One of our favorite parts of this blog has been our “3 Questions” series, where we talk with various industry leaders about things that are important to them. Frankly, we’ve been blown away by the caliber of people who are willing to engage with us. So for this last “3 Questions” piece of the year (we’re off next week and will be publishing just twice the last week of the year), we thought we’d showcase some of the “3 Questions” answers we liked best over the year.

Dr. A. Michael Berman is vice president for technology and communication for California State University Channel Islands, but what he had to say about the type of IT demands he receives could apply to any CIO, not just university ones.

“We're getting pressure from all sides. Users are much more sophisticated. There was a time when we could give them tech tools and say, ‘Well, that's as good as it gets. If you need more training, read the manual.’ Now they're often frustrated, annoyed or angry because what we have to offer them is so inferior to what they've become used to.”

 We loved what Rand Fishkin, former CEO of Moz Software, had to say about simplicity in design.

“Human beings love and crave the simple, the easy, and the intuitive. Yet, we're surrounded by a world of increasing complexity, nuance, and bombardment. When design delivers simplicity, it's like a wave of refreshing revitalization washing over us. Simple design is harder. It's more time-consuming. It's the exception, rather than the rule. And that's why it's so incredibly valuable.”

Dr. Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center and on the faculty at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, talked to us about how the Obama campaign used social media and how its strategy applies to business.

“The interesting thing is that the Obama campaign was able to make big data very human. They'd run all of the data through their systems and use it to connect people to people. There are people of the populace who vilify Google and Amazon, and ignore the political arena, where the information is parsed and used to contact people in a directed way. There's not much difference between Facebook targeted ads and political ones.”

Now retired, Bill Ives, a former partner with the Merced Group, had this to say about the role and future of knowledge management.

“Knowledge management is giving people the knowledge/information/wisdom/content/whatever that they need to do their job, and giving it to them while they’re doing their job. Training is what you do before you start your job; knowledge management is what supports you while you’re doing your job. It’s a very simple distinction. It’s archiving and creating this information in an accessible way so everyone else can benefit. Knowledge is one of the assets of a company that gets better, instead of declines, the more you use it.

He also said this about business processes:

“Some people say it’s not about the technology, but about the people. It is about the people, but that’s a dangerous oversimplification. Technology is in some ways even more important. When it’s standalone, it has to have all the features and capabilities. You really need technology integration, with systems of engagement and systems of transactions. If you just focus on people and adoption and business process management, and don’t deal with technical integration issues, you’re not going to be successful. If you forget the technical piece of it, you’re not going to be successful. Just like if you forget the people, you’re not going to be successful.”

Bill Greeves, chief information officer of Wake County, N. C., which includes the capital city of Raleigh and parts of the high-tech Research Triangle, had this insight about simplifying business processes.

“What we have seen in the last couple years is that we are transforming the way this department operates. Now that we’ve got stuff like the cloud, and consumerization of IT, everything is much easier for people to get, in terms of hardware and software. It used to be that IT was the gatekeeper of all this stuff, and if you wanted anything, you had to come through us. We did our best to make that a painless process, but you don’t have to do that anymore. We get a lot done with host systems and software to get around long-standing processes. We’re changing our culture to be less of a utility provider and more of a business partner. “

HR consultant Chris Fields talked about the value of diversity in IT.

“I’m a big fan of diversity in all positions, and I’ve had debates with other recruiters and HR people about diversity in IT. Some say, ‘In IT, you just need a certain amount of talent, you don’t need diversity.’ Well, in my experience in work, people who brought different things to the table helped us. It has always been a benefit. What female IT professionals go through (I’m not a female IT person, and I don’t know what they see vs. a male-dominated team), they add something that can be slightly different. Different experiences make things better. You never know what experience someone might have had that could help your team if you don’t try it. “

Musician and innovation consultant Dan Keldsen had some great advice for CIOs who wanted to become more of a “Chief Innovation Officer.”

“The single biggest recommendation I can make for IT managers today is to stop thinking of yourselves as IT managers. Technology is a given for everyone today. If you're just managing the technology, sooner or later you aren't going to be needed any more. If, instead, you are more of a Chief Innovation Officer than a Chief Information Officer, then you are more a part of the future than the typical ‘keep the lights on’ IT staff.”

We loved this response from Avinash Kaushik, the digital marketing evangelist for Google, if only to teach us the phrase “data puking.”

“In a world of unlimited data (for free, if you use Google Analytics or Yahoo! Analytics, etc.), we can keep data puking until the cows come home and still have an infinite amount of work to do. The DMMM says to your analysts: ‘This is what's important, just these KPIs. Now go and do analysis just for those KPIs and come back with actions we should take — actions written in English — and skip the data puking.’ Win-Win.”

Finally, Todd Sander, executive director of the Center for Digital Government, had this to say about digital counties – but it applies to any IT organization.

“Really, it’s kind of amazing what can be done without a lot of money if you have the right leadership and the focus of what the technology can do. Factors include leadership, focus, and the priority that a government of any size puts on technology. Some see IT as an answer to current challenges and economic stressors, while other see it as an overhead cost that should be contained. There’s a real difference based largely on how they view it.”

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