay for our software?
    – I wonder where we can get parts for the infrastructure this old application requires to run?
    – We can’t make changes to this application any more so we’ll have to create another application and integrate them.
    – We have multiple applications that already perform that function.
    – One business leader wants his own application that is a duplicate of something that exists because he hates dealing with shared services.
    – We don’t know how many applications we own and there is no application book of record.
    – The only person who knows that application has retired.

    These are just a few of the signs you’re in need of an application strategy. It’s easy to talk about the new shiny technology and rally around a team to implement it. It takes a real leader to create and execute the strategy to address all the sins of the past.

    It can be fun if you approach it right and engage your team. Step up, show your leadership, and develop that application strategy!

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  • Thankful Tuesday – Significance

    A day of significance.

    Significance – the quality of being worthy of attention; importance.

    I made a conscious choice to spend a day making deliberate decisions and it paid off excellently. I didn’t do anything ground breaking, just thoughtful.

    From a delicious homemade breakfast, making a decision to have fun while taking care of an important family transaction instead of thinking of it as a chore, talking to 5 dear friends, texting with parents and kids, confirming family plans for the upcoming holidays, lunch with my husband at a restaurant we’ve frequented since before we were married, and picking out a cute new phone case; the day was definitely on a roll.

    But..there was still more to come. Meeting a kid at the airport and catching up on her trip and the people she met, a beautiful story that brought tears to everyone’s eyes, a long drive to be onsite for a business meeting tomorrow morning, and a chat with a dear friend on the final leg of the dark road.

    All day with just one goal – make deliberate decisions and enjoy my life. I am so blessed. Add a late night slim can of Perrier. Simple pleasures. Life is good.