This is the last post for the CTO Project. I hope to move my musings to a more public blog with clearer association with my work: I think that would be most useful for the long term. I will miss you tremendously; thank you for helping me to be more effective in my job and to approach my work with humor and grace. Well, most of the time. I hope you too have enjoyed everyone’s wise comments and our fun-and-not-too-snarky remarks.

Thank you for all your help!

Friday, and here’s what I’m doing Saturday


Mistakes That Matter

Everyone makes mistakes. Sometime it’s okay to make a mistake: perhaps you made an educated guess or assumed risk and the results were not as expected. These “mistakes” are good ones, particularly if the rationale and results are documented and shared so that others can learn. These mistakes are signs that you’re thinking, pushing limits, and are open to new ideas.

And then there are the other mistakes. For these mistakes, documentation does not serve a learning purpose; it serves a “permanent record” kind of purpose. You don’t want to make these mistakes. If you screw up, and you will because, … Continue Reading

The Whores of IT: Budget Cuts Force Us to Walk Streets, Roam Coffee Shop, Actually Talk to Customers to “Serve” Them

The budget axe here just came down and now all of IT has been asked to actually provide “service” to “customers.” WTF? I didn’t get into this business to listen to lusers complain about their problems:  RTFM, my friend, RTFM. What do they think we do, anyway? I just had help a faculty “member” “back up” his “hard drive.”  I feel so dirty.

Got Worms? Conficker or con-foolery?

I think we’ve already seen the worm–in the form of all the hype oozing its way into our media outlets. I checked a couple of IT departments in Australia where it’s already 4.1 and don’t see much activity. So perhaps this is much ado about very very little. At my staff meeting this a.m. we had two votes for “hoax/social engineering attack; two undecided, and one person freaking enough for all of us. We’ll see…

Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!: signs of project failure

Over the weekend I decided to kill a major personal project. Pulling the plug on an IT project at the right time is important–too often it feels like we see bad projects limp along with no one willing to put it out of our collective misery. Bad projects are not just bad for our morale, they waste our time and risk our reputation. So, here are the 12 early warning signs of IT failure:

The top people-related risks:

  1. Lack of top management support
  2. Weak project manager
  3. No stakeholder involvement and/or participation
  4. Weak commitment of project team
  5. Team members lack requisite knowledge and/or skills
  6. Subject … Continue Reading

Friday, and I wish I could be there now

Logan Pass, Glacier National Park

At Risk IT Jobs

According to baseline mag, here are the IT jobs for which demand is most likely to decrease. So, expect to see these folks knocking on the door of higher ed:

  1. ERP developers
  2. E-Commerce developers
  3. Business Intelligence experts in the financial sector
  4. Operating system specialists
  5. Tech-oriented project managers (I feel a certain lack of sympathy here because I’ve seen so many bad PMs–though I know how vital a good one can be)
  6. Middle managers (ditto comment as above)
  7. System administrators (I’m sorry)
  8. Help desk (like we didn’t see this coming)
  9. PC Technician (who?)
  10. Specialized security experts –I would love to capitalize on any glut here–we could really use one!

Tis a far better thing to qualify the “yes” than to expand the “no”

Yesterday a.m. I got a frantic call from a campus VIP. She was freaking because she had contacted two of my staff about arranging a videoconference with only 2 days’ notice and, according to her, they had said “No we can’t do that.” (As an aside, let me say that the reasons for the short notice were excellent–we had a high profile event that we couldn’t anticipate). She called me and I said “Yes, we can definitely do this, but I’m not sure how yet, let me call around and get back to you.”  We then called around and have … Continue Reading

I Me Mine ™

Time Inc is allowing you to choose content from 5 of their magazines for your new, “special” personal compilation, to be called Mine. While the magazine selection is pretty boring, and there’s the sense that this is nothing much more than an advertising-strewn mashup of your own RSS reader, I do think this is interesting. Can we get a learning mine where you chose the content area, delivery method, teaching style, and assessment deliverables? Something like, give me: “1st-year college physics taught via traditional lectures by cantankerous geezer with three evenly spaced short-answer tests?” Or how about “intro. … Continue Reading

Friday, and no bull–time for a beer….

…. a geek beer…

Strategic planning reading list

We’re working on our strategic plan. We have a mission statement and our values and are now working on the vision thing. I’ve handed out a couple of readings to get the visions/hallucinations fermenting. Submitted for your approval: our favorites from our reading list:

Survivor: Outback (IT, you’ve been voted off the island)

University of Canberra outsourced and offshored its entire IT department to India-based Wipro, claiming they will save $5 million annually. Interesting to see if this pans out as they predict or what the services will be like. Maybe the faculty and staff will just go underground with their IT needs, so the true cost will be buried in vague “office supply” or “research supplies” budget lines.

The Administrivia of March/What I’m Not Doing

In March I have performance reviews, the spring budget variance, and the initial draft of next year’s budget to complete. This month, I’m also working on our strategic plan, in addition to the usual project cruft. If it weren’t for this perfect storm, I would be pursuing these two efforts more vigorously:

  1. The Teaching Open Source site
  2. The Immersive Education Initiative

Friday, and I Celebrate a Beautiful Life

Miss Lillian China de Montesquieu de Guerlain of the Hague



Graphic Recording: the New Big Thing?

A staff member went to a workshop on graphic recording and now after every staff meeting he displays cheerfully an often grim visualization of the meeting discussion. It’s interesting to see a pictorial representation of a dialogue. I shared the picture he generated after our strategic planning / values discussion with the Dreaded Advisory Group. “Is that razor wire?” someone asked. “What’s Stupidville?” asked someone else.  See here for more info.

Overwhelmed? Distracted? My 15-minute plan to increase productivity plus lose that belly fat

I lied about the belly fat. But not about my 15-minute plan. Here’s the deal. Right now I have a lot of work to do and much of it is not that interesting. Motivation is low. So, when work gets like this, I jot every item down on sheet of scrap paper, set my stop watch, and spend 15 minutes on each thing. 15 minutes is enough time to make progress and you feel productive when you can cross stuff off a list. That’s it. Clocking out…

It’s No Whining Tuesday! Now with Extra Values

I will whine no more.  Here’s the latest from the strategic planning front. We’ve met, we’ve created a mission statement, and voted on our values. The winning values are:

  1. competency (to include teamwork, reliability, integrity, and communication)
  2. openness
  3. community-focused
  4. forward-thinking

Engines under repair; presently traveling under impulse power

Or at least, that’s what it feels like. Getting geared up for the new Star Trek movie; it’s my Obi Wan of movies–my only hope. Work? What? Oh, yeah. Work is fine. Today someone asked me if we should have a confidentiality notice in all our emails. You know, that thing that says something about how this is confidential and if you received this email by mistake you need to, I dunno, repent or something. The economy’s going to hell; tuition’s on the rise while admissions on the down low, and folks are worried about a confidentiality notice? Why don’t … Continue Reading

Friday, and I think I’ll use this cute l’il Sauron guy as a paperweight on my desk….

I wonder if visitors to my office will sense the evil?

p.s. you can buy him here

Rip Off the BandAid ™

Recently, we’ve had to give some staff some bad news. I was stressed about the conversations and in all cases the primary feeling afterward was relief, and the staff members involved–I could tell–felt some measure of relief in having a resolution. There was a study at Emory University that showed people prefer a stronger electric shock if it comes more quickly than a milder one. That is, “dread” is such an unpleasant experience that people will accept a certain amount of greater pain just to avoid it.  Consider our economic climate and the uncertainty people have….how many of … Continue Reading

The Key to Good Performance Reviews: FYI

It’s performance review time of year. Last year when I did them I’d been at work for, oh, let’s see, um, 3 DAYS! So last year’s focused on goals. This year’s reviews will be about performance objectives, and for this I turn to The Good Book of performance reviews: FYI: For Your Improvement. This book is worth the price–worth twice the price, actually (it used to cost more…). It does a great job of objectifying behavior so you can make suggestions and criticism without appearing to insult the person. It says things like “leadership looks like x. Do … Continue Reading

Day 2, Year 2: Like yesterday, but with cake

My staff surprised me with a cake today! This was nice. I Reflected Grandly…. here’s what I said:

What I did well:

  • made some good hires
  • get us all wiki’ing ‘n stuff
  • reconvened all the various technology planning groups
  • clarified project priorities
  • got my budget passed which included a very large request to go completely wireless in all dorms
  • built some good relationships on campus and with some vendors
  • got us off to a good start with our strategic plan

What needs improvement:

  • I underestimated our difficulty executing complicated projects. I need to micromanage this or manage it more closely (depending on your attitude and expectations).
  • The community here wants me … Continue Reading

Today is the 1st day of my 2nd year

I was planning to blog about some of my accomplishments and failures over the past year. However, I don’t really have time because an employee in a different dept. accidentally forwarded a sensitive email to a student who has no business receiving such a mail. I’ve been asked to 1. write a statement assuring Everyone that such an event will never happen again and 2. contact the student and ask for the mail to be deleted. So, I’m now contacting The Powers That Be explaining why I’ll instead be doing 3. none of the above.

oh, joy.

Friday, and year one is done

Today I sat at my desk, door open, and read a magazine

It was awesome. I try to do a little professional reading every day but usually I sneak it in because it always feels as if I’m not really “working” when I’m reading. But it is important to keep on top of trends, to hear about what others are doing, to make connections, etc. So today I decided it was time to come out of the closet. Whoever walked by invariably stopped in to chat, which they don’t do if I’m at the computer. Quite nice. Sitting there, reading, as the emails poured in….unopened, unread, unanswered. Ah, good times.

IT Naming Conventions

I just heard that a place I used to work has renamed itself so that the acronym goes from “asist” to “tit.” Provocative choice. But this may just be a rumor. Here, our acronym is TS, having voted on our name change last spring. I like to say, no BS, it’s TS! Or, for our new service announcements, we have TSA’s. I used to want to be called “Network Operations” but NO isn’t in the spirit of customer service. In IT, we get to name servers and to re-brand software packages too, though the creative spirit dies a … Continue Reading

Some data data to wow ’em at the water cooler

From the January 2009 issue of “Computer”:

  • The US power electric grid generates 15 terabytes of raw data each year
  • Google sorts through 20 petabytes of information daily
  • The Atlas experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN will generate 2 petabytes of info per second
  • New climate models which resolve rather than parameterize will cause a 1,000-fold increase in data
  • New genomics and proteomics work in biology produces, nationally, over 100 terabytes of data per day

Friday, and I’ll always have Paris ™

Paris Las Vegas, that is….pictured here with Bellagio basin in foreground

CTO in Vegas: The Last Day

Tomorrow I leave Vegas. I have new respect for engineers, odds makers, and for little people in shamrock-themed costumes with microphones hawking people into the bar to gamble on beer pong. Also, for the triumph of the profit motive over the natural environment–for now. Meanwhile, I worked for an hour yesterday and the day before and I still have 72 unread emails. Ah, work.