Let the resolutions roll

At this time every year, the painful process of laying out one's New Year's resolutions begins. For most people, it's an exercise in reflection, and as the new year progresses, no one keeps score.

          At this time every year, the painful process of laying out one's New Year's resolutions begins. For most people, it's an exercise in reflection, and as the new year progresses, no one keeps score. Unfortunately for me, I'm going to list my professional New Year's resolutions for all to see -- all the more reason to stick to them.

          I won't let the economy influence how I manage technology strategy for my organisation. This might seem like a tough one, as the effect of the economy has been so massive in the past year. But when you get right down to it, the state of the economy should have little effect on technology management strategy. I resolve that even after the economy gets better, I will apply the same stringent ROI-calculating skills -- the ones I have sharpened during the downturn -- to proposed projects. More revenue streaming in does not necessarily justify increased spending. An IT expenditure with little or no ROI is a bad project regardless of the economic environment.

          I will focus more intently on strategy and not get so muddled in details that I lose sight of the overall technology vision and how it fits into our business. This means focusing on delegation. Continuing to hire well is key to this resolution. Trusting your staff to run with the details after the strategy is developed is essential to making this work. For many CTOs, myself included, it is tempting to leverage one's own finely honed technical skills and lend a hand on various projects because, well, it's kind of fun. Although most projects have significant time pressure and fewer resources these days, letting a staffer grapple with a tough problem that you've solved before is often good career-growth experience for the person. I will do my best not to steal this opportunity by offering a quick and easy answer. I will strive to ask more questions and offer fewer answers while helping lead my staff to creative resolutions to problems -- ones that I might not have chosen.

          I will meet more often with our customers and listen to them more carefully. Although I have spent considerable time this past year meeting with customers, as well as readers and advertisers, I can always do more.

          Along the same lines, I can do a better job asking our customers questions about their needs rather than telling them what our plans are for them. The road to business hell is paved with companies that were too busy building products and services to actually talk to their customers.

          I will work on internal communications within my company, making sure that employees outside of IT understand the value of IT to the top-line of the company and their everyday work lives.

          Quite often, technology leaders become so enamored with the projects and processes of their departments that they forget to tell the rest of the company what they are doing and why it is important to the success of the business. I will make sure that all members of my staff are duly recognised for their contributions to the overall technology vision of the company.

          I will strive to spend more time focusing on nontechnical information. Because successful technology management has little to do with technology and a lot more to do with people, I should spend more time learning about management, psychology, and organizational dynamics. If I spend more time refining my understanding of people, any application of technology will be that much more successful.

          Finally, I think 2003 is the year for a little housecleaning. I have piles of useless junk on my desk. It's time to dispose of those Windows 95 CDs and 1996-era Post-It notes -- then I'll really be turning over a new leaf.

          Dickerson is InfoWorld's CTO.

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