Thursday, February 02, 2006

February 6, 2006


It has been often said there should be two Presidents for the United States; one to deal with politics, and another to tend to the true affairs of government. The same can be said for today's Chief Information Officers. Although they should be tending to matters of state, they are all too often preoccupied with politics and gamesmanship.

Ideally, the CIO is the information keystone for a company. As chief architect and information broker, the CIO represents the catalyst between understanding business information needs, and the development organization who must satisfy them. Although the position often comes with much pomp and circumstance, it is all for naught if the CIO cannot effectively tend to this pivotal role.

As the focal point for a company's information resources, the CIO must deal with a wide spectrum of people: end-users concerned with the status of their development projects, as well as reporting problems to existing systems; technicians who argue over tactics of implementation; vendors marketing the latest technical panacea; and CPA's who scrutinize every penny spent by the CIO. Sound hectic? It is. Feeling harassed, the CIO tries to insulate himself, and herein lies the problem.


The CIO begins his tenure as an "ambassador" between his department and the rest of the organization. But as demands close in, he builds a buffer around himself, an electronic cocoon of voice mail and E-mail. Though voice mail is designed to record messages while a person is away from the office, it is primarily used to screen out unwanted callers (both internal and external). Consequently, calls are not returned. E-mail is touted as a convenient way to enhance organizational communications, but the CIO finds himself besieged by a ton of memos and notes (most of which go unanswered). By coordinating these two technologies, it is possible to avoid human contact altogether. However, this would negate the need for the organizational cocoon.


After the electronic cocoon is in place, the CIO develops an infrastructure featuring several layers of management. This allows the managers to concentrate on the day-to-day operations of the department, while the CIO concentrates on hobnobbing with the corporate brass. As problems rise through the organization (as they invariably will), the CIO simply adds another layer of management to deal with the problem. In departmental issues, the CIO is more concerned with who gets to deal with the problem than what the true solution might be.

The CIO's final and crucial sentry is his secretary. Used properly, secretaries play vital roles as expediters for their managers. For the CIO, the secretary has more of a "pit bull" role, with explicit orders to redirect phone calls and mail, and to tell anyone foolhardy enough to try for a face-to-face encounter that the boss is "in a meeting" and cannot be disturbed.


The CIO often speaks in a forked-tongue. On the one hand he is conversant in the latest catch phrase (i.e., "re-engineering," "enterprise architecture," "business rules," "extreme/agile programming," etc.), but on the other he must be politically correct when talking with his peers. Although he balks at technical discussions with his own staff, he loves to overwhelm executive management with his technical verbosity. Conversely, he dazzles the technical staff with management jargon, discussing the "global impact" and "bottom line strategies." As a consequence, the CIO fails miserably as translator between management and the technicians. He plays a different part for each group, making sure neither group can understand (or attack) his grandiose ideas.


Surrounded by the false security of e-mail and voice mail, protected by platoons of managers and his diligent secretary, the CIO can finally relax. However, due to poor communications with the CIO, executives and users do not know how their business information requirements are being satisfied. And since you cannot communicate with someone who is not there, they become frustrated with the elusive executive. Technicians, awaiting their marching orders, are following a leader who has lost touch with the real world. Impossible to communicate with, he cannot properly manage his department.

Without proper management, chaos reigns, and the CIO's tenure will be brief. Perhaps this is why the average life expectancy for a CIO is between 6 and 24 months. How can an IS department plan for the future if there is a revolving door at the top? CIO's must shed their insular layers and become accessible to their own people and executives. Only then will information systems be synchronized with the goals of the business.


The CIO is the pivotal player for satisfying the information requirements of an enterprise. The CIO, therefore, must recognize interpersonal communications as an inherent part of the job. Instead of avoiding it, he must master it. Some suggestions:

1. RESTRICT THE USE OF ELECTRONIC MAIL - there are some merits to passing documents electronically throughout the company. However, legislate the distribution of junk mail (spam) as a felonious crime.

2. DUMP THE VOICE MAIL - its dehumanizing effect is perhaps the biggest irritant around. Instead...

3. HIRE AN EFFECTIVE SECRETARY - not just a clerk to chase people away on the phone. A real secretary can expedite problems when the boss is busy or away. The CIO's secretary can be one of the most powerful people in the IT organization.

4. FLATTEN THE ORGANIZATION - building an empire with layer upon layer of management only causes confusion in terms of responsibilities and slows the decision making process. Even worse, important decisions tend to fall through the cracks.

5. TALK IN PLAIN BUSINESS TERMS - using the latest catch phrases (technical or otherwise) may be trendy but they may also be misleading. Find out what you're talking about, and express it in simple terms. If your executives or technicians cannot follow what you are saying, you are not communicating. If they truly understand what you and your department are doing, you will have real backing and support, instead of a sign-off for the latest superficial offering.

6. Last but not least, ANSWER THE DAMN PHONE! People like to know there is a real person out there, not someone who is obscure and runs around the world answering messages by e-mail or voice mail.

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is...
"If we lived in a perfect world, there would not be a need for managers; projects would be executed on time and within cost. However, the reality is, we live in an imperfect world."


A special conference entitled "Cincinnati Technology: the Next Generation" will be held on Saturday, February 18th at the Netherlands Hilton in downtown Cincinnati, OH. Among the speakers will be yours truly to discuss the "PRIDE" approach to Information Resource Management. For information or to register, contact the First Rule Group at 513/375-3291.

On March 6th-8th, the Gartner Business Intelligence Summit 2006 will be held at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago, IL. For info, contact Gartner at 203/316-6757

The 17th International Conference of the Information Resource Management Association will be held May 21st-24th at the Wyndham Hotel in Washington D.C. For information, call IRMA headquarters in PA at 717/533-8879

If you have got an upcoming IRM related event you want mentioned, please e-mail the date, time and location of the event to


In last week's State of the Union address, President Bush discussed the country's addiction to oil. He suggested the best way to solve our problem is through technology. And maybe he is right, but I tend to believe that technology is only a part of the equation, that if we possessed the proper management skills we could conquer just about anything. Let's take the space race of the 1960's as an example; true, it introduced a lot of technological innovations but more importantly, we devised a management program that laid out the program which led to man landing on the moon before the end of the decade. This program was every bit as ambitious, if not more so, than resolving our dependency on oil. Yet, it was conquered. But now I question our country's ability to accomplish anything of substance on a grand scale. Its not that we lack the technology; in fact, I think we have too much technology; that we have developed an infatuation or addiction to technology and, in the process, have lost the skills necessary to manage large projects.

Let me give you an example as it applies to systems development. Over the last 35 years, we've seen a plethora of tools and techniques introduced to help expedite the development of systems, all promising quantum leaps in productivity. We've seen many new programming languages introduced, data base management systems, data dictionaries and repositories, structured programming and object oriented programming, CASE tools, 4GLs, report writers and program generators, visual programming tools and programmer workbenches, and so on. Today, we get excited about such things as Agile/Extreme programming. Yet, here we are 35 years later and our problems are no different than the early 1970's:

* User information requirements are not satisfied.
* Little or no planning is performed.
* Systems lack documentation.
* Data redundancy plaques corporate data bases.
* Systems lack integration.
* Projects are rarely delivered on time and within budget.
* Quality suffers.
* Development personnel are constantly fighting fires.
* And there is no real effort to share and re-use information resources.

Basically, what we have done over the last 35 years is taken a tool-oriented or technology-oriented approach to solving our systems problems. Instead, what is needed is a management-oriented approach that imposes a little leadership, discipline, organization and accountability. All of these problems are easily conquerable if we were to apply some simple, common-sense management techniques. Unfortunately, companies have abdicated control over their systems simply because management is no longer considered fashionable; that technology will solve all of our problems. And its this train of thought that makes me wonder if President's Bush's objective to conquer the country's dependency on oil will ever come to fruition. Technology without Management is Madness. You simply can't build anything of substance without a good set of blueprints.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.


I received an e-mail from a Bob Carlson in Los Angeles who wrote me regarding last week's essay on Testing.
Bob writes:

"What kind of tools do you recommend for software testing?"

Thanks Bob for your note,
There are actually several tools for testing software, including test data generators, repositories, and program debuggers. There is even an Association for Software Testing to discuss such topics. For information, see: The Association for Software Testing

More importantly, how about some simple human thought? Another pair of eyes can often spot problems. That's why I am a big advocate of code reviews and structured testing. But to do so, we have to first establish standards for writing code and testing. Unfortunately, I.T. departments and programmers don't like operating under such standards making such reviews and testing difficult if not impossible. But if your company has the foresight to establish such standards, than software testing can be a very painless process.

Again, Thanks for your e-mail. Keep those cards and letters coming.

Folks, don't forget to check out our BRYCE'S CRASH COURSE IN MANAGEMENT which is a free on-line multimedia presentation offering pragmatic advice on how to discharge the duties of a manager, whether it be for a commercial or non-profit enterprise. Frankly, for someone aspiring to be a manager or for a new manager, it will be the best 45 minutes you can invest in yourself. Check it out on the cover of our corporate web page at:

For a complete listing of my essays, see the "PRIDE" Special Subject Bulletins section of our corporate web site.

MBA is an international management consulting firm specializing in Information Resource Management. We offer training, consulting, and writing services in the areas of Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, Project Management, Methodologies and Repositories. For information, call us at 727/786-4567.

Our corporate web page is at:

Management Visions is a presentation of M. Bryce & Associates, a division of M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. The program is produced on a weekly basis and updated on Sundays. It is available in versions for RealPlayer, Microsoft Media Player, and MP3 suitable for Podcasting. See our web site for details. You'll find our broadcast listed in several Podcast and Internet Search engines, as well as Apples' iTunes.

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Copyright © 2006 by M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. All rights reserved. "PRIDE" is the registered trademark of M&JB Investment Company.

This is Tim Bryce reporting.

Since 1971: "Software for the finest computer - the Mind."



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