IT Confidential: The Tech Industry Could Use Some Good Advice

And you're just the person to provide it. Share your pent-up frustrations, your good and bad experiences, and, in particular, your free advice on the most vexing technology problems of the day.

John Soat, Contributor

June 8, 2007

3 Min Read

I've always considered Howard Beale a personal hero and something of a role model. Howard Beale is the deranged TV anchorman played by Peter Finch in the movie Network, the guy who gets people to go to the window and shout: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

Now, I'm not suggesting that you shout obscenities out your front window. Acceptance of that kind of thing varies by geography--New York City, maybe; Salt Lake City, not so much.

But aren't we due for a little venting? I'm talking here about the people involved with technology, the long-suffering souls who take what they're given by vendors and service providers and try to make it work. Maybe obscenity-laced rants aren't the most effective means of communication, so how about something more along the lines of free advice?

"Hey, Steve Ballmer, you know that Vista thing of yours--it's a real hardware hog."

There, I feel better now.

That desire for unburdening seems to be prevalent, based on the reaction to a blog written by my colleague Tom Smith. Tom unburdened himself about problems he's had with customer service at CompUSA and HP, among others ("Does Customer Service Still Exist?"; blog_customer.htm), and he asked readers to share their own experiences, both positive and negative. "Is the tech industry at all capable of providing decent customer service?" he writes.

It got me thinking about other topics that might need airing. I'm leading a discussion at our upcoming InformationWeek 500 Conference ("Celebrating IT Innovation," at the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa, Tucson, Ariz., Sept. 16-18; informationweek called "Free Advice," and I'm trying to figure out the topics that carry the most pent-up frustration. Here's a tentative list:

(1) Which vendors are good at customer service, and which stink? What advice would you give the laggards?

(2) Which vendors are the toughest to negotiate software/hardware/service contracts with? What advice would you give them to make things easier, simpler, more straightforward?

(3) What are the most vexing problems related to open source software? What advice would you give the open source community?

(4) What security problems are causing you the biggest headaches? What advice would you give security vendors, and your colleagues?

(5) What career advice would you give a college student studying information technology?

Let me know what you think. First, are these the right categories and the right questions? Second, what opinions, experiences--and advice--would you offer on these topics to the appropriate vendors/retailers/service providers? Go ahead, let it out. Venting is good for the soul.

This one's too good not to share. Last week, I attended the Kansas City IT Symposium, a local IT community conference. One of the presenters was Dan Jarvis, the IT director of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County. He was introduced as the CIO, but he corrected the moderator by pointing out that his actual title is Chief Information, E-government, and Internet Officer. That makes him--as he readily admitted--the C-I-E-I-O.

You can't make this stuff up.

Forget the industry tips. Send your opinions, experiences, and especially your free advice to [email protected], or phone them in at 516-562-5326.

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit John Soat's forum.

To find out more about John Soat, please visit his page.

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