Tag Archives: CIO

What To Do When Your Boss Is Younger Than You Are

download (19)What have you always pictured your boss looking like? If you are anything like me, you’ve always pictured them as a grumpy old man. Or a grumpy old woman if you want to get all modern. However, there is one thing that I’ve never really pictured my boss as being – younger than I am! However, this is starting to happen. Firms are starting to put Gen-X folks into senior management positions. What should you do if this happens to when you are in the CIO position?

What’s Going On?

So just exactly how did you end up having the CIO job, but working for someone who is younger than you are? It turns out that one of those natural generational shifts is currently underway. The baby boomers who have been running things are now starting to reach retirement age. What this means for firms is that they are starting to replace their leaving senior management with members of the next generation: Gen-X. The Gen-X’ers were born between 1965 and 1980. This switch is happening at a lot of firms that you may recognize: McDonalds, Harley Davison, Cisco, and Microsoft.

One of the reasons that firms are moving to put a younger generation of managers in charge of (you and) the company is because they are highly aware of what is coming their way. The next-next generation of workers has already entered the workplace: the millennials. This new batch of workers are looking for different things from their employers. What matters the most to them is flexibility. In order for them to remain at a job for any length of time, they are going to have to feel engaged in their job – they need to feel as though their actions count.

Another reason that firms are moving younger workers into senior management positions is because they are losing market share and they feel as though they need new thinking in order to turn things around. Both Harley Davison and McDonalds are currently dealing with declining market shares as their traditional customers become older. The firms are going to have to start to create products and services that appeal to younger customers and the firms appear to believe that they need younger management in order to make this happen.

What Will These New Leaders Be Doing?

As a CIO who is in charge of an IT department, any time there is a change in your management, it may have an impact on your department’s ability to get work done. What this means for you is that you are going to have to understand what your new, younger, management is going to focusing on. If you can determine what they want to accomplish, then you can position your department to help them to be successful and hopefully you’ll get the support that you need.

One of the things that is going to distinguish this new crop of senior managers from the one that they are replacing is that they are willing to take more risks. They’ve all been raised around computers and so they are generally more tech savvy and they understand the importance of information technology. What all of this means is that they tend to make decisions faster than the managers that they are replacing. What this means for you is that your department’s requests for resources and funding should get an answer quicker; however, I’m not saying that you’ll always get the answer that you want!

Finally, in order to work closely with your new younger boss, you need to understand what is going to be on their minds. One of the most important things is going to be the hiring process. Expect them to spend a great deal more time working with HR trying to find out ways to attract the best talent to join the company. It won’t stop there. Also expect your boss to be very focused on trying to figure out what the company is going to have to do in order to retain the talent that it has. As a CIO, this is good news for you!

What All Of This Means For You

The times they are a changing. As CIOs we may soon find ourselves in a position in which the boss that we’re working for is younger than us. At a number of firms, Gen-X staff are starting to be moved into senior management positions. Is this going to be a problem?

As CIOs we need to understand what is going on here. The markets that many firms are competing in are rapidly changing. This means that they feel that they need to have leaders who can more quickly change with the markets. Gen-X staff are starting to be placed in senior leadership roles. What you are going to discover is that what they focus on is going to be different from the management that they are replacing. Specifically, what is important to them will be staffing and keeping the staffing that they have. You should also notice that they react to market changes quicker and make decisions faster.

No, it may not be easy working for someone who is younger that you are – “that should be my job!” However, you will need to adapt to this new generation of management. It can be a very good thing for you because things will happen faster and you should be given a freer hand to focus on the needs of your department and keeping them together.

 

Why Aren’t Our Networks Staying Up

download (17)Does anyone besides me remember the phone system? You could be just about anywhere in the world at any time and you could pick up a phone, call someone, and your call would go right through. The Plain Old Telephone System (POTS) just worked. Now nothing is ever perfect and the POTS wasn’t perfect either, but it was 99.999% perfect which meant that it only didn’t work for about 5 minutes per year. Clearly, despite the importance of information technology, the networks that we’re designing and building today don’t work anywhere this reliably. Why not?

Network Outages Seem To Be A Part Of Life

Back in the day, when the phone network was “the network”, an outage was a big deal. It got stories written about it in papers and people talked about it on TV. The reason that it was such a big deal was because it didn’t happen very often. Things have certainly changed. In the first half of 2015 alone the NYSE halted trading because of a technical glitch and United Airlines had to ground all of their airlines because of problems with a program that scheduled pilots.

I think that there are a few things that have probably lead us to where we find ourselves today. First off, as any person with the CIO job can tell you, we have a lot more networks that we are using to run things. In any given company there are the networks that deal with creating the products and services that the company sells and then there are the networks that are used to actually run the company. Just to make things a little bit more difficult, each of these networks is now more complex. They have more boxes and software and other components that make them up.

One of the other reasons that network outages seem to occur more frequently these days is simply because CIOs don’t staff their IT departments to deal with outages like the phone company used to. For regulatory reasons, the phone company was under the gun when they had a network outage. They needed to fix it fast. This meant that they hired and trained an army of skilled technicians who would spring into action any time there was a network outage. People in the CIO position don’t do this today and so our outages tend to last much longer.

It’s All About Managing Change

As a CIO you would prefer that your corporate networks not experience any downtime. However, of course, this will never be possible. What we need to do is to take some time and try to get to the root cause of just exactly why we and our peers are seeing so many high profile network outages.

I sorta hate to say this, but the answer to this question is actually pretty obvious. The reason that so many of us CIOs have been experiencing network outages is because of the high rate of change that is occurring within our networks. Just when we get our network stable and configured the way that it has to be in order to work with and for our company, along comes yet another change. The change can be either hardware or software but because it changes our network into a partially upgraded beast for a while, bad things can easily happen.

As a CIO we can’t always prevent outages from happening. However, what we can do is to take steps to minimize the probability that they will occur. What we need to do within our IT departments is to make sure that we are using solid well-documented and automated processes as much as possible in order to test, build, upgrade and configure our networks. It’s only by doing this that we’ll start to drive some of human error out of these processes and reduce the possibility of having yet another network outage.

What All Of This Means For You

I believe that most of us can remember a time when there were things that just seemed to always work. Now we find ourselves living in an age where a computer failure seems to take down the NYSE every month or so, Internet providers experience massive outages, etc. Why do today’s modern networks seem to work so much worse than the phone network of yesterday?

It turns out that there are a lot of different reasons that are all contributing to our current lack of network reliability. Many firms prefer to invest in other things until they experience an infrastructure problem. In the past firms maintained army’s of technicians to fix issues, today’s lean organizations can take much longer to clear errors. Today’s networks are more complex, carry more data, and change more rapidly than ever before. The result is that we’ll keep seeing more network outages.

As CIOs we need to understand the situation that we find ourselves in. Our IT departments have created some wonderfully functional networks that because of the great deal of change that is always going on in IT may at times experience outages. What we need to do is to take the time to develop contingency plans that determine what action we’ll take when, not if, our networks go down. Being ready for bad things is what being a CIO is all about.

Dr. Jim Anderson

“America’s #1 Unforgettable Business Communication Skills Coach”