On Being CIO

I am about to leave for a photo and video shoot that be used alongside a story about an award I am receiving – the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal’s CIO of the year.

CIO stands for Chief Information Officer, and is often synonymous with the title CTO (Chief Technology Officer). While the explanation can be nuanced, I would say it can be generalized as the person in an organization responsible for making the technology choices needed to empower an organization to get work done more efficiently, effectively and accurately. This includes both computer hardware and software purchases, internal technology development and championing positive change in an organization.

While my title has never indicated that I am a CIO by any means, I have taken on many of the qualities of this role throughout my career. I stay on top of technology developments, I’m not afraid to evaluate new technologies, and I can easily summarize the positives and negatives of a technology in a matter of minutes.

In addition, by being a web developer for over 10 years, I especially understand how the underlying technology of the web works, as well as the database structure that powers most of our lives. The ability to understand how data is stored, accessed, and can be utilized to make decisions is a key part to the success of a chief information officer.

Preparing to be on camera talking about this role can be a little difficult, because this is an all encompassing role and there’s really no right or wrong answer. My only worry is that I get the definition wrong compared to my peers.

Then again, how can you be wrong when they already gave you the award?

Here are the questions and my answers as of now:

What is a CIO?

A CIO is the person in an organization responsible for making the technology choices needed to empower an organization to get work done more efficiently, effectively and accurately. This includes both computer hardware and software purchases, internal technology development and championing positive change in an organization.

What makes a good CIO?

A good CIO starts with being curious. They will want to know how everything works, have a strong understanding of technology and how to best apply it to organizations. They spend money wisely, balancing current needs with future investments. They don’t bring change to an organization too soon, but they should never be too late either.  They should know what they don’t know and confide in others to round out their knowledge.

What do you do for fun outside of work?

I like to travel – I have been to 6 continents and only have Antarctica left. I enjoy photography, especially using photos to document my world travels. I love to cook with my wife, and we make cuisine from all over the world, all from scratch. In addition, I have built several websites for hobbies, expanding my knowledge in several industries that expand beyond the marketing and technology world.

Wish me luck! Although, by the time you read this, my ugly mug will be forever emblazoned on a giant memory card in the sky.

Apple’s Greatness is Only Recent

I fully expect this to be controversial to the Apple fanboys and girls out there. We can duke it out in the comments if you disagree.

While reading the biography of Steve Jobs something occurred to me. He deserved to be fired from the company in 1985 and when someone refers to Apple as if they have been creating great products all along, they are wrong.

Apple did not make a truly great product until the iPhone in 2007. Everything to that point had fatal flaws (including early generation iPods. iPods sucked pretty bad until they introduced iOS in 2007.)

Prior to this time, their computers were inferior to a PC in almost every way. There was almost no software available, the hardware was slower, and you could not use them for business applications.

In order to survive, Apple needed two things when Steve Jobs resumed his post as CEO:

  1. To reach a market share where software developers would start to create Macintosh versions of their software
  2. Either an alternative business “office” suite had to emerge OR for Microsoft Office to improve on the Mac so that business users could adopt the systems

Both of these things began to happen in the late 2000’s, but not nearly as quickly as our revisionist history will lead us to believe. It wasn’t until the 2008-2010 range that business started mass-adopting Macintosh computers as an option for employees (for example, Google switched to Macs around this time). Until this point, Mac’s were used primarily by designers and video production professionals.

Fast forward 5 years and Apple makes the BEST product available in every category possible. How did this happen?

  • End to end control of the product lifecycle (the reason why the iPhone was so great is that it simply had far less moving parts than a full computer, and a simpler operating system. This meant they could create and iterate much faster)
  • Simplicity in small doses, goes a long way. However, when something is too simple, you can’t get anything done. For a long time, Macintosh programs and apps were a victim of their own simplicity and often ineffective as a result. Allowing more complex programs with configuration and settings to come into Mac OSX has finally achieved a good balance here
  • Seamless integration of products. A Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod or Apple TV itself is a quality product, but when combined? They become unstoppable with seamless integration

Beginning in the late 90’s, Apple became a visionary company under the leadership of Steve Jobs. It took about 25 years for technology to finally catch up to this vision, but when hardware, software and product converged, they produced something that was truly great.

Now Apple is on top of the world.

Just don’t tell me that they were great all along. That would be wrong.

Instagram Photography – Making iPhone Photos Sexy

If you follow me on Twitter or we are friends on Facebook, you may know that I have recently started to post pictures to the web using a service called Instagram.  While it’s been around for a few months, I avoided the service until recently because I just didn’t think I had time to try a new photo sharing service.  Already having photos on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Smug Mug – I didn’t need anything more.

During my current sabbatical in Washington, DC, I decided to make time for some of the things that I had neglected the past several months/years.  Things like personal blogging and my website in general.  I also got caught up on reading and started playing around with applications that I had downloaded to my phone and iPad, but don’t use very often. [Read more…]