About 15 years ago, I graduated from Salisbury State University, a small school in Maryland, just east of the Chesapeake Bay.
Why yes, I have heard that joke before, thank you.
Salisbury was a small school in the middle of a region known for corn, chickens, and seafood. In fact, the largest IT employers in the area were Purdue Farms, the number two producer of chickens in the United States, and the local hospital.
After graduation, I interviewed with both: Purdue was most excited because it had just beaten Tyson on turkey, moving to number one in that market. It was a big deal in small-town America.
The main reason to stay local was exactly that: A small town, with a relaxed pace of life. Biologists and sociologists agree that a lower pace of life leads to decreased blood pressure, a lower resting heart rate, and a better quality of life, by nearly any measure.
I ended up moving to Michigan, but took a job on the west side, mostly to avoid the traffic.
Pace of life in the enterprise
The year was 1997, and the Internet was about to take off. Dreams of overnight millionaires fueled caffeine-infused evenings and weekends. On one challenging project, I joked that if the company would buy dinner, I would bring in a cot and stay overnight. (I have one of those nice GI cots that feels just like a twin bed.)
We’ve learned a lot since those days, but our goal -- reduce time from concept to market -- was right. If we cut time to market, we can improve client satisfaction and have a bottom-line impact on the business.
Over the next 10 years, we did a lot right. We took advantage of virtualization to cut time-to-new-server from months to minutes -- and saved hardware costs at the same time. We got rid of the three-ring binder that was out of date before it was printed, replacing it with wikis, micro-blogging, and other collaboration tools.
Today, organizations I work with are moving toward software-defined networking, making plug-and-play routers a reality. They are also dipping their toes into cloud computing, taking virtualization and making it self-service for development/testing and elastic for production.
Location, location, location
You can now work for a Fortune 100 company with headquarters in London, New York, Los Angeles, or Tokyo from your home office in Idaho, the Lake District, or rural Sweden. The same technologies that allow us this freedom, however, also mean the steady erosion of personal versus work time. How often have you checked something work-related from your smartphone during the weekend or connected via your tablet while away on vacation?
Yeah. I thought so.
It's important, though, that IT executives make sure employees take time to -- literally – disconnect from time to time. Just as our smartphone batteries need to run down and then get a full recharge occasionally, it's equally important that we, the people who use these technologies, treat our bodies and minds with at least equal care.
The challenge is to improve the pace of IT -- without increasing our heart rate, blood pressure, or killing our quality of life.
I’ve listed a few things, but they are the common and obvious. I’m curious: What are you doing? Do you have any suggestions?
I’m all ears.