Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Inevitability of Change

In a recent article in the MIT Technology Review, author David Rotman quotes assertions by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee revealing that “impressive advances in computer technology—from improved industrial robotics to automated translation services—are largely behind the sluggish employment growth of the last 10 to 15 years.” My initial reaction was one of concern but, at the same time, if their assumptions are correct, I would not want to throttle technological advancement to keep the status quo. For me, it comes down to the fact that the information technology world is changing and jobs are changing. The questions that I ask myself are these: “Am I changing, and am I in a position to take advantage of this changing world?”


Information has traditionally been tangential to main business processes but has never been the process itself. It is either used as an input to a business process or becomes an output. Now, there are whole companies and whole industries built solely on the brokering, storage, and exchange of information. Information now is the business process. Information is the product. While it is true that technology, and, more specifically, information technology has replaced some traditional jobs and careers, it has also created brand new fields and opportunities.

New Beginnings

I am just starting a new course today in Information Systems and Management; this new start always spurs my thinking about the changing landscape of information technology. I also think about the inevitability of change, especially in the IT field. We can either view change as an opportunity or a threat. We can either fear change or embrace it.

Fear of Change

As the information technology field changes, information professionals need to change also. This is a fast-paced field, and we need to keep abreast of the latest offerings, technologies, and breakthroughs. To be afraid of change is to be afraid of opportunities. A number of years ago, I had a colleague who was a computer operator (I go back a long ways). As the world transitioned away from central computing to personal computing, the computer room and the computer operator position disappeared. Unfortunately, my colleague did not keep up with the changes, mainly due to fear and apathy, and he eventually lost his job. It was unfortunate but inevitable.

The Next Chapter

The struggle today is how to deal with mobile devices and how to sort out and analyze increasing amounts of information. The challenge is to make sense of all of the data that we are generating and make intelligent decisions based on those findings. There are abundant opportunities out there if we are willing to stretch and learn and apply our skills. Are we learning all we can to meet the challenges? Do we have the right skill set to sort out the thorniest problems? What do we need to do to upgrade our skills and retool?


What are you doing today to prepare for the next chapter? What are your long-term plans? Are you ready? Let me know your thoughts.


Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown
Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT topics that keep him up at night.

Maintaining Our Technology Lead


Recently, there was an article published in Information Week in which author and former Department of Transportation CIO Nitin Pradhan posed the question: “Do we need a U.S. Department of Technology?” Pradhan lays out his argument for a U.S. cabinet level department of technology to promote technology education and technology jobs in the U.S. I disagree and would like to offer an alternate view on how we can address the same issue.

The Issue

Mr. Pradhan argues that we need a centralized coordination point to retain our global technology lead and that we should combine current technology departments for efficiency and to have one strong voice. He writes, “Tech industries grow because of the availability of research and development dollars, a high-quality education system, a tech-savvy workforce, a large local technology marketplace and government incentives.” I agree with all except the last point, and that is where our thoughts diverge.

Early Education

A business maintains competitive advantage by investing in superior research and by hiring superior people that can carry out that research. I believe the key to developing those superior people lies in early education. The key lies in providing an engaging and compelling education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). If young people are excited about these fields, then they will be excited about finding new ways to use technology. This is what will lead them to maintain our technological edge. Since early education in the U.S. is largely a public function, then I agree with Mr. Pradhan that we need some governmental coordination. However, this needs to be done in lockstep with private industry that are the beneficiaries of this new talent, and I would argue that the push should be led by private industry. Larger government programs would only hinder the progress.


Here is my early intervention proposal for increasing interest in technology and working to maintain our lead in the world:

  • Bring real world technology applications and research into the classroom. This benefits the school by raising the awareness and interest of the students. It benefits the business by increasing their exposure to future employees and by garnering ideas from a broader audience. Crowdsourcing ideas from a middle school? Why not?
  • Encourage post secondary education in STEM by providing high school job shadowing opportunities with people who are creating the future. These could be in information technology, bioinformatics, or technology research.
  • The technology industry can step up to take the lead on creating this future. There are already several consortiums and associations formed to address various intercompany and interindustry problems. This education lead could be housed through one of the existing associations, to be co-led by an existing government agency.


The need exists and the desire exists to maintain our technology lead. The key is partnering to make technology exciting and fulfilling so that we can attract brilliant minds to help create our future. Do you agree? Are there other ways to reach this future state? Let me know your thoughts.


Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT topics that keep him up at night.

The Ideal AIM Candidate

Cheerful interviewer shaking hand of an applicant in her officeAIM Applications

We are starting to see applications to the Applied Information Management (AIM) Master of Science Degree Program for Winter 2014. In reviewing them, it got me to thinking about what it is that I really look for in an AIM applicant and who will hopefully become a successful AIM student and graduate.


At the heart of it all, I am looking for a clear record of an applicant’s professional and academic history. There is no need to add extraneous or superfluous honors and activities if they do not support your core message. Less is more. If you can explain your history in a shorter format but still convey your message, fantastic; if you can find a fresh format, even better.


There is not a lot you can do about your transcripts at this point; they are what they are. BUT, if you did go through a period of distraction and failed grades during your undergraduate experience, please find a way to explain the situation. If you don’t offer any detail about that time period, then I will assume that you are OK with your record, but usually I am not. It could be a prediction of things to come.


Tell me about yourself and some of the choices and influences that brought you to where you are today. Tell me about some of the experiences that shaped your life. Sell me on your life story and why you are a good candidate for the AIM Program.

Statement of Purpose

Elaborate on your autobiography and tell me what it is you are looking for in life and how you expect the AIM Program to further your progress toward that goal. How can the AIM Program help you grow and develop to achieve your vision? Conversely, how can you help the AIM Program and the other students that you will be working with? What experiences do you bring to the program that will further the understanding of your fellow students and help enhance their experience? Finally, tell me about your experiences with distributed learning and distributed teams. If you do not have experience in these areas, tell me about your plan to succeed as a student in a distributed online learning environment.


Choose people that can speak to your skills and your potential to succeed in the AIM online graduate program. Choose people who may already be thinking about your next role, post graduation. Mentors are great because they know your strengths and weakness and hopefully realize your potential to succeed in the AIM Program as well as your potential to succeed and grow with your organization.


In short, we are looking for intelligent, hard-working individuals who have had some life successes already and who show promise for even greater success with help from the AIM Program. We are looking for individuals who are open to learning and open to helping others be successful in their learning.

If you are in the AIM Program or have graduated from the AIM Program, congratulations! If you are thinking about joining us, I look forward to meeting you soon.


Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT topics that keep him up at night.

My Eight Favorite Tech Sites

People sometimes ask me which sites I track to keep up on tech and business news. The Information Umbrella is dedicated to answering that question with a short explanation as to WHY I choose and trust these sites:


This site gives me the latest news and articles at a glance. I can also drill down to specific areas of interest such as data centers, mobile, big data, etc. I get a short summary e-mail each week with a list of articles that may be of interest to me.


CIO keeps me abreast of all things relevant to a CIO or senior IT manager. Like TechRepublic, I can also drill down to specific areas such as career, social media, and BYOD. I often research on this site when developing material for courses and other projects.


This site, which is sponsored by the Wall Street Journal, keeps me up to date on financial news as well as relevant tech news. I have programmed it to send me tech updates in e-mail so that I can keep up with the latest news.

IT White Papers

This is a compilation of tech white papers centered on specific topics such as data centers or virtualization or mobile computing. These are helpful if I am working on a particular tech problem. Be aware that most—if not all—of these white papers are written by technology vendors with a slant toward their product offering.


I maintain a large network of professional colleagues. LinkedIn helps me keep track of their activities as well as providing unique content and reposting of relevant articles, mostly on business but some also on technology.


I have used Cnet for years. It not only keeps me up to date on tech news but also provides reviews on tech equipment, consumer electronics, and applications.

Perceptual Edge

This site keeps me current on the latest thinking around information visualization. This is a blog written by Stephen Few, an expert in data visualization and data organization.

TED Talks

I love this site when I have a few minutes for learning and exploration. These are short talks on everything from economics to technology to social trends. I often find that they influence my thinking on unrelated projects that I am working on.


If you visit these sites enough, you may want to sign up for their premium service, which is often free, but does come with e-mails and vendor solicitations. If you can put up with that, these are very valuable in keeping up to date on the latest tech and business news.


Which sites keep you coming back for more? Do you tailor them to your particular needs, such as virtual computing or mobile computing? Do these sites provide all of the updates you need to stay informed? Let me know. I would love to see your list.


Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT topics that keep him up at night.