A Practical Approach for IT Governance

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Hindsight is 20-20

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LinkedIn invited me (I am sure several of you as well) to write a letter of advice to youngsters who are just embarking on their careers. The theme was “If I were 22”. They asked me to address:

  •    What do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
  •    Are you where you thought you’d be?
  •    What advice would you give to a young person entering the working world today?

As I embark on my new role as Consultant CIO in a mid-sized firm in the Bay Area, it was nice to look back decades into the past.

If I were 22 today, the first thing I would remember is that vision for the past can be perfect, but the future will always entail an element of uncertainty. At 22, I would have to take you back to 1977. I was a computer operations manager (a big sounding name) for $5 an hour job on campus at the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California. I was studying my Masters in Computer Engineering where I was working on operating systems designed with pipeline processing in mind. I sent a message using Arpanet to a friend in India studying at IIT. I had to write a complex script to do it. I was intrigued by the fact that it was free. Even a phone call to my family was around $4 per minute. I proposed to develop the free message idea further to make it easy to send messages. My friends and colleagues laughed at me. They said I lacked focus and it was just a wild idea. I wish I had known that the Arpanet I was using for communicating between universities would eventually lead to the world-wide web. I wish I had persisted with my idea.

That was not the only mistake I made. Intel was interested in my work on pipeline processing. At that time Intel was a small company. I wish I had accepted it. Two mistakes are good enough for life, but that is not all. I had a golden chance to move into medical industry, but I chose to work in the aerospace sector. Not that it was a bad area, but it was very bureaucratic. I wish I had good mentors around me.

Lessons Learned

  1. Nobody can predict the future, but please be around friends who can encourage you and experts who can mentor you.
  2. Failure is the best way to learn – do not take failure personally.
  3. Persist – the only real failure is giving up. Nearing 60 now, I recently got VC funding for an innovative software enabled management solution I have developed.
  4. Most important, enjoy the journey. For the ultimate success in life is joy.

Written by Subbu Murthy

June 1, 2014 at 4:18 pm

On-Demand CIOs for Small to Mid-Sized Firms

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Small to Mid-Sized Enterprises can rarely afford a full-time CIO, so I provide On-Demand CIO Services to these firms.   Although I am focused on developing technology that helps mid-market CIOs, I find that my work as a CIO actually helps improve the product.  Previously, I was a CIO/CTO in larger enterprises, and curiously, I find the SME market more challenging.

The focus of On-Demand CIO services is not just on reducing IT expenditures, but bringing the strategic thinking that can help the mid-market enterprise gain a competitive edge and increase revenues.  The best a CIO can hope to achieve is to get a recommendation from a fellow CIO, and to get one from Kristin Russell, Secretary of Technology and Chief Information Officer, State of Colorado, is an honor.  In her email to me, she stated “What you are doing is so very important and valuable, as you said especially to small/mid size firms that really need someone with your experience and expertise, but may not be able to afford it at the time.”

Kristin serves on the boards of CTA –Colorado’s Technology Association, the Statewide Internet Portal Authority (SIPA), and the Department of Business Information and Analytics for Denver University. As a result of her community and professional leadership, Kristin was honored as one of Government Technology’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers & Drivers for 2013, awarded the Top 10 Breakaway Leader Award by Global CIO Executive Summit and named one of Computerworld’s 2012 Premier 100 IT Leaders. She is also a recipient of the Denver Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 award, the 2009 Silicon Valley Tribute to Women in Industry (TWIN) award and a finalist for the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce 2011 Athena Award. Most recently, Kristin was named CIO of the Year for 2013 by the Denver Business Journal.

Thank you Kristin.

Written by Subbu Murthy

April 10, 2014 at 5:23 pm

Posted in Social Networking

How far is Google taking us?

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Literally.  We all heard about the dozen cars in Northern California that can drive for us.   The one I thought was very cute was something much more mundane.  I was writing an email (using gmail) in which I used the phrase “as per the attachment”.  Needless to say I had not attached anything.  When I attempted to send the email, Google politely pointed out that I had the used the phrase “per attachment”, but there was no attachment.  Clearly, a “wow” moment.  Imagine I had sent an email to my wife telling her I love her but forgot to attach a picture of a dozen roses!  Where is Google taking us?

Google already has language translators eliminating that profession.  They have analytics eliminating many a bright analyst.  Imagine now that Google wants to replace managers with automated tools.  Let us take this further, they want to replace CIOs with tools.  This topic hits home.  After all I run a business providing on-demand CIO services and tools to help CIOs manage the IT department.   I am panic-stricken actually.  If they really do replace us CIOs with tools, then I will lose my business which helps CIOs run the business of IT.   Is it time to work on my resume?

Written by Subbu Murthy

August 15, 2013 at 12:30 pm

The best background for a CIO – Part 2

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In order to understand what is the best background for a CIO, we have to define the role of the CIO which in turn depends on the enterprise needs, and the appropriate CIO expertise and experience that best meets the enterprise expectations.  Clearly this topic has the making of a book – not just a blog.

Oversimplifying, we identify that the role of a CIO largely depends on the enterprise needs and culture.  Three broad types of CIOs emerge:  Organizations that are looking for efficiency will require CIOs who are process centric and can re-engineer systems to enable the enterprise to gain operational efficiency. CIOs who understand best practices and business processes may be well suited for such enterprises.

Organizations that are stabilizing the role of technology in the enterprise will require CIOs who have in depth technical expertise and people skills to align the resources to budgets and provide a clear picture of technology investments and the value they are delivering to the enterprise.

Organizations that are looking for growth may require CIOs who are innovative and enable competitive advantage with effective use of technology.  CIOs who are entrepreneurs and have a strong technology expertise may be better able to leverage technology to grow the enterprise.   Such CIOs are constantly looking at tools to provide a 360 degree of view of how technology is impacting the enterprise.

Written by Subbu Murthy

December 17, 2012 at 11:15 pm

The best background for a CIO – Part 1

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We often wonder whether CIOs should come from a business operations background or from a technical background or from a finance background.  Perhaps there are other areas as well.  The best background for any business depends on the enterprise needs, and since needs change over time, it is difficult to identify the best background for a CIO.  No wonder most CIOs do not witness two leap years in the same Enterprise.

I was at a networking meeting, and amongst the 8 at my table, four were Financial Consultants.  Usually, considering my vintage, the discussions with Financial Consultants is always filled rich advice on what to do and what not to do for our individual retirement.  This meeting was different as we focused on our backgrounds.  The four Financial Consultants came from as varied a background as one could imagine:  one was a mechanical engineer, the second a lawyer, the third a physicist and the fourth a civil engineer.  Curious that none of them had a finance background. I am sure all of them are successful and worked hard at being the best in the field.  This is leads to a great question for the CIO community:  can anyone become a CIO?

Written by Subbu Murthy

December 16, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Advice to CIOs

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A young CS major asked me for advice in the train.  Recognizing that I had less than a minute or two to get off, I gave him three: 1) Do not waste time; 2) Enjoy yourself; and 3) Believe in yourself that you can do a good job.  I narrated this anecdote to a CIO, and he insisted that I write a blog on it.  I was reluctant initially.  After all, CIOs if anything, need less advice.  Budgets may be shrinking, but the pool of advice is not.  From  “Switch to Cloud and SaaS or you will be obsolete” to “be connected with the social media or be disconnected forever”, the poor CIO is getting advice from every one.  Blogs, networking events, social media, conferences is filled with advice.  So much so, the CIO must be immune to hearing them. Even if you can away from social media, Consultants are always around the corner.  Consultants have mastered the process of advice.  They not only give advice but have the audacity to charge for it, and not just a small sum.    We do not have measures on the quality of a advice.  In particular, advice is skewed heavily in favor of the giver – for the giver has no stake, nothing to lose.

So what is my advice to the CIO? 1) Do not waste time listening to advice; 2) Enjoy yourself; and 3) Believe in yourself that you can do a good job.

Written by Subbu Murthy

August 16, 2012 at 12:14 am

Search Engine Optimization

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A good friend of mine, and head of a trusted IT services company, Vishal Vasu wrote this excellent blog on SEO. He provides guidance on not being too “flashy”, maintaining the right Directory structure (not nesting it over three levels), talks about the criticality of having the right text in the first 20 lines, etc. Read more at

Good work Vishal.

Written by Subbu Murthy

October 8, 2011 at 9:17 am

Posted in Social Networking