To the Point
Your remarks about PowerPoint are right on! [“What’s the Point?” Peer to Peer, Nov. 15, 2001.] I don’t use PowerPoint at all (I don’t run Windows), but I know that presentations can be just as devoid of thinking when using StarOffice (a PowerPoint-compatible program that runs on Red Hat Linux). I have some other suggestions for rooting out the evil of mindless PowerPointers. First, encourage everybody to read The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte (Graphics Press, 2001). This book is a tour de force on how well-presented information informs critical thinking, and how to spot the sloppy thinking (or worse, pure deceit) present in 90 percent of all graphics you see on a daily basis. In Tufte’s public lectures, he describes the information density spectrum and says, “At one end is PowerPoint?the lowest amount of data per square inch if you don’t include Pravda [the Soviet propaganda newspaper].”
There is value in creating a presentation that’s just bullet points, but the value is in the process of creating the presentation, not the presentation itself. What we do is pass out the presentation and then talk about all the issues we had to resolve to make the presentation appear as simple as it does. That makes for lively discussion.
I am sure that if you do start your Society for a PowerPoint-Free World, it will consist of citizens who are thoughtful, articulate and socially responsible when it comes to sharing ideas.
Who’s in Command?
When reading your article about the concept of a deputy CIO [“IT Takes Two,” Nov. 15, 2001], I was reminded of a parallel concept that has long been in operation in the U.S. Navy. Aboard ship, the executive officer (XO) fills a similar role to the deputy CIO. The XO keeps the ship operating from day to day, making sure all the necessary tasks are taken care of, while the captain concentrates on the overall mission of the ship. This works very well in practice, particularly when the two officers have complementary skills. For example, if the captain has an engineering background, it works best if the XO has an operations or weapons background. To extend this to the CIO/deputy CIO relationship, if the CIO has an application development background, then it would probably be best to select a deputy CIO that has a background in networking or operations.
Director of Networks
At my company, one of the largest IT shops in health care, the thought of being able to afford a deputy CIO didn’t seem to make sense. After all, health care has not been the most progressive area for IT leadership innovation. However, we currently find ourselves looking for a system support CIO. We have a centralized data center model for our 30 hospitals and found that having someone besides the CIO (myself) run 400 full-time IT employees and the operations center would be cost-effective.
Having a CIO who is specifically looking for problem prevention, reliability and other uptime measurements will pay for a second in command. We have had our position posted now for three weeks, and the biggest problem we have had is CIOs asking, “Is this a demotion?”
When the average CIO in health-care hospitals has a staff of less than 60, stepping into a second-in-command position with a shop of more than 400 is not a demotion!
Vice President of IS and CIO