Wednesday, February 29, 2012

CIO CTO - What's The Difference?

A frequent debate both inside and around the technology community is the difference between the CIO and the CTO. Of course, depending on the particular industry or company, this can be very subjective. A rose by any other name and all that. In smaller organizations the distinction becomes even harder to define, assuming both roles are even present. If there is only one head of technology, what title is most appropriate?

In my view there is a difference and it is largely based in the key focus for the person in the role. The Chief Information Officer should focus outside of the computer room while the CTO is going to have more of an inward focus. But its not always that simple.

Both a CIO and a CTO have to be in touch with the business. Both are going to want to help the business to reach its goals. But I think of the CIO as the architect of the company, looking at how the ultimate customer receives products or services and looking across functions to improve business processes and increase operating efficiency.

The CTO is going to spend more time looking at new and innovative technology in preparation for responding to needs the business may express. While there may be a clear and concise understanding of the business, the CTO is more comfortable experimenting for example with various mobile operating systems or data management systems to determine which might provide the best platform or determining, perhaps, how to best support a few of them should this become necessary.

Another way to express how I see it is the CIO is a business executive who happens to really understand technology, while the CTO is a computer scientist who, outside of the lab, can speak plain and understandable English. The CIO will lead with the business issue while the CTO may start from the technology. One is more at home in the computer room while the other is more comfortable in the Board room.

In a technology organization, the CIO is usually charged with keeping the internal systems running while the CTO may be head of R&D or production. Think about a software company where the product is technology but you still have to support sales and marketing, accounting and distribution systems.

Finally, the CTO generally reports to the CIO. However, there are many cases where the CIO is along side or under the CTO. Take any software or high tech company and the CTO will carry much more weight and typically be higher on the food chain in those organizations..

None of this is absolute and there are going to be plenty of exceptions but at least you may have a slightly better perspective on these two titles.

Now can someone the difference between a Chief Financial Officer and a Chief Accounting Officer to me?

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why Is This Program So Damn Slow

There have been many articles decrying the size and quality of software today. You use programs, called applications at work or at home to conduct business, keep records and manage information. These are often large, slow and cumbersome to use. Even worse, they are very difficult for the programmers who have to maintain and enhance them.

Why is this? In my view, there are a couple of contributing factors.

First, the demands put on programmers are to produce a lot of code in a short amount of time. Popular tools like code generators or visual programming aids speed the process by turning out massive amounts of code very quickly. However, this code is never reviewed and optimized because there is no time. When quantity is the metric, quality is always going to suffer. Programs will certainly be tested and bugs (errors) removed, however, it is unlikely anyone is going to rewrite portions to make them run faster or take less space.

Today's computer processors are so fast and memory is so cheap and plentiful there is no incentive for developers to be judicious. Therefore, programs will tend to be larger and consume more resources. When you run them on your older, slower personal computers, way less powerful than the massive workstations the developers have, they perform badly.

In fact, the people writing code today would be stifled by limiting the available computing resources unlike the programmer of yesteryear who had to cram an entire application into what by today's standards would be a minuscule amount of space.  As a consequence, few ever learn the skills necessary to write concise, efficient code.

Sadly, the people who seem to have really have mastered this are the malware coders. They can cram an entire virus into a tiny little package so it can sneak into your computer undetected. Too bad we can't harness their expertise and put it to good use.

Another part of the problem is how advanced consumer devices and user interfaces have become. In a sense we have all become spoiled by the iPod and Xbox. These devices have no instruction manual. They are completely intuitive. Compare that to the accounting systems you find in corporations.

There is an art to making business applications as easy to use as the games and entertainment systems you have at home. So called "gamification" is a relatively new concept but one which will help if it catches on. Until then, I'm afraid we're stuck with the inch thick user guide, error messages and frustration of watching the hourglass spin.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Monday, February 27, 2012

Are You Missing Links In Your Job Search

The last time I wrote advice for people searching for a new job I emphasized three points. In my view, you must be persistent, constantly network and maintain a positive attitude.

While senior positions are difficult to come by and competition is fierce you must continue to keep an eye out for new opportunities. There are more of them than you can imagine and they seem to be surfacing more frequently these days. Make sure you scan the boards and keep your friends, colleagues and top recruiters aware of your interests and availability.

In conversations, private or public, you must project a positive and enthusiastic attitude. No matter what the outcome of the interaction you always want to leave the impression you are on top of things. Maybe the job wasn't right for you or you lacked some key experience or certification. End the discussion with a recap of all of the good outcomes. This was a great opportunity for the recruiters to learn what interests you and for you to make them aware of what strengths and experience you do have. Suggest they keep you in should something more appropriate come along.

Networking should be the easiest thing to do. Attend professional meetings and seminars. Many are free and help you maintain or enhance your knowledge, and afford you the chance to interact with peers or industry leaders. Don't be a wallflower at these events. You never know who may be looking for someone just like you.

Use social networks to show you are interested and involved in key aspects of your industry. There are dozens of web sites where you can comment on articles, pose or answer questions and both learn and contribute to the body of knowledge. One of the best known is LinkedIn which offers many benefits to the unemployed.

LinkedIn allows you to showcase your career, with comprehensive profiles accommodating everything from education, job titles, specific strengths and awards through favorite books, movies and web sites. Belonging to groups let you zero in on disciplines or verticals in which you have an interest or ability to stand out.

But LinkedIn can be further exploited in a couple of other ways.

LinkedIn is a great source of industry information and expertise. Read what others are posting and engage in information exchanges. This can help position you as someone who is interesting and can contribute, and just may make you more attractive to recruiters who scan LinkedIn for candidates. It will help make you top of mind with other members of the same groups, industry or job functions.

Obviously, this is a place where you can scan job listings but more importantly where you can research companies of interest and the people who are in senior positions. It's simple to see if you are 'connected' in some way with the people who might be the decision maker or have influence over who gets hired.

Once you are scheduled for an interview, you want to research and know as much as possible about the company and perhaps key business and industry issues.  But you should also read the profile and know something about the people you are going to meet. LinkedIn makes it possible to find things you may have in common, ice breakers and conversation starters. Read what other people have said about them in recommendations and what they say about the people they recommend. If you are lucky enough to have mutual friends leverage the connection to learn first hand everything you can about these people.

No one can make you be "right" for the job. You either have the right strengths, motivation and fit the culture or not. But there is so much you can know in advance of meeting people that no matter what the outcome you will have a pleasant and constructive interview experience.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Friday, February 24, 2012

How Did We Do This Before

We sometimes take for granted or don't even notice the incredible speed we are able to communicate, coordinate and collaborate today. How would we have done these things before?

Several times this week I worked on projects with people from one end of the globe to the other. For example, one project involved, among other things, the creation of a set of documents, guidelines, promotional materials and the development of a web site. No two people working on this were ever in the same location. Some are literally an ocean away.

But regardless of the separation by time and geography, we have incredible tools at our fingertips which allowed us to work as if we were together. Of course, in the past we would have used express mail, phone calls, fax or perhaps email with attachments to move content and graphics around for discussion.

But this week meetings were held using high quality, multiple party video conferencing. In these meetings it is possible to "share" your screen so others can see what you have on your computer. Documents, stored in the cloud, could be co-written, edited and shared among team members without having to send them around.

Moreover, simply by granting administrative rights, several people were able to contribute to the design and content of the web site. It can all happen synchronously or asynchronously over the Internet.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the tools we use is the fact that virtually all of them are free. From any Windows, Linux or Apple computer, desktop or notebook, the tools can be used. All the files and the web site are accessible. In addition, several mobile devices such as an iPad, Android phone or Apple iPhone could be used to coordinate, review and join in the video meetings.

If you can undertake a project using tools that cost nothing and accelerate your progress to near light speed, why would you ever work any other way? Yet many people still cling to the old ways because, well, that's the way we have always done it. As IT professionals we encounter this attitude all the time.

My view is businesses are in for a rude awakening. Beyond the already overwhelming trend of employees bringing their own devices to work, which is posing quite a challenge to old school company managers, they have yet to realize this new generation of digital natives have a whole new style of working. They are always connected, sharing, helping and communicating with one another.

Unlike the traditional regimented and serial approach to projects, the new generation networks, crowd-sources, collaborates and shares questions and answers continuously and at the speed of light.

Your company firewall doesn't have a chance.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How's My Driving?

Today I ran across an application you just might want to take out for a test drive, literally. It's free and you can find it in the application market on Android or the app store for your iPhone. It is called Driver Feedback and it will record acceleration, braking and corning to give you feedback on how your drive.

According to the NHTSA rapid acceleration, short stops and swerving dramatically increase the risk of having an accident. State Farm decided to develop an application to help people become safer drivers. By allowing people to have an independent, objective and private assessment of their driving style they will be able to recognize and improve their skills where needed. The application is quite clever using the internal capabilities of the smart phone and connecting with Google maps for position tracking.

None of the data recorded ever leaves the device. Nothing is shared with State Farm or any other insurance company or government agency. The data and results will have absolutely no impact your insurance rates.

It took minutes to download, configure and put the application to the test. My BMW 328i has a lovely pop-out cup holder which is perfect for keeping my HTC EVO or iPhone4s in the right position. After only a couple of short trips around the neighborhood, Driver Feedback had collected enough data to present me with some scores. Of course I won't share them with you here but suffice it to say from now on I may start braking a little more in advance and slow down a bit more when approaching a curve.

Drive Feedback has a few other neat features. It will permit you to automatically send a text message when you reach your destination to let someone know you arrived safe.

About the only thing missing was the ability to add more drivers and select the one to be monitored. Turns out, with a little help from  Jim Camoriano, State Farm Media Relations Specialist, I learned there is even a way to do this. Now I can slip this into the cup holder in my wife's car a couple of times when she is behind the wheel, and my daughter's car then next time she drives me to the store. Then I can run a comparison of the scores.

You can learn more about this by visiting the State Farm company web site, or just download the application and try it out. Safe travels!!

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Man Does Not Live On iPad Alone

Like many people, I lusted after an iPad and miraculously won one as a door prize months ago. This completed my collection of various types of devices.I now have a traditional desktop setup running Windows XP, a notebook running Ubuntu Linux, an iPad and an iPhone. I have an HTC EVO device as well but it is currently deactivated. The question is how many devices do I need when I travel outside the home office.

Safe to say, like an American Express card, one would never leave home without your phone. My business number is a Google Voice number and that application happens to run pretty well on the notebook. In theory using a blue tooth earpiece I should be able to use it as my phone. In fact, I have and it actually works well. But it is impractical to use as a phone in many situations including on a plane, in a taxi or even in my own car.

Similarly, the iPhone is a pretty capable little device and I can run almost any application I need on it. Keep in mind I live almost exclusively in the cloud. My email, documents and social network activity require only a browser.Everything can be accessed over the web.

Screen size is a serious limitation. If I take off my glasses and peer closely I can muddle through a first pass at my email and other on-line content. But let's be realistic. To really drill into that job specification posted on Yahoo groups or the 32 comments below a facebook post can get tedious.

Enter the iPad. With the iPhone as a phone and the iPad for all other content management I can almost pull it off. The iPad screen is clear, crisp and large enough while the processor is fast and memory more than adequate. Everything from scanning and filing email to participating in video chat sessions can be done with ease. Short replies, comments under posts, bill paying, and all different web site interactions can be performed.

You know, of course, there is a big but coming.

Each weekday, in addition to all the other on and off-line activity, I write a column like this one. I often have to write letters or create other large documents including spreadsheets and presentation. I have to handle and edit photos and other graphics. These tasks require at least three things the iPad does not have.

I find it very difficult to compose large documents without a conventional keyboard and mouse. While the iPad screen is a good size for viewing, I need to have more real estate when creating or editing content. Finally, when in a location lacking broadband, the iPad becomes nearly useless. Often as a visitor to a client office, hotel or while on a plane, my iPad is pretty much useless.

For these reasons I still feel compelled to drag my monster notebook along on business trips. Someone is going to suggest in comments that I buy some additional peripherals for my iPad like a portable key board and wireless mouse, trade my iPad 2 for a snappy new one with LTE and perhaps change my vision prescription.

Well I think I may fix the problem another way. There sure are an awful lot of new lightweight notebooks out there and my birthday is coming up in a a few more months. What should I get next?

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

And Then There Were Two ...

What could be more exciting than participating in a live television broadcast. Just imagine being virtually in the studio and interacting with the on camera talent, the social media desk and news anchors. How exciting would it be if you were asked to react to stories or even introduce your own content. How amazing to be on the actual broadcast going out over the airwaves live and in real time?

Well, I can tell you because I have done it, not once but several times with Sarah Hill and some of the other anchors at KOMU TV, the very first television station ever to use Google Plus hangouts in a live broadcast. I was honored to be among the handful of individuals who were co-hosts on that inaugural broadcast months ago. Everyone knew, at the time, it was a risk but that we were not only witnessing but actually taking part in the evolution of the broadcast news industry and others stations would soon follow.

For the last several months other stations and networks have dabbled with hangouts, introducing them backstage, off-line and off-air. They were used to pre-record segments, edited and later aired in the regular broadcast.  They have been used as alternative methods of simply engaging a wider audience. A number of the more experienced KOMU cyber couch alumni have been working with these stations literally from coast to coast. But no other station had taken the big step to put any one of us  in the hangout on air.

Two weeks ago, the second domino fell. Jackie Ward at WCSH in Portland, Maine invited people to join a hangout during the early show on Friday morning. A public broadcast station in Twin Cities also waded in a little deeper.

This week, another domino fell. Melissa Carlson anchor at KRNV, the NBC affiliate in Reno Nevada had been using hangouts to produce a 20 minute internet only show. She was finally ready and scheduled the station's inaugural broadcast which included one of the five blocks or segments of the show being built entirely around live, on-air interaction with ordinary people in a hangout. The show aired this past Monday at noon (PT.)

Melissa did everything right. She had a small group in the hangout and they were people with whom she had experienced interactions in the prior weeks. The topics were discussed in advance and the participants who would comment were selected and, therefore, prepared. The studio setup had been designed  properly and the segment went off without a hitch. KRNV becomes the second station to incorporate hangouts into their daily noon news show.

There are many other stations where, like KRNV, the anchor is still becoming comfortable with the new social networking tools and interacting face to face with people, while the crew are working on the technical infrastructure and production issues. It won't be long before a few more dominoes fall and we will be faced with many choices. We won't be choosing a news broadcast to simply watch anymore, but rather which network cyber couch we want to jump on and what views we want to share on their stories.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Monday, February 20, 2012

Do Something Plus-One-derful

Google has the motto "do no evil" and one can have lengthy debates about how well they color within the lines. Regardless, a small group of very creative people had a notion that instead of worrying about what we shouldn't do, why not concentrate on the positive and use this social network to do good.

Sarah Hill, news buoy (as she likes to call herself) for KOMU TV in Missouri, began using the Google Plus network, and hangouts in particular, to enhance her daily television newscast and to introduce a whole new dimension to broadcast news shows in general. Over the last few months she managed to accumulate over 600,000 followers on Google Plus. With an audience of that size, the emphasis naturally began to shift from further developing the program to extracting value from it.

Typically this means monetize the network to generate revenue in some way. Well, the epiphany came and an effort has been launched to convert the power and reach of this massive network into cold hard cash. But not for profit, nor for any individual gain, but rather to support and sustain efforts to reduce or eliminate human suffering and misery throughput the world.

Yes, a mere handful of individuals got together with Sarah and created Plusketeers.org, a web site where the needs of people everywhere can be identified and resources can be collected and brought 100% to bear on their problems. This umbrella site is designed to allow people to support one of the charities or add their own.

The program launched Sunday night and began collecting money for our first major charity before dawn.

Everyday from now on we will be using social networking to raise awareness and to drive more people and donations to the program. The Plusketeers Challenge is in full swing.

Having been birthed on Google Plus we adopted the name Plusketeers and will be introducing various ways of participating. For example, you can sponsor one of Sarah Hill's live on-air hangouts. These are run two or three times per day and for a small donation your personal or company name will be displayed as the sponsor.

We will be soliciting corporate donations enabling companies to display a logo on their web site showing support for our cause and launching a dots for dollars program where the "real estate" you purchase will be proportional to the size of the donation.

Our goal is to raise one million dollars. Please contact me if you are interested in participating, want to learn more or make a donation. If you do nothing else, please help us spread the word about this program. Use your social network to share this post or a link to Plusketeers.org and help us make the world a better place.

Thank you.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Friday, February 17, 2012

Are You Board Material

Every once in a while someone comes up with a really new and novel way to approach an old problem. If you are starting a business or trying to grow one, you may want to establish an advisory board staffed with knowledgeable people with relevant experience, good insights and whom you trust. A new site has been introduced where potential advisors can register and entrepreneurs, small business owners or managers can post their needs and desires, or troll for possible candidates.

I have served on many advisory boards for companies that sell products and services aimed largely at the corporate CIO community. As a former CIO it is easy for me to provide some perspective and feedback on new product designs, packaging, messaging, pricing and other marketing mix factors. Having been one, I know how CIOs "see" these offerings, how they think, how they are likely to respond and the daily challenges they face. This allows me to help companies focus their efforts, better target and ultimately improve their success rate.

Of course my academic credentials and years of experience both in consulting and as senior management in medium and large companies also provides a number of skills which small business owners might find attractive in their advisors. These have lead to several opportunities outside of the CIO realm. But up until now, those opportunities have been limited.

This week I ran across BoardMyBiz.com, a site recently established for the sole and express purpose of matching advisors to companies. Created by Kathleen Murray, this site allows anyone to create an account using an email address or connection to LinkedIn. There are step by step instructions for potential advisors to complete a profile.

Company owners can list their requirements along with the specific needs they have, the industry and where they are located. These openings are displayed offering advisors a menu of opportunities each with a simple one button application process. The site houses a messaging system, discussions and a blog. It has a clean and simple design.

In the past, advisory boards have been formed and staffed with people who are typically hand selected. As an example, key customers or early adopters might be invited to the inner circle. LinkedIn with hundreds of millions of profiles is a huge source of talent which can be mined for this purpose.

BoardMyBiz is a fresh, new approach and as it becomes more widely known might be the better alternative for choosing your next set of inside advisors.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sirius-ly True

For months Apple has been running commercials on network television showcasing the coolest feature of the iPhone 4s , the electronic assistant Siri.

There are many different little vignettes. In one, a woman asks, "What does my day look like," and Siri responds "Not bad. only two meetings today." Can I walk to the Belvedere Hotel from here? Siri displays a map and says, "Here are directions to the Belvedere Hotel." Walking briskly, a man says read me that text and Siri promptly tells who its from and reads the message. A little boy peers through a window and asks if it is going to snow today. Siri responds by saying, "It sure looks like snow today."

A female jogger says, "Remind me to call Chris when I get home." A busy executive says, "Move my meeting from three to four." Several more people make requests ending with a woman who says, "I'm locked out." Siri replies, "I found three locksmiths fairly close to you."

A man asks for directions to Santa Cruz, and a woman says, "Where are we?" In each case Siri responds with directions and a map showing the route and current location. What does Orion look like? Siri says I found this for you and displays an illustration of the constellation.

"Tell Julie and Kate our band is playing at the garage tonight." says the teen. Help me find the chords to a song. Call me a rock god, he says and Siri replie, "From now on I will call you a rock god, okay?"

I watched these various commercials over and over, and then it struck me. Did Siri really respond exactly the way the commercials portrayed?  While I have successfully instructed Siri to add reminders to my calendar and to text "my wife," I wondered if they were perhaps taking some liberties and making Siri appear a little smarter, more cute and friendlier than she really was? We know there is supposed to be truth in advertising but then we also know a certain amount of puffery is generally acceptable.

Not everyone has an iPhone 4s. Who would ever know? Fortunately, I do and so I decided to mirror the commercials exactly and compare the results I got to the results they showed. It took a few attempts but I managed to replicate just about every one. I listened and repeated the exact phrase and I am happy to report in every case Siri did, in fact, deliver the same result to me as it did to the person in the commercial.

On balance I have found Siri to be very useful and have had few problems as long as I have a good network connection. The early traffic issues seem to have cleared up.

Oh, and don't worry. Siri doesn't still call me "rock god." I changed that back to "sweetie pie."

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Must See IP TV

I have written a number of times about the evolution of the broadcast news business and how I see it being impacted by social networks. Vehicles like Twitter deliver news in real time from ordinary people to other ordinary people. Anyone can use a search engine like Topsy to stay abreast of current events as they are happening. The notion that someone has to wait for the regularly scheduled newscast to find out what is happening in the world is a thing of the past.

If you still watch the network news shows try to take note of the source of all those video clips and candid photos they air. Quite often they were captured by John Q. Public with a smart phone or tablet computer like an iPad. It's likely you already saw the photo or others, and watched the entire video on YouTube after someone in your social network posted a link to it.

Moreover, soon when you do watch scheduled broadcasts, you could actually be a part of it as Sarah Hill and KOMU have proven. News shows use the internet to create a two-way channel with the news being collected from and delivered to the viewers.  KOMU was the first station to put people from a Google Plus hangout on live television, and now others are beginning to follow suit.

Several stations host Google Plus hangouts "On Air", inviting social network users to come and "hang out" in the studio during the broadcast. The participants are talking among themselves and with the newsroom staff about the stories being aired but also adding their own comments and original stories. By continuously streaming this content others can "tune in" to this stream, watch and even post comments.

But the shift in viewership to the internet is going beyond news shows. Google Plus hangouts with the on-air feature are being used by amateurs to host cooking shows, game shows and to distribute other original  content.

Google's other property, YouTube, has been offering original content to viewers for years, and is earning six figure incomes for a few talented or creative people. While some of this is replay of broadcast content, most is fresh and original production.

HBO Go is another vehicle designed to deliver their unique content on demand. Major players like Netflix and Hulu have been distributing existing content on demand for years and now, as predicted, they are bringing more original content to the public through their channels completely bypassing conventional television, DVD or theater distribution. This is a trend that is likely to continue as the value is in the content and not the delivery channel.

Just as he production quality of these "TV" shows and movies has achieved parity with industry standards, there is a noticeable shift in viewing habits from broadcast to streaming. Nielsen recently reported a 22% growth in the number of Internet enabled households that only have "free" TV. A Forrester study found users report the top two places they use a table device is in the bedroom and kitchen suggesting they are used more for entertainment than business.

Services like FIOS provide equal access to conventional broadcast, cable and internet "channels" while new devices like Apple and Google TV are beginning to challenge the very definition of a television viewing device. Arguably the television set is evolving into a large monitor while the set-top box is morphing into a full fledged computer.

As this trend continues it begins to raise a number interesting questions about ratings services, audience tracking and the entire economic model underlying advertising supported media.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

February 14 - V-Day 2012

Call me old fashioned but I really like Valentine's Day.

I'm not going to delve into the history or the origin because Wikipedia will do a far better job, nor am I going to cite economic statistics showing why its good for business. I have no facts and figures on the volume of cards, candy, flowers or wedding proposals, nor research on whether there is an uptick in births in October, though I have my suspicions.

We have always set aside one day to recognize our mother and one for our father, key elements that create a family, the cornerstone of society. Around the world we celebrate the arrival of a new year and many events of religious or historic significance. We designate specific days to celebrate our great leaders.

So why not have one day out of the year set aside to recognize and celebrate the greatest thing of all; love.

It's adorable to see young children exchanging paper hearts or passing secret notes. Students leave gifts for their teachers while teens give flowers or friendship rings and decide to 'go steady.' Young couples delight in a special dinner or bouquet of flowers, and lots of silver, gold and diamonds. Married couples have another day, beside their anniversary, that gives them an excuse to openly share their mutual love. Old people can get frisky and pretend, for a moment, they are young again. From silly cards to candlelit dinners, candy hearts to fine wine, people everywhere on this special day can wear their hearts on their sleeves.

What century am I living in, you ask? What did I smoke before writing this? Well, call me a hopeless romantic but I choose to see the happiness and joy that a day like Valentines Day can bring to so many people, and I delight in these thoughts I have shared with you.

What about all the broken hearts, the lonely and the forgotten? I make no apologies nor have any excuse for ignoring them. I simply choose to view the glass as mostly full and not just a little empty. Perhaps they too should try sharing in the happiness of those who have love in their lives instead of focusing on what's missing in theirs. Let the joy of others also be yours and you might be a little less sad.

Happy Valentines Day to all the lovely people in my life.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Monday, February 13, 2012

Alonzo's Is Gonzos

During the recent New York City Hangout In Real Life (HIRL) our merry little group walked along 44th Street from Times Square to Grand Central Terminal. This route took us past an old vacant building that used to house one of my all time favorite restaurants in Manhattan. It brought back memories.

photo by: Robert Redl
When I joined Lehrer McGovern Bovis in September of 1991 the company was located on Park Avenue South and 28th Street. In addition to spending my first year as head of IT upgrading the infrastructure and sorting out staff issues, I was appointed to the relocation committee and given the task of designing the network for our new office uptown. Early in 1992 we moved into the 9th floor of 200 Park Avenue, that iconic building that straddles Park Avenue, over the top of Grand Central Terminal, known as the Met Life Building but more famously as the Pan Am Building.

What a difference a few subway stops can make. We were now in midtown and at the eastern edge of the theater district. Finding a place for lunch was easy. But finding one that was affordable was another story. At that time, the food court in Grand Central hadn't been built yet. There was no Apple Store, in fact, that staircase hadn't been built yet either.

photo by: Robert Redl
Quite by chance one day I wandered into a small Italian restaurant called Alonzo's. It was housed in a narrow, two story building a couple of blocks from the office. The food was excellent and the prices very reasonable. It became my go to place for business lunches and even social dinner occasions. I became friendly with the owner Don Alonzo, his maitre'd Antonio and one waiter named Robert.

For years I would take member of my staff, business associates, customers and friends to this restaurant. Being a frequent customer we were always treated special. There was my usual table in the back corner and no matter what, Robert was always my waiter.

Even after I moved on from LMB and began to work in Connecticut, Alonzo's was our restaurant of choice when we were in Manhattan to see a show or any other reason. I recall vividly the times my wife and I brought the children, then quite young, and how Robert paid such special attention to them. They were amused by his Austrian accent.

photo by: Robert Redl
Sadly, I also recall the day Don told me the landlord was raising the rent to a point where he could no longer afford to remain in this location. He was moving to the East side near the United Nations plaza. That was well over ten years ago and to this day the building on 44th Street is still vacant. With the real estate crash I am sure its not worth as much as it once was and what a pity that the landlord couldn't appreciate his tenant as much as I did. We might have been able to stop in and say hello and share a glass of wine the day we walked by on our way to Grand Central.

In the years after his move to the East side, I went to the new Alonzo's with my family a couple of times for dinner but it just wasn't the same. I can only assume others felt the same as a recent search will confirm Alonzo's is no more.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Friday, February 10, 2012

HIRL Today, Gone Tomorrow (Part 3)

It's hard to believe but just one week ago today I was deeply involved in my first ever HIRL. In New York City I was hanging out in real life (HIRL) with all of the people I had met over the past several months in Google Plus hangouts. That emotional first meeting and the events that followed that day have been chronicled in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series ending with our arrival at the midtown apartment designated as HIRL HQ. The story continues here along with a few more observations and lessons learned.

photo by: Moritz Tolxdorff
The excitement and anticipation at HQ was high as we all prepared to be entertained by Heather Fay, Ryan Van Sickle and Daria Musk, incredibly talented musicians who had actually risen to fame in hangouts! Many of the people here and countless others around the world had spent hours in hangouts marveling at the songs these people performed for free. Their following grew exponentially and without any external promotion.

As luck would have it, my friend Bruce Garber, hangout show producer, invited me to join him and Eileen McAllister at the Living Room, the small club in the Lower East Side of Manhattan where the shows were going to take place that evening. They were going to live stream the shows and so we headed down well in advance to have time to set up the computer, establish connection and check lighting, sound and logistics. Here was another lesson learned: it's tough to hail a cab in midtown New York on a Friday at 5PM.

All kidding aside, here are three people who were never in the same physical location before but were each willing to lend their talents and contribute their time, energy and personal resources for the group. It still amazes me that we were completely trusting of one another, once again demonstrating the depth of the relationships that had been forged on-line.

At the club we met Ryan and Heather who were as friendly and down to earth as they come. Bruce and Eileen set up their gear and the room began to fill with all of the obviously adoring fans. Each were greeted like old friends. The room was small, dark, a little warm and there were not enough chairs. No one cared. Everyone was simply delighted to be there among good friends and anxiously awaited the magic.

The show began and yet another obvious fact hit me like a slap in the face. Like many others, I sat at my home computer in hangouts listening to these performers and thought they were great. But the sound quality in a hangout is nowhere near that of a live performance and I was completely blown away. My son, managing editor for Baeblemusic.com, a major on-line music property, joined me for this concert. While I have an amateur appreciation for all kinds of music, he makes his living separating the wheat from the chafe. Before he even spoke, the expression on his face said it all. He was very impressed. We agreed these two were clearly going places.

photo by: Joe Martinez
Just when you thought the evening couldn't get any better, the crew moved downstairs to the larger venue where we were treated to a collection of original songs performed live by Daria Musk and her trusty sidekick RAM Rich .Again, the quality was light years above anything we had heard on-line. The show was terrific and seemed to be over in a flash. I did manage to capture two songs using Bambuser and they can be viewed in the window on the lower right hand corner of this page or at my Bambuser channel.

It was tough to think about heading home so I grabbed some of my closest new friends and we hit a local pizza joint for one last snack together. Nothing like genuine New York pizza to top off a colossal day. Then, for me, it was off to head home for a little sleep while the others found their way back to their hotel.

The NYC HIRL wasn't over yet and I could still look  forward to Saturday and the closing dinner.

(Still to come: Photo walk, Battery Park, coffee with Joe and the closing dinner)

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

The audience for today's column is a little different. I want to share a little advice for people who are between jobs and who are perhaps frustrated with the seemingly endless process of finding a new role.

My advice comes from an old friend and former employer, Peter Lehrer (who may have stolen it from Winston Churchill.) Simply put, "Never give up, never give up, never give up!"

If you have been out of work for a while then you already know jobs, particularly at the more senior levels, are very hard to come by. There are a lot of people competing for a small number of opportunities. Recruiters and HR department staff are ruthless and exclude candidates for the slightest deficiency. There is such an overabundance of highly qualified talent that companies can afford to be extremely choosy about who they interview and ultimately hire. And so they are.

It is imperative that you constantly network, stay current and keep a positive outlook These are the three key elements of my strategy which will not only keep you busy and sane, but will also help to keep you moving towards your next job.

There are so many organizations, social networks and events that the opportunities for networking are virtually endless. You could spend all day (and night) communicating with the people you already know and, importantly, expanding your network by meeting new people. Do not be afraid or embarrassed to let people know you are looking for a job. You are in the same boat as 14 million other people in the United States, even more worldwide.

At the same time, do not ask them FOR a job. Rather, engage them in a conversation highlighting your strengths and value add. Ask for feedback (if they know you) or explore what they know about a company, an industry or the market where your interests lie. Have them refer you to others who they know might be in a position to help to you.

Equally important, particularly in these lean times, is to stay in the game. Become a thought leader and speak at conferences, write articles or participate in on-line networks. Use tools like LinkedIn to advertise your strengths and make sure you post updates and participate in groups and discussions. The idea is to make as many people as possible aware that you are out there and still very relevant. Some people even start blogging. These activities force you to remain current and engaged in your industry so when you do land that all important first interview you can talk about something other than what you did years ago.

Finally, and in my view most important, you must remain upbeat and positive at all times. If you are angry or depressed you must find a way to shake it off and do it fast. No one will choose to interview, let alone hire, someone who seems mad at the world, frustrated or down. Always show your upside, exude energy and display enthusiasm when talking about past, present or future. Highlight the good things about past jobs, employers and life in general.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. It may take a long time to get back into the kind of role you had before or the one you now seek. But if you follow these simple guidelines it will be easier to bear and you might even have some fun along the way.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Floating New Ideas With The Cloud Crowd

The Cloud Computing Consortium (C3) and Equinix hosted the breakfast seminar Maximizing Opportunity for Cloud Computing Success this morning at the Hyatt Regency in Jersey City. Well over 50 people attended and were actively engaged with the keynote speaker Jessica Carroll, Managing Director, IT and Digital Media for the US Golf Association and the full panel discussion that followed.

Ken Saloway, Program Director C3, opened the session, welcoming the attendees and introducing Jessica who spoke about her interest and experience in leveraging the cloud for her business. With over 30 offices in locations all over the country and the need to coordinate information, events and staff, the cloud offered the kind of speed and flexibility needed at an attractive price point. Starting small with Microsoft's Live Meeting application, Jessica took advantage of cloud hosting services. Based on success she slowly began to migrate several key applications at the USGA into the cloud. Surprisingly, email remains in-house as recent investments make it more cost effective to leave it in place.

Key to the success at USGA was the scalability of the cloud, allowing the organization to handle the inevitable spikes during the season and at major events. Moreover, there were substantial savings realized by only paying for the resources consumed instead of having to build and maintain an infrastructure sized to handle peak loads.  But Jessica also cautioned the group to have contingency plans and a workable exit strategy in place.

For the second half of the seminar, Jessica and Ken joined the other four panelists:

  • Danny Allan, Chief Technology Executive Officer, Desktone
  • Neil Brandmaier, former Chief Technology Officer, XL Group
  • Jonathan Crane, Chief Commercial Officer, IPsoft
  • Lou Najdsin, Director of Global Cloud Computing, Equinix

Despite its size, the panel covered a lot of ground in the 45 minutes allowed. As moderator, my goal was to get some key questions on the table, stimulate audience participation, foster a lively discussion and assure enough knowledge transfer to have made it worth while for our attendees.

In my view, the panel was successful on all counts. Beginning with the basics, what is the cloud and why should executives be interested, the discussion moved quickly though the benefits and opportunities with the cloud and into the impact on existing IT organizations.

It was roughly at this point when hands starting going up and audience engagement was in full swing. What do I do with existing staff, what tools are there for migration, how do I mitigate risks and others were fired at the panel who handled each one in turn quite well.

Redeployment and better utilization of limited capital, both human and financial, were cited. The opportunity to fail faster, saving time and resources, and various risk factors including SLAs, vendor lock-in, privacy and security were all addressed.

The panelists each contributed one closing thought to wrap up the morning. Get engaged with the cloud, make sure you take a business perspective, focus on the data, and make sure you fully understand and manage your use of the cloud, and, of course, participate in organizations like C3 dedicated to helping you.

My advice, attend seminars like this one. It has long been my belief when you hang around with smart people, you get smarter.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

HIRL Today, Gone Tomorrow (Part 2)

Yesterday, in Part 1, I wrote about my first couple of hours at the Hangout In Real Life (HIRL) event this past weekend in New York City. People who only met and spent time together on-line in Google Plus hangouts converged on the Big Apple for a three day party full of events. In addition to finally meeting the people I had come to know well over the past six to eight months, it provided me with some insights and observations I wanted to share with all of you.

photo by Matthew Rappaport
For me it began with an emotional moment as we found ourselves in the same physical location for the very first time. As an aside and further testament to the power of the hangout, the moment was captured by our good friend Ron Jackson who could not make the trip to New York. Instead he opened a hangout and waited for Bruce Garber who was here to join so he could watch the event as it unfolded. My words cannot adequately convey what was happening so perhaps you might enjoy watching the recording. Ron is the voice you hear and on this video you will see the Google lobby, various members of our group and our joy at being together.

In the break between my morning tour group and this second group, I had some quality time one on one with Rodney Pike. Now, we had only been in a couple of hangout sessions so I knew little about Rodney's background. But here we were strolling through Chelsea Market, sharing cups of coffee and swapping stories like a couple of old army buddies. (Just to be clear, Rodney was actually in the Navy.) Here is where I started to sense that the trust on which relationships are built can be gained partly by association. Even though I hadn't spent as much time with Rodney as the others, he was already "okay" in my book.

photo by Boris Gorelik
A little later we regrouped and seven people wanted to head up to Times Square. This smaller group included some avid and very talented photographers. A short subway ride got us in the neighborhood and we walked along 43rd Street to the place where Broadway and Seventh Avenue meet to form this famous landmark. Shutters were snapping all around me as the mostly out of town group tried to capture everything they saw.

photo by Eileen McAllister
Of course, knowing their passion for pictures I suggested we press on a few more blocks where we entered 200 Park Avenue, the Met Life (formerly Pan Am) building and passing quickly through the lobby took the escalators down into Grand Central Terminal. Here there were more "Kodak" moments than you could shake a stick at. And this wasn't even the formal photo walk scheduled for the morning. We'll cover that later in the series.

Boris Gorelik, whose fabulous photos are featured in this column, took the group to the whispering gallery outside the Oyster Bar. Here Shefali Burns and Robert Redl could whisper to each other from across the massive hallway while no one else could hear. It is a really cool spot featured in many films, most recently in the remake of the comedy film Arthur.

From here the troop marched south to 36th Street where a couple of the organizers had secured HIRL HQ, an apartment used as a base of operations and where a dozen or so of the visitors were staying for the weekend. Once inside we met another whole group of HIRLers including Brian McDonald who had created special "Plusports" for everyone to record their travels and collect special greetings from each other. We made it there in time for the hors d'oeuvres being specially prepared for the group by chef Lee Allison.

It was a welcomed break after the tours and our long trek around mid town, and a much needed rest before the triple concert scheduled for the evening.

(Still to come: Live performances at the Living Room, the After parties, photo walk, and final dinner party)

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Monday, February 6, 2012

HIRL Today, Gone Tomorrow (Part 1)

Almost in the blink of an eye the long awaited New York City Hangout In Real Life event has come and gone. But not before virtual relationships were made real and cemented with firm handshakes and, yes, hearty hugs and kisses. This event brought together people from all over the United States, Canada and Europe who frequently spent time in Google Plus Hangouts. They only knew each other from on-line video chat sessions over the last six to eight months. Some people decided to throw a party in New York and see who would come. Over 70 people participated in various events scheduled from Thursday to Sunday.

Photos by Boris Gorelik
I made a number of observations I would like to share with you. Perhaps the only surprising aspect of this entire event was that there were no surprises. Allow me to explain.

My HIRL began with the tour at Google headquarters downtown Manhattan where I connected with a handful of others in the lobby. Not everyone looks exactly like their profile picture and so there is a little bit of awkwardness until you connect the face with a name. Just as you would expect, the level of comfort  with each person is exactly proportional to the amount of time spent in a hangout.

Bear in mind there were many people with overlapping circles of friends, however, not everyone has been in a hangout with everyone else. There were still some "strangers" in the crowd and yet everyone was immediately accepted as part of the group. I will come back to this point again.

Our Google tour guide, Patrick, was genuinely interested in our views, opinions and suggestions for how to improve the network. In true Google fashion he was open and honest, shared whatever he could with us, showed us around answering questions and engaged us in a truly thought provoking discussion.

As our tour ended back in the main lobby several of my closest hangout buddies were waiting for their tour to begin. They had already experienced the emotion of HIRLing together and now it was my turn. One by one, the reality at the moment of recognition hits you. Here before me stand these people with whom I have spent countless hours and formed deep and everlasting bonds. Now, for the first time I can grasp a hand, wrap my arms around and physically embrace them.

Photos by Boris Gorelik

It's difficult to put into words how that first handshake, that first hug and long embrace actually felt. It wasn't at all like meeting for the first time but more like returning home after a long trip away. Think about running into your best friend at work who transferred to an office in another city only a month ago, or your college roommate passing through on his way back from his first year at grad school in another state. You know them so well, yet you don't know everything about them and haven't seen them for a while. But the moment you are together again it's as if you never parted. 

In our case some of us had achieved that level of connection before we ever physically spent time together. The initial meeting felt more like a reunion. This level of ease and comfort interacting would persist throughout the two days as our joint adventures continued.

(Still to come: the Midtown tour, visit to HQ, concerts, photo walk and final dinner party)

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Friday, February 3, 2012

Hanging With My Hangout Homies Fo Real

About two weeks ago I wrote what turned out to be a very popular column. Following a long Google Plus hangout, one that dragged on into the wee hours of the morning, I had an epiphany about these multiparty video chat sessions. In Confessions Of A Hangout Junkie I admitted I had become addicted.

No matter what time or day of the week, there were always hangouts and resisting the temptation to join was becoming increasingly difficult. So many people to hang with and so little time. What was it about this technology that drew you into such a deep and almost intimate relationship so quickly. We have all become such good friends and are so comfortable with one another, yet we have never actually met in person.

Until now. The New York City Hangout In Real Life (NYC HIRL) is in full swing.

Today I will meet many of the people who have only been video images on my monitor and voices from my speakers. This may be the final test to see if indeed, true and honest friendships have been forged without the benefit of a handshake or a hug. My guess, based on what I have heard of other events like this one that have been conducted elsewhere around the country, is there will be a few handshakes, but many hugs and perhaps even a kiss or two. There are so many reports of people meeting for the fist time yet feeling as if they have been friends all their lives.

I am genuinely excited about meeting my hangout buddies today. In fact, I was anxious all yesterday afternoon and restless all last night just knowing that some of them were already together. I felt like I was genuinely missing out. Photos had been posted but they only heightened the frustration of not being there.

A group of roughly 70 people have come from other countries including Austria and Canada, and several states such as Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Florida.and California.

We're going to get a tour of Google's offices in Manhattan and see a concert featuring three very talented artists who have become well known as a result of their performances in hangouts!

More activities are planned for tomorrow including a photo walk from the Brooklyn Bridge to Ground Zero, a flash mob (time and place is secret) and a grand Saturday evening dinner.


There is a certain irony in how Facebook allowed people who previously knew each other to maintain their relationship electronically, while Google Plus has fostered an enormous number of new relationships, resulting in events designed to bring these people together for the first time.

I'll let you know how all these events turn out today and tomorrow, and if future hangouts still have the same feel now that we've actually been together.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Join C3 - Next Meeting Wednesday February 8


One of the more interesting trends in technology  today is so called "cloud" computing. The cloud is riding high on the hype curve at the moment with every provider of every product or service trying to find a way to position it as part of the cloud movement. Companies need guidance to navigate through all the marketing speak, cut through the fancy veneer or repackaging of old concepts, and develop a clear understanding of  this innovative resource.

As a member of the Executive Counsel of the Cloud Computing Consortium (C3), part of my role is to help our member companies demystify  the cloud, better define exactly what it is and help them to obtain value through its proper use. Last year C3 organized five committees, ultimately publishing five papers and culminating in a very successful inaugural conference. Held at the Stevens Institute, the day long event was attended by over 100 people including many CIOs and other senior IT professionals from companies large and small throughout the New York metro area.

Following the conference new working groups were formed to examine additional aspects of cloud computing and a schedule of events for the coming year was released. More full day events and several half day seminars are planned while the committees are hard at work documenting the next set of findings.

Next Wednesday, February 8, in conjunction with Equinix, C3 will hold the first in a series of these half day seminars. Over breakfast at the Hyatt Regency in Jersey City the key note speaker Jessica Carroll, Managing Director US Golf Associate, will share her story on how and why USGA adopted the use of the cloud.

The session will also include a panel of distinguished guests sharing how each of their organizations have taken advantage of the cloud. I am pleased to announce I will chair this discussion.

As usual we will hold a teleconference with the panelists early next week. During the call we will review the questions which have been developed and circulated. You can anticipate the panelists will be well prepared with informative and insightful answers. Of course part of the role of moderator is to engage the audience and so I will be looking for additional questions or answers from the attendees.

This event promises to be another great opportunity to advance your knowledge and understanding of cloud computing learning from the experience of others who have been through it. If you schedule allows I would encourage you to attend this morning session. You should also consider joining C3 by signing up on the web site. There is no cost and you will be entitled to all of the papers and conference proceedings posted there.

Captain Joe

 Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Managing Performance Is A Two Way Street

Engaged in a terrific conversation the other day with researchers around the topic of performance reviews. Recent surveys show something like slightly less than half of the senior IT managers polled conduct formal reviews once per year. The balance were largely spread among two or four times per year or less formal schedules.

The discussion also focused on the approach managers take to reviewing their direct reports and seemed to surface a lack of consistency across companies, except at the most senior levels where formal reviews seemed even more sparse.

As professional managers we are expected to understand the needs and desires of our employees, to know, develop and leverage their talents and to help manage their personal careers and growth. Some companies demand that you track your employees performance, rate them and construct plans to move them along a specific towards mutual goals. Once participant mentioned that high scoring individuals are expected to be recommended for new positions or promotions.

Yet in other companies, performance evaluations are often something of an administrative task to be completed each year. Forms and memos are issued with guidelines four to six weeks ahead of a deadline. In some of the corporate ;environments these reviews seem only marginally connected to salary increases and bonus payments.

I know of one company where automated systems were used to attempt to quantify performance with suggested language for different levels across a set of competencies. This helped to structure the reviews but failed to enforce the discipline of collecting and discussing performance data throughout the year as one should. In other words, it made the task easier to complete but not more effective.

C level executives don't get the traditional performance review as their performance is tightly coupled to the company performance criteria. Whatever the corporate goals might be such as top line growth, increased profit, earnings per share or customer satisfaction, these are going to determine changes in compensation for the most senior managers. Often these are formulas in the executive's employment contract or in formulas embodied in Board resolutions.

Here is where it gets difficult for the CIO. Unless the CIO is perceived as a strategic partner and can connect the dots between the IT department and the corporate metrics, they are not a valid basis for a performance evaluation. The CIO must clearly link IT initiatives to the company performance or risk being judged on an operational level by the stability of the network or budget overruns.

The CIO should set the example by constantly coaching and advising, and making clear what is expected of the staff, where they are on target and where they need to improve. Tom Coughlin doesn't wait until the end of the game to suggest to Eli Manning how he might change the outcome. Don't wait until the end of the year to reconstruct events. Engaging in a continuous dialog will make employee performance improve and the more formal review a much easier conversation.

At the same time, the CIO must continuously communicate and seek feedback from C-level peers to ensure everyone is on the same page and delighted with the return on the investment in IT being delivered.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC