Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
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Bassam Zarkout
Bassam Zarkout

9 Books IT Leaders Should Read

Here's a mix of business books and compelling novels to help inspire new ideas this summer.

It can be tough to find time during the year to catch up on some reading. The daily news feeds keep you up to date on current events, but sometimes a good book is essential to staying grounded.

So with the summer upon us, there's no better time for IT and business leaders to pick up a book or two or three. Whether you're vacationing, traveling, or just relaxing, here are nine books that all IT pros should read.

[Want more book suggestions for the tech savvy? Read The IT Nerd's Summer Reading List]

From inspiring change to managing information to the impact of technology on society, this list offers a great blend of business topics and fun reading that will help generate ideas and inspire change across your company.

The New Digital Age by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen
The New Digital Age tackles some of the toughest questions about our future: How will technology change the way we approach issues like privacy and security? What's next? According to the book's authors, "The impact of this data revolution will be to strip citizens of much of their control over their personal information in virtual space, and that will have significant consequences in the physical world."

Tribes by Seth Godin
Significant change can be best achieved by a tribe: a group of people connected to one another, to a leader, and to an idea. If you're leading a team, a company, or just one person, this book is a must-read. Leaders and innovators can build a movement by getting like-minded people excited through a new product, service, or message. Godin writes, "The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow."

Confessions of a Successful CIO by Dan Roberts and Brian P. Watson
According to Gartner, "By 2016, 20% of CIOs in regulated industries will lose their jobs for failing to implement the discipline of information governance successfully." This book provides valuable insights into how CIOs handle tough business challenges.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
This is a fascinating book of courage and fear, hope and loss, love and betrayal, and, above all, the search for freedom and a voice that's heard. The tumultuous journey of two early 19th-century women who dared to speak out against slavery will certainly inspire readers.

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson
It doesn't matter which industry you're operating in -- you need to keep from letting the little things drive you crazy and focus on your defined objectives. One suggestion Carlson makes is to put things in perspective. "Remember that when you die, your 'In' box won't be empty."

Information Governance: Concept, Strategies, and Best Practices by Robert F. Smallwood
This book reveals how, and why, to utilize information governance to control, monitor, and enforce information access and security policies. It's no longer just about storing data; it's about ensuring that the right data is kept for the right amount of time and in the right place.

Behind the Cloud by Marc Benioff
With cloud services, there is a potential to reduce IT costs. However, most of those cloud repositories currently lack information governance and records management capabilities. So it's important to keep your data safeguarded, even when storing it in the cloud. Benioff's account of the origins of the cloud and will help you appreciate entrepreneurship and understand today's cloud services.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy, travels the world on his "personal legend" in search of buried treasure. Along the way, he meets a cast of characters, all of whom help him on his journey. The Alchemist is about following your dreams and taking risks. Running a company or a department comes with risks, so it's crucial to be able to tackle any challenges that come your way.

Age of Context by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel
Converging technology forces promise to change virtually every aspect of our lives. With forces such as mobile, sensors, and location-based technology, how does this impact our privacy rights and how we manage information? This great book aims to answer that question and ask a few more.

Our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue -- our 26th ranking of technology innovators -- shines a spotlight on businesses that are succeeding because of their digital strategies. We take a close at look at the top five companies in this year's ranking and the eight winners of our Business Innovation awards, and we offer 20 great ideas that you can use in your company. We also provide a ranked list of our Elite 100 innovators. Read our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue today.

Bassam Zarkout is a thought leader, frequent speaker, and CTO of information governance firm RSD. Hehas more than 19 years of experience in information governance, including records management, e-discovery, regulatory compliance, data privacy, and audit trail management. View Full Bio
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User Rank: Guru
7/11/2014 | 8:30:31 PM
Maybe our IT "Leaders" ought to read a book on introduction to computer science
Twenty years in IT, with some major Fortune 100s, and large federal agencies. Too many times I have seen IT leaders who are fully incompetatent or on the verge of imcompetence. Soon after they open their mouths one realizes they are in the dark on things IT, yet because of an MBA, or a polished appearance HR hires them. It's OK not to know everything; who can. But, to pretend is another thing. Then, because of their fear of being exposed they try all kinds of stunts, to manipulate those under them, put them down and generally act with crulity and stupidity. There is not enough room to list all the examples, but in one recent case my IT leader, took 5 minutes to explain to me what a DMZ is and where the acronym came from. Then, when I suggested we might be able to capture data returned from a query to a web site (may be a cludge, but if it were in XML maybe not so hard) but he replied that that was impossible because the content was 'cached.' Yes I said that is the point, cached locally on the browser's hosting PC. I was then admonished that I needed to learn my terms better and to be exact and clear when speaking tech. On another occassion, he, in front of about  5 people, proceed to sketch out a 3-tier Oracle architecutre and then proceeded to tell us it was very complicated and maybe hard for us to understand. I grasped all these things decades ago, but he and his boss are unable to relate to me and others they supervise as anything less than childeren who don't know anything, not withstanding than many of us have more experience than they. Oh well, my friend Roger's rule is, as long as the checks keep coming in, just go along, but definitely watch out innovating, as it might be too threatening to the pretenders. Many have these Master's degrees in IT management, but do not know a bit from a byte.


Am I too cynical, or just still working way beyond my pasture time?
User Rank: Ninja
7/10/2014 | 7:50:27 PM
You forgot one
"Who we are and what we want" by Phillip Riederle...the only book that explains what young people of the digital age really want. Of course, if you only have old people in your audience who print out emails to put the prinout on the copier....skip this one.
User Rank: Ninja
7/10/2014 | 3:13:14 PM
Re: Great, more books on my list
I really like The Alchemist. Great work of fiction that has some real-world ethos. I paged through the New Digital Age and honestly I was not captivated and I didn't end up buying it.

But I think that books are a very personal experience, even moreso than movies. It's really a matter of taste. 
User Rank: Ninja
7/10/2014 | 1:00:53 PM
Re: 9 Books IT Leaders Should Read
I've really been digging all these lists you guys have been posting recently. There was James Connolly's fantastic list of where the great tech innovators of yesteryear are today (a worthwhile recap for those of us young and old alike), as well as Curt Franklin's list of 7 Surprising Technologies From World WarI just the other week ('surprising' may have been an understatement) and now, of course, this. It wouldn't have been hard to rattle off a list of  nine business-oriented books that came out in the last year, but It's good to see a list that goes above and beyond, posting a wide variety of topics that IT Leaders ought to keep current (or refresh themselves) on.

I'm a little surprised to see a book as old as The Alchemist on here (I read it in high school). Certainly, you won't find any dispute from me that the concepts there are relevant to a modern leader or to anyone for that matter. Still, I'm curious as to your reasoning for choosing it over any number of allegorical books written before our since - do you think there's something special that speaks to technology leaders? Likewise with The Invention Of Wings (which I haven't read). I suspect most good books could give inspiration to most anyone - what got this one on this list? Just a favorite of yours?
User Rank: Ninja
7/10/2014 | 10:42:02 AM
Re: Great, more books on my list
I read two other books by Sue Monk Kidd -- very well written. I just put in a request for the one you recommended. 
User Rank: Moderator
7/10/2014 | 10:14:35 AM
Re: Great, more books on my list
Sounds more interesting than any of the ones in the article, I may actually try to find this one.
User Rank: Author
7/9/2014 | 6:11:54 PM
Great, more books on my list
I've not read Seth Godin's work beyond his blogging (which I like), so this offers a good place to start.

At the IW Conference, Adrian Cockcroft (of Battery Venture, formerly Netflix) pitched the book the Phoenix Project, as a fictional story of an IT project gone terribly wrong. It's written as a tech-centric tribute to the classic The Goal.
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