Writing by James

Articles and opinions on technology, social media and innovation


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Central Desktop: What businesses get wrong about change management

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Yes, I am aware that the last few months on this blog have been a series of guest posts – breaking just about every rule of blog writing (1 promotional to every 5 useful, etcetera, etcetera). However, I like to think that if I write an article it will be useful to someone somewhere, so here’s another.

Change management doesn’t have to be a horror show

The phrase “change management” may conjure up an unpleasant vision of an army of consultants roaming around your office and a large monthly bill hitting your bottom line, but in truth it’s something that applies to all businesses and projects, small or large.

If there is one scary thought about change management, it is that change is very rarely manageable. As pointed out by Michael Jarrett in his 2003 paper, The seven myths of change management: “…the rapid development of change and its divergent antecedents means that change is not something that can be managed with certainty. Outcomes can be both divergent and unexpected.”

Which, in layman’s terms, means that you never know exactly what to expect when you begin, and things never run as you intended. Still, change management isn’t as scary as it sounds. By following some simple rules, it’s possible to successfully introduce changes into a business with a minimum of fuss and inconvenience. Equally, it’s very easy to exacerbate this situation, which explains the origin of all those horror stories. Here are seven things that businesses get wrong about change management.

Read the full article and find out what the seven things are over at Central Desktop.


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Central Desktop: Why is business tech spending on the rise?

Logo for Central DesktopYes, it’s been a slow couple of months here, so please accept my apologies. All droughts come to an end though, and this one ends with a look at the latest forecasts for tech spending, digging under the obvious economic reasons at the some of the macro-and micro-trends that have changed our spending behaviour.

At the start of April, both Gartner and IDC released their latest forecasts for technology spending. The good news for technology vendors? Both forecast solid growth across all areas of spend, from telecoms to devices. It’s a stark turnaround from the 2013 reports that showed a contraction in spending in three of the five main tech categories. Good news, overall – but the real interest in these predictions is behind the scenes. The financial troubles of the last few years, coupled with external and internal changes in the business environment, have left us looking out at a very different landscape. As Quentin Hardy succinctly put it in The New York Times, Tech Spending Recovers, but It’s Different.”

So what is this new landscape? And how have we ended up here?

As always, you can read the full article over at Central Desktop.


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Central Desktop: How to make a case for new technology to your CIO + IT team

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New Year(ish). New Article.

Gartner have made some bold predictions that state that by 2017, the CMO will be be spending more on technology than the CIO. Well, if that’s true, CMOs need to read this right now, because buying technology for the business – even in today’s SaaS environment, isn’t as easy as clicking your fingers. They need to know how to pull together a cast-iron business case.

Luckily, this article contains five tips to make the process a little easier.

There’s nothing more unsatisfying than introducing a new system into an organization and seeing it fail. It’s a waste of time, a waste of money and a waste of opportunity – and yet it happens all the time. Usually, it has nothing to do with the technology; these failures are almost always about adoption. Whether a system is over-hyped, under-utilized or simply not fit-for-purpose, the result is the same.

Unfortunately, these precedents can make it more difficult to introduce systems in the future, as “system apathy” sets in and users become inured to promise and cynical about change. This apathy can also spread to those people who install the system: IT and the CIO. Instead of a new solution, they may see ill-conceived plans, a lack of ROI and negative impact on their credibility. The erosion of the business benefit of these systems can have a massive impact on the bottom line.

[...]

It’s great that CMOs are tech-savvy, but they need to show more than a recognition of technology benefits, and start to pick up on best practices from the IT world to really bring the CIO back into the fold.

Put simply: to get a CIO on your side, you have to think like a CIO. And that means going back to the business case.

Read the full article over at Central Desktop.

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Central Desktop’s greatest blog hits of 2013

I’ve really enjoyed writing for Central Desktop this year; they always set interesting briefs and have an open attitude to different approaches. Last year I was lucky enough to have one of the top five most popular articles on the site, with Eight tips on successful adoption of collaboration solutions coming in at number 4.

Well, the 2013 results are now in and I’m very pleased to say that this year I’ve gone one better, with the third most popular post of the year. CMO vs. CIO? The future of marketing + IT was published back in February and was featured on the main page of the Central Desktop site for a few weeks, which definitely helped. The article looks at how the two roles are coming closer together, with technology playing a much bigger part in the marketing mix. Here’s an extract:

Just a few years ago, asking the question whether the CIO and CMO roles were merging would have been madness. They couldn’t have been further apart. The CMO was a key part of a company’s leadership team, driving performance and changing the course of the organization, while in most cases the CIO didn’t even have a seat at the table.

That’s no longer the case – or, at least, that’s what we’ve been led to believe. If you believe Gartner’s January 2012 report entitled “By 2017 the CMO will Spend More on IT Than the CIO” and IBM’s annual CIO surveys, it would seem these two roles are on a collision course. Is it true?

It’s great to be able to write an article that people value, so I was pleasantly surprised to also feature on the Lifetime Achievement list (for articles from previous years that have been read most times in 2013). Why you should keep IT off your cloud made the case for including IT in the decision making process for cloud systems, even though it might seem that they don’t need to be involved. It got a great reaction from commentators, in IT and beyond.

Cloud systems – the perfect opportunity to take control of your processes and practices. A system that can boost your productivity and that you can mold to your exact requirements, all without the interference of IT. No infrastructure requirements, no development, no overcomplicated business analysis and project management – just the appointment of a vendor who can take away the pain and make things happen.

Or is it?

If you just read the headlines and looked no further, you would think that IT was to blame for most of the more public IT failures. The term IT has become synonymous with the department that shares its name, and as a result it has a terrible reputation: one that is based in misconceptions and stereotypes. Here are four reasons why you should break out of this fallacy and involve IT when implementing cloud solutions.

I look forward to writing more next year, but in the meantime, if you want to see more of the top articles from 2013, you can see them at Central Desktop.

Still - The Money Trap


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Central Desktop: The Hidden Cost of Free

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Yes, it has been a more than brief hiatus from writing, on this site or elsewhere. I’ve finally broken my silence with a quick 1000 words over at Central Desktop, looking at the hidden costs that lurk under the friendly face of free software. Here’s the obligatory quote:

If you were reading this in 1985, “free” software wouldn’t even exist. At best, you would be able to find some shareware on the front of a computer magazine that might be useful if you could load it off the 3.5″ floppy disk. Everything was just a little more amateur back then, especially when things were free.

Today, we are faced with a massively different situation. Free no longer means poor, lacking, or amateur; instead, it has become the norm for many businesses around the world, delivering quality products that support hundreds of thousands – sometimes millions – of users. The freemium model, whereby software is available for free, but additional support and functionality is available for a fee, has become a de facto business model for start-ups around the world. But despite the more professional approach, the profusion of software comes with both benefits and risks.

You can read the full article over at Central Desktop.

Feature image by marsmet42 on Flickr


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Central Desktop: Software Subscription Models – Pros and Cons

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It’s been a few months since I last wrote at Central Desktop, so it’s nice to get something published there again. This time around we’re looking at the pros and cons of subscription software (or SaaS, if you prefer it).

Subscription software has been around a long time, much longer than the hoo-ha about Adobe Creative Cloud earlier this year. When Adobe changed their business model, it was treated like the death of a family pet in some quarters. However, the real question isn’t why Adobe changed, but why we were surprised.

The move to software subscription models is tied inextricably to the changing culture of business and the ever-moving world of technology that surrounds it. It is inevitable.

Shortly, we’ll look at the pros and cons of subscription software, but first a brief history lesson.

Read the full article for a history lessons and to find out what iTunes and Nike have to do with the rise of SaaS over at Central Desktop.


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Central Desktop: Cloud App Usage in the Workplace

Skynet - Central DesktopRogue cloud apps – it all sounds a little ominous, as if Skynet will be raising its ugly self-aware artificially-intelligent head sometime soon. Of course, it’s nothing of the sort; it’s just a bunch of employees trying to bring the some of the benefits of consumer life into the workplace, and why shouldn’t they?

In my latest article for Central Desktop, I look at how you can make cloud applications work for you, rather than giving you a headache, and make a plea for IT departments to drop the “command and control” attitude and start collaborating.

Here’s the obligatory extract:

Cloud busting. No, not the fabulous Kate Bush song, but rather what most IT departments would like to be doing. Personal clouds and cloud apps are subjects of growing concern to corporate business, something highlighted in Forbes columnist Joe McKendricks’ article “Corporate Crackdown on Rogue Clouds Has Begun, Survey Suggests” – based on the PMG “Cloud Sprawl 2013′” survey. The trouble is, as always, that numbers only tell one side of the story, and articles wrapped in jargon and littered with percentages aren’t always helpful.

The questions we should be asking ourselves are: what is this really telling us and what should we be doing about it?

Read the full article over at Central Desktop.


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Central Desktop: “Growing pains” – why business expansion leads to inefficiency

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Hot on the heels of a bloody BYOD comes more discomfort, this time in the form of growing pains. This guest article looks at the reason why businesses become inefficient as they grow and how these issues can be avoided, drawing on an paper from 1972 for inspiration – if you’re running a small business or on the verge of creating a start-up this is a definite read!

We live in a start-up culture, where it seems as if everyone is able to have an idea and start a company. Many of these will fail, some will be a success. For those that are a success, they may find that the real challenges are not with that first product launch, but the inevitable growth that success bestows upon them.

The issues that face these companies are nothing new. In July 1972, Larry E. Greiner published Evolution and Revolution as Organizations Grow in the Harvard Business Review (on paper, of all things!). He describes a pattern that would be familiar to entrepreneurs and business owners everywhere – that of evolution, in which the business grows smoothly, followed by revolution, where the business goes through a crisis brought about by its own growth. Solving each crisis brings about another period of evolution. Despite its age, Greiner’s piece remains amazingly relevant, even if the companies of today are working in very different industries and producing very different products.

So what does cause a company to become inefficient as it grows? The first inefficiency falls squarely at the feet of the company founders.

Read the full article and find out more about Greiner and the five reasons why companies become inefficient as they grow over at Central Desktop.


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Central Desktop: Everything you need to know about BYOD

logo_central-desktop-social_media-with-byodBYOD. Looks pretty scary with all that blood everywhere doesn’t it? Well, never fear, because BYOD isn’t too scary, you just need to know what you’re getting into. My latest article at Central Desktop tells you all you need to know about ‘Bring Your Own Device’, which is why it is handily entitled ‘Everything you need to know about BYOD‘.

It goes a bit like this:

As progressive as BYOD might seem, it’s anathema to the majority of IT departments, being a world away from the structured familiarity of traditional IT hardware policy. So, for IT departments – maybe your IT department – facing up to these challenges, what can you do? Here are the pros and cons of BYOD, and the policy issues you should think about when implementing a BYOD policy.

Read the full article at Central Desktop.


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Central Desktop: CMO vs. CIO? The future of marketing + IT

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It’s been a couple of months since my last guest post and the withdrawal symptoms have started to kick in. So here it is, my latest article at Central Desktop: CMO vs. CIO? The Future of Marketing and IT

A short extract for your perusal:

Just a few years ago, asking the question whether the CIO and CMO roles were merging would have been madness. They couldn’t have been further apart. The CMO was a key part of a company’s leadership team, driving performance and changing the course of the organization, while in most cases the CIO didn’t even have a seat at the table.

That’s no longer the case – or, at least, that’s what we’ve been led to believe. If you believe Gartner’s January 2012 report entitled “By 2017 the CMO will Spend More on IT Than the CIO” and IBM’s annual CIO surveys, it would seem these two roles are on a collision course. Is it true?

Read the full article at Central Desktop.