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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.

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  • Thursday Tech Talk – Innovation and Public Speaking!


    What a fantastic day I had! A public speaking engagement I enjoyed, and talking about Innovation.

    Reflecting on the day, the first thought I had was how blessed I feel and all the people who were instrumental in bringing me to this day.

    The obvious ones:
    – My parents who have always been my biggest fans.
    – My two brothers who are both extroverts and make the public speaking / meeting people aspect of their jobs look so simple.
    – My husband and kids who think I can do anything, and listen to me practicing the words.

    The professional contacts:
    – The boss, Dominique, who told me it was important for me to give public speeches for my team and the people who needed to hear the messages, not for me. This was a life changing moment for me 15 years ago that I never forgot.
    – The communications expert, Ann, who I worked with many years ago and taught me that the words we use matter more than we think.
    – The executive team work with who drives Innovation, always pushing for “what’s next?”.
    – The technology team I work with who delivers on the Innovation agenda every day.
    – My many professional colleagues who supported me over the past week, saying things like “you’ll be great” when I told them I had this engagement on my calendar for Thursday.

    And the IBM colleagues who believed in me:
    – Ayman Antoun, President of IBM Canada, who graciously shared the stage with me.
    – Bill Steele and Brian Medeiros, who believed in our Innovation message.
    – and all the supporting characters who walked me through the prep and stage directions, provided tips for getting through the curtain in the dark backstage, and then whisked me back offstage when the time was up!

    My second thought was on how the message went.
    I delivered the key points and was proud of the work I am involved with, both at my company delivering for Economical and Sonnet Insurance, and also the industry forums I participate in to develop the next generation of talent for these jobs in technology.
    The key points:
    – Digital Innovation – let’s Listen, Learn, and Surprise. With my favorite definition of surprise being “to cause someone to feel unusually delighted”

    – Integrating emerging technology – putting complex technology solutions together in a way that creates simple transactions for our customers (including Feedzai, Cloudera Hadoop, Guidewire, SpringBoot, Pentaho, and delivered on the IBM Cloud)

    – Investing in talent – integrating technical experts with new grads, and diversity in age, culture, experience, and thought. Remember diversity is accepting the presence of people different than you, and inclusion is embracing their participation. girlswhocode and IBM’s “Pathway to Technology” are two great examples of how we can support young people to embrace technology and technology careers.

    – Implementing agile practices – and let’s remember that agile is just a way of delivering. Our goal should be to deliver at velocity and not be focused on the word or the method.

    And the third thought I had was how our stories connect us.
    – Strangers talked to me afterwards and told me how one sentence I said was exactly what they were going through.
    – 4 people in the audience approached me afterwards to reconnect. People I had worked with at companies in the past who shared with me an update on their life.
    – and the people who wished me well checked in to see how it went.

    The event was the IBM Innovation Forum 2018.

    All in all, a good day indeed. And tomorrow it’s back to work and reporting into the Risk Committee.

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  • Thankful Tuesday – Strategy and Cakelet?


    What a day…

    I attended a long strategy meeting today and enjoyed it. The topics were interesting, the team dynamics positive, the outcomes important, and there was food. Discussion about the future, the company strategy, and how the technology my team delivers fits into those plans.

    It is also my birthday and that was fun too! One last swim for the season – this is saying a lot for October in Canada. A delicious dinner with family, flowers from my kids, a call from my parents, a bouquet also from my team, and a cakelet. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Cakelet. Enough cake for everyone to have a taste, and not so much that you wonder what to do with it.

    I am thankful and I feel blessed. Work and colleagues I enjoy, and a family who knows how much I love my birthday and all the traditions that come with it.

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  • Thursday Tech Talk – Deskside Support Experts


    I got a new laptop yesterday. An excellent deskside support person came, delivered the laptop, set me up, and had me running in 15 minutes.

    This is her job so maybe that’s not a big deal. The interesting aspects to me were these:
    – she was extremely pleasant and personable
    – she was effective and knowledgeable
    – she taught me a few things without making me feel dumb
    – she was a girl geek

    I can’t remember the last time I had a technical support person help me who was a female. Yes, help desk reps, but not hands on deskside support people.

    We’re establishing standards for devices and I’m testing this out as a small, lightweight option for heavy travellers like myself. I have 30 days to assess and make a decision.

    Getting new equipment can be fun, or can be painful. This was an excellent, positive experience. I was inspired and smiled all day.

    Well done, girl geek. Well done.

    If you’re wondering…

    Lenovo X280
    Intel i7, 8th Gen
    DDR4 SDRAM
    2400 MHz
    17 hours battery life
    12.5 inch screen, 2.9 pounds
    And yes, that’s a built in webcam shutter 🙂