Thursday, 7 July 2011

Moving On ....

Life changes and takes new roads.  In this case I am moving on, and so is my blog. 

My life has met a major fork in the road recently.  I have left the Warehouse and the comparative comfort of a corporate job and I am setting up my own consulting practice.

My personal focus remains the same.  That is looking to harness the power of technology and create value for businesses, communities, families and individuals but my business focus changes a little.  Rather than being a  CIO with the aim of  delivering value of  technology investments for one organisation I am intending to work with many CIOs, CXOs and senior technology executives and supporting them to be successful in delivering value from their technology investments to their organisations.

 As a result of this my blog is changing.  This blog will continue to capture my personal thoughts and ideas however my more business related ideas will move to a new blog at  If you like some of my ideas or are intrigued please, join me there.


Sunday, 13 February 2011

What is Success in Corporate IT?

It’s 8.50 am and you are working on the IT help desk.  You receive a panicked call from the Chief Executive’s PA.  There is an executive meeting due to start in 10 minutes and she has a number of documents that she needs to print for the meeting.  The problem is that the printer is not working!  What do you do?   

This scenario is one that my team often use in an interview for new team members.  The answer normally comes in one of two generic forms.   

In the first style of answer the person focuses on fixing the offending printer(s).  They will go into  great detail about how they would go about diagnosing the problem with the printer and getting the printer fixed so that it can be used and the PA can print the required documents.  Often their answer shows that they have a logical and well ordered approach to problem diagnosis and an excellent understanding of how printers work.  Some will go further and discuss collaborating with others to help them solve the problem with the printer.

In the second style of answer the person focuses on getting the documents printed within 10 minutes for the PA. Typically their first action is to print the documents to a different printer or to take a copy of the documents to a different desktop and get them printed.  They then begin to look at the issue of how to fix the printer.

The answer to this question is often an “employment breaker” for our candidates.  If you were the interviewer and this is all the information you have, who would you employ? The answer to this question depends on how you define success for your team.  There are many possible answers to this.  Here are some common ones:
  1. IT operations comply with all agreed SLAs (operational and project)
  2. Delivery of budget commitments including operational costs, recharges (if you recharge) and capital costs
  3. A highly engaged IS team who love working here
  4. Operating at or above “benchmark performance” for our industry and size of company
  5. Our customers are happy with the service I provide to them (ie customer satisfaction)

All of these measures are important however when it comes to hiring decisions the major impact that a person can have is performance against agreed SLAs and/ or customer satisfaction.  

If your criteria for success is SLA performance then I suggest you would employ the first candidate because they are much more likely to get that printer up and running quickly because of their technical knowledge and their demonstrated problem analysis skills.  You would be supported in this decision by most of our industry best practice.  Many industry frameworks highlight the importance of SLAs and your ability to meet them.  How many times have you sat in a meeting where you (or perhaps your vendor) have claimed to be providing great service because all the SLAs have been met?

If however your criteria for success is customer satisfaction then I suggest you would employ the second candidate as their focus on solving the PA’s problem is much more likely to give you a satisfied customer even if your SLAs may suffer as it takes longer to actually fix the printer.  

Which is right?  I think the answer can be found by differentiating between means (what we do) and ends (why we do it).  Or to put it another way we can find the answer by understanding why IS departments exist within large organisations?    Simply put, IS teams are not responsible for the overall success of an organisation.  Instead, the IS teams exist to support the organisation to be successful.  As an example, the IS team at The Warehouse is not responsible for the execution of our retail business.  We are however, responsible for providing technology and information to the rest of the organisation to support them to be as effective and efficient as possible.  If this is the case, the best people to judge your ability to do this are the people you are here to support.  That means that the “end”, or success, for an IT team is a highly satisfied customer and therefore I would hire the second candidate.

First Published on

Monday, 24 January 2011

LGP'ers - Welcome to 2011!!

Happy New Year and welcome to 2011!  Well, 2010 was an interesting year for the Life Game Project.  We achieved a number of really good things.  My favorites are:
  • The release of the LGP video.  Thanks to everyone who gave their time for this, especially thank you to Reuben Pillsbury who was the creative brains behind the video and produced the video.  Awesome Reuben!!
  • Relaunching our website in Joomla which has many in built features and a strong development community that will allow us to advance the site.  More on this later.
  • Forming an agreement with Brian Lawrence and the Ark to provide tech logistics to LGP.
As well as the good things we have achieved we have learnt a lot about how to not make substantial progress as a self managed community.  We have really struggled to turn inspiration for LGP into forward momentum.  Ian and I have taken advice and thought about why this is. Our conclusion is that there are two really important things currently missing from LGP:
  1. Clarity about what people who want to support LGP can actually do, rather than a general invitation to exercise your passion in an area that supports LGP.
  2. A central point of contact as the "Go To" person who coordinates all LGP activity.   
What does this mean for 2011?  

It means we have 2 key initiatives for the beginning of 2011 that we believe will allow us to accelerate our progress in 2011.  These are:
  1. Help bridge the gap between inspiration and action by continuing to develop  - with the priority on ‘gamifying’ it to provide clearly defined tasks, quests and roles for LGP volunteers to undertake.
  2. Appoint an LGP Manager as the central point for all things LGP.  We see this as a part time paid role with the primary responsibility to support and coordinate all LGP volunteer and community activity.  If you are interested or know someone who would be brilliant at the job please contact either of the LGP Co-Founders; Owen McCall or Ian Howard.  Be warned; after an initial period one of the responsibilities of this role will be to source the funding for this key role.
 So here’s to 2011 and here’s to LGP taking better steps towards supporting New Zealand becoming a place where everyone is safe and loved.