3 Guiding Principles to Technology Acceptance

Bob Otto knows something about IT that delivers, having served as a programmer, security specialist and portfolio manager with the United States Postal Service before becoming CIO and CTO in January 2001. Prior to his Oct. 1 retirement, he spoke with senior writer Brian P. Watson about his experiences in IT management and what he sees in the future for CIOs. The following is an edited version of their conversation.

CIO INSIGHT: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen over the course of your career?
OTTO: It’s just so complex now. Lots of changes–things like wireless technologies, security, data breaches. All of this stuff factors in. If you think about in the 1960s and 1970s, most of us in IT had business problems, and people made decisions on technologies and tools from them. Nowadays you have to think about those same solutions with access from a Web page or handheld device, and it has to have load balancing that allows tens of thousands of users to access it, and it has to encrypt sensitive data like Social Security numbers.

How have you gotten your people to accept new technologies?
OTTO: I have three guiding principles–principles I’ve used since I was young. First, standardize everything. If you find a process you like, standardize it. Second, centralize everything you can. If you have services in five different places and you can centralize them, you will have reliability, predictability. Third, simplify. The computer has taken over your life, so I want it to be intuitive [for people to operate and manage]. I also test my own dog food. Everything we build has to pass the "Bob" factor. I put myself in the place of the lowest common denominator, of someone who might not have a high school degree. I look at how people could be intimidated by technology, and I don’t want them to have a hard time.

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