Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Can Your “Non-Tech” Company Afford To Skip an Experienced CTO?

This is a programmer’s blog, in general. I often get down to bits & bytes of computer programming techniques. I want to take a moment to consider this, though, to help some of my less technically focused friends.

Unless your company is directly hawking tech related services or products, you might not think of yourself as a “tech” company. Even if you sell via digital marketplaces such as websites, you might not think of yourself as a “tech” company. Can you get away with rolling without considering technology in your strategy?

I get it. You probably don’t provide tools for computer programmers, or computer hardware builders. You have a savvy friend who helps you with your company web site, and another one who helps you decide what laptop model to give your top staff.

That said, you have competition that’s constantly re-inventing YOUR business model with technology. Even if a startup doesn’t come out of the woodwork to take a crack at your market, a goliath like Amazon is likely already stirring the pot. By cutting across every market in the known universe, Amazon may not technically be a monopoly, but they are using technology (and especially Artificial Intelligence) to scale and stack the odds against you.

What is a CTO? A Chief Technology Officer is a title and role usually associated with someone in the executive suite of a generally publicly traded company. That said, a CTO can be a role of a privately held company, as well.

What does a CTO do, exactly? The specifics of the roles differ from company to company… especially in larger enterprises that can afford to have these roles distributed over a larger team of individuals. The following is a general description of what a CTO does. In many larger companies, a CTO role may be split across a team, with teammates having titles like Chief Intellectual Property Officer, Chief Security Officer, Chief Information Officer, and such.

The bottom line for these roles is to do what any CxO role does; improve the overall value of the organization to its stakeholders, within some aspect of technology.

Chief Technology Officer

A CTO “chief technology officer” is responsible, at the topmost level, for some or all of following:

  • Business strategy from a technological viewpoint.
    • First and foremost, a CTO is responsible for making sure technology serves the business needs and strategies of the company.
    • This means keeping an eye on technologies, their benefits, how much they cost, how they play together with technologies already at play in your company. Where possible it may even mean being aware of high-level technologies at play in your competitor’s companies.
    • This also means understanding the total costs and return on investment. In the way that a home renovator should be making sure a renovation project adds to the resale value of your home, a CTO should be making sure technical aspects of business strategy add to the “resale” value of your business.
      • Is there an appliance that would do the trick?
      • Is there a service?
      • Which solution costs the most up front?
      • Which will have the best total cost of ownership?
      • Should we build our own solution?
        • Should we hire a contractor to build a solution for us?
      • Which will provide the best strategic / competitive advantage?
      • Is there an opportunity for Artificial Intelligence
      • Which cloud provider(s) have offer the best value for your needs?
  • Technical evangelism
    • This is about being the technical face of the company which can aid in partnership relations, cross-partnership automation, technical talent hiring, big-picture technical vendor selection, and mergers and acquisitions.
    • This also means helping other employees adopt new technology solutions, and train them to use them correctly.
  • Technical security
    • There is a balance between security/risk and convenience/reward that every technology solution needs to strike. The CTO is responsible for overseeing that balance related to technology.
    • Technical security is also about maintaining the trust of the people who use the solutions, that the solution is correct, does the needed job, and does so while limiting the company’s risks.
  • Technical project oversight
    • While a CTO isn’t a generally a project manager in the classic sense, the CTO does oversee the technical aspects of the project. This includes helping to guide project requirements, making sure implementers have the tools they need to get the job done, and making sure project decisions are practical in terms of budget and return on investment.
    • It’s also about making sure projects are built according to requirements and needs, and remain on strategy as they are being built.
    • Technical review of vendor and product selection falls in the area.
  • Technical debt management
    • No technical decision comes without some recurring cost. This recurring cost is typically a trade-off; the lower the up-front cost, the higher the technical debt tends to be. Sometimes technical debt is a subscription fee. Other times, technical debt can be in the form of a sub-process that must be done “manually” because it costs too much to automate.
    • As solutions age, they become less competitive, thus contributing to technical debt.
    • Integrations between systems are often contributors to technical debt. Proper analysis will show which integrations should be automated, and which can be left to “manual” workflows.
  • Technical team management
    • A CTO is often responsible for helping to identify and hire candidates for internal positions, including technical systems implementers and integrators.
    • A CTO needs to know when to delegate. Delegation may be in terms of individual tasks to teammates, or project management.

A CTO is not responsible for having all the answers on the tip of their tongue, but for knowing how to find appropriate expertise within a reasonable time frame as needed.

There’s a number of reasons why bringing a CTO on staff might seem difficult.

One way to get started is to consider bringing a consultant on board to serve in the role.

Such a consultant will

  • be able to work part time with you while demands are lower, potentially splitting their own needs across other clients like you, thus lowering your costs.
  • be focused on the guidance and success of your business strategies while working for you.
  • be willing to sign non disclosure and non-compete agreements.
  • be ready to help you find a permanent placement for the role as the role grows into the need.
  • perform all the functions of a classic CTO while in this capacity for you.

In conclusion, there’s a no reason any company of any size today should not think of themselves as a technology company. Further, as such, having a person in the role of a Chief Technology Officer is more than practical. In all but the smallest of businesses, it’s fully necessary.

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Ability Week 2019 in Salem, NH

This looks like a fantastic lineup of events being presented in the week of May 16th-23rd, generously hosted by our friends at the Microsoft Store in Salem, NH. (I’m not involved, nor is Granite State Users Groups… I’m just posting to help get the word out for a worthy cause.)

Microsoft at The Mall at Rockingham Park | Ability Week 2019

Free accessibility resources

Join Ability Week’s free workshops for insights and tools to support people with hearing, vision, mobility, and learning disabilities.

Make your Business More Accessible

One in five people live with an accessibility issue.

This free workshop shows you how no-cost tools in Windows 10 and Office365 can make your business more accessible for both employees and your customers.

In one hour, you’ll learn:

  • how to create an inclusive culture and hiring process
  • how to build accessible materials
  • what ongoing accessibility resources and tools are available

Register today!

Thursday, 5/16 12PM-1PM

Monday, 5/20 9AM-10AM

Tuesday, 5/21 6PM-7PM

Thursday. 5/23 12PM-1PM

Be empowered by technology with Microsoft accessibility tools

In this free, one-hour workshop, you’ll learn accessibility features in Windows 10 and Office 365 relevant to your life. You will leave empowered to communicate and experience the world through these tools.  During this workshop, you will:

  • Learn how Microsoft’s assistive technology can empower how you communicate, learn, and experience the world.
  • Explore accessibility tools and features of Windows 10 and Office 365.
  • Discover relevant Microsoft resources and ways to continue your learning after the workshop.

Register today!

Thursday, 5/16 10AM-11AM

Friday, 5/17 11AM-12PM

Saturday, 5/18 12PM-1PM

Sunday, 5/19 11AM-12PM

Monday, 5/20 1PM-2PM

Tuesday, 5/21 2PM-3PM

Wednesday, 5/22 6PM-7PM

Thursday, 5/23 7PM-8PM

Explore inclusive technologies for people on the autism spectrum with Windows 10 and Office 365

This free workshop shows you how to activate and use accessible and inclusive features built into Windows 10 and Office 365 that may support people on the autism spectrum. In just one hour, participants learn:

  • Tech built for different learning styles and abilities
  • Microsoft Learning Tools
  • Resources to use accessibility features from Microsoft

Register today!

Friday, 5/17 10AM-11AM

Saturday, 5/18 11AM-12PM

Wednesday, 5/22 12PM-1PM

Empowering students affected by Dyslexia with Windows 10 and Office 365

Are you looking for more tools to support your students or child who may need a boost in reading comprehension and confidence, including those affected by dyslexia? Would you like to learn how to access and use the accessibility features built into Windows10 and Office 365? Please join us at the Microsoft store for a free, informative, and hands-on workshop introducing educators and parents or caregivers to the Microsoft Learning Tools that implement proven techniques to improve reading and writing for people regardless of their age or ability.

Participants will:

  • Explore tools to empower different learning styles and abilities, and tools to support students with disabilities.
  • Get hands-on experience with Microsoft applications and tools including Learning Tools, the Ease of Access menu, and accessibility and productivity features of Office 365.
  • Gain resources to continue to explore Learning Tools and accessibility tools and features.

Register today!

Tuesday, 5/21 10AM-11AM

Wednesday, 5/22 10AM-11AM

Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit Workshop ages 8+ Autism friendly event

This free autism-friendly workshop introduces students eight and up to foundational coding concepts through the Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit wand, drag-and-drop coding, and Harry Potter spell motions, creatures, and artefacts. Alternate activities allow a broad level of participation, and parents are welcome to join with their child.

The parent, legal guardian, or authorized adult caregiver of every workshop participant under 17 years of age must sign a Participation Agreement upon arrival and remain in Microsoft Store for the duration of the event.

Register today!

Monday, 5/20 5PM-6PM

Students and educators always get 10% off at Microsoft Store. See full terms at

“Be passionate and bold. Always keep learning. You stop doing useful things if you don’t learn”

– Satya Nadella

For more information about these events:

Contact: 603.328.3260
Email: mdunham < at >

images © Microsoft 2019, used with permission

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP)

Jim Wilcox – 2019-2020 Microsoft MVP – Developer Technologies

This showed up in the mail today! Despite the April 1st date, it’s not an April Fools’ gag after all! I’ve only ever seen one of these trophies in person before this one. I’ve been trying to stay chill about it…. but heck, here it is…

I’m profoundly honored and thankful to say that Microsoft has chosen to award me with this 2019-2020 “Most Valuable Professional” (MVP) award, in the category of Developer Technologies!

If you’re not familiar with this award program, check out the program’s official web site:

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

v.Next Enterprise (You & Kroger)

krogerI ran across this article from Forbes on LinkedIn.  It’s an interesting bit about how Kroger is reacting to the threat that Amazon/Whole Foods suddenly represents in its market segment.

The Amazon/Whole Foods merger represents a heavily modernized re-make of a traditional business, and it is expected to put grave pressure on the rest of the grocery segment.

If your market segment isn’t feeling this kind of pressure already, you likely will be soon.

Your business has only a couple of choices when it comes to modernization.

  1. React to the pressure that your market segment is under already.
  2. Begin preemptively, and be the pressure the rest of your market segment feels going forward.

I remember the days of building “nextgen” software.  That model has scoped up a few times, to vNext services, to next gen infrastructure / cloud, to vNext IT division.

Either way, it’s time to start developing your company’s “nextgen enterprise” strategy.



Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Windows 10 and the Near Zero Hardware Liability Enterprise

With Windows 10, Microsoft is re-defining the BYOD (bring your own device) game, and it’s a subtly aggressive move that many will probably appreciate.

No, really.  Like you, I have heard “BYOD game-changer” shticks before, and dismissed it as marketing hype.  Hear me out.  (And also keep in mind that folks once often said “never” with respect to the cloud… but “never” is a lot longer than folks tend to look.)

Let me start by describing what I mean by “near zero hardware liability”.

There are already smaller organizations out there that have completely moved their hardware behind the wizard’s curtain. That is, they own little to no IT hardware themselves (with little to no capital expense, depreciation, or hardware liability.) These companies are typically small, use the cloud to support their infrastructure & services hardware, and BYOD for their employees’ desktop machines.

While cloud services are making serious headway into the enterprise, BYOD has been an arguably harder sell. The whole concept of BYOD has been largely dismissed by most larger companies because BYOD in in the Windows 7 (and prior) world can’t be managed.  Policy can’t be addressed and applied.  Data can’t be protected on an “unmanaged” employee owned device.  Hardware depreciation, liability, and support is kinda small compared to the other liabilities involved.

Imagine a more classically European view of the world however.  In Europe, a user’s computer traditionally is considered to be only a step away from personal property.  Like the days of being given a company car, the days of being issued a PC by your employer may well be coming to an end. 

At the Windows 10 Pre-flight Summit in Redmond this week (6/1-2), it seems the word of the day isn’t so much about “upgrade”.  It is, but there’s a bigger word floating around. 

It’s “provisioning”, or enrolling a device in an enterprise.

In Windows 10, the word “upgrade” is going to die.  It’s not just one platform for multiple devices.  It’s not just one platform for now, until Windows 11.  It’s one platform for the coming decades.  Upgrade to Windows 10, sure.  Update Windows 10, yes.  Upgrade from Windows 10, not in the works.  It’s also one very personal platform in more ways than one.

The day may be coming when part of a hiring decision (both by employee and employer) may be that an employee has devices of their own to bring to the table.  The employee will have their own support network, their own personal liability, and in order to accept the job, the employee must be willing to provision their devices with their employer.

Provisioning a device means the device gets an enterprise managed workspace, as us developers would say, a sandbox where all managed apps and app data live.  Provisioning also sets a minimum acceptable standard policy on the device.  If the device can’t meet the provisioning policy requirements, it won’t be accepted…  (sorry Charlie, you need new hardware.)

I speculate on how much effort it would save companies if they could have the security & policy management without the hardware ownership overhead, but I bet, all told, it would be pretty significant. 

In many ways it will be similar to the car analogy…  you can’t expect to keep a job if you can’t manage your own transportation sufficiently to get you there when you need to be there.

This is also a very aggressive tactic. Imagine an enterprise deciding to implement BYOD, and it’s very successful… to the point where you can’t really get a job at that company without bringing a Windows 10 device.  Is that a labor issue? 

By kicking down as many objections to BYOD as possible, Microsoft may even be looking to drive adoption from the bottom up. Rather than the CIO/CTO decreeing and pushing Windows 10 down, the BYOD user will use Windows 10’s features to overcome the BYOD objections.  Tired of the “golf cart” class standard issue machine at work, a power user brings in their own “hot rod”, and harasses IT until IT realizes the objections can be sufficiently mitigated with Windows 10… and the floodgates open.

I also speculate on the ramifications of the job market.  I could easily envision a day when the mark of a more desirable employee would be the higher end hardware they bring with them.  Imagine how it might re-invigorate the PC market if employee competition drove sales.  Imagine the PC becoming more important than the automobile in terms of employability-driving hardware, as a competitive attribute of an employee.  (The mark of a good chef is their knife set.  The mark of a solid information worker may be their laptop.)

It won’t hit all at once on July 29th.  It all has a ways to go.  It is a very thought provoking possibility.  What do you think? Is this on the path to Tomorrowland?

Edit 6/3:  Day 2 of the conference points out that Hyper-V 6.2 included in some editions of Windows 10 will enable virtualized Trusted Platform Module (v-TPM).  This means that an employer could provide a secure, Bitlocker enabled VM to an employee (which may or may not be provisioned), rather than provisioning the employee’s device as a directly provisioned system.   Yet another way to make BYOD a more Enterprise friendly policy.

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Net Neutrality and the Return of AOL

For cable TV customers, there’s something oddly familiar about the idea of channel providers.  Trading off television channels by switching cable TV providers has long been commonplace in regions where there’s more than one cable TV provider, and long been the envy of those who don’t live in such regions.  If Time-Warner wants to cut off CBS over contract issues, and you live in a place where you only have Time-Warner, you don’t get your NCIS fix.

Flashback to a couple decades ago…  America Online, GEnie, and CompuServe WERE the “Internet”.  If you wanted IN on the “online craze” you had to go to one or more of these companies and buy your seat at their table.  Companies didn’t advertise their web URLs.  They advertised their AOL keywords.  CompuServe had great educational content providers, but AOL was king of chat at a time when chat was king.  Most companies flocked to AOL as a result, and so AOL wasn’t just an ISP, it was THE digital content channel provider.

The channel model died with the rise in popularity of the Internet.   Suddenly, all you needed to connect content to customers was the same thing that everyone needed.  A connection.  Thanks to a convention called “Net Neutrality”, the channel model built by services such as AOL & CompuServe were walls that were knocked down.  Your connection was every “channel”, simultaneously, all the time, with no bundling.  As a business, wanting to publish and contribute your content as a channel, you had only to invest in your own connection, and a little technical infrastructure, and you were in.

Facebook has taken serious shots at bringing the channel model back.  If you want to play certain online games or see some online content, you must join Facebook… and content/gaming providers who want to participate in that must come to agreements with Facebook, of course. 

Yet, with the breakdown of Net Neutrality, the pendulum is swinging solidly back to the channel provider model.  Your ISP now has the right to decide what traffic they carry over their networks and/or throttle performance from different content significantly…  if they want to cut back on Netflix… they can.  If they want to nix Google services, whatever.

Clearly this happened almost instantly with recent judicial rulings…  The jinni is already out of the bottle.  Verizon has decided to effectively drop the “Netflix channel” by cutting Netflix’ bandwidth down to reportedly unusable levels.  This means if you’re on Verizon and were using Netflix, you either have to find a new video streaming service, or you have to find a new channel service provider. 

How long will it be before this impacts every Internet service provider (and even cellular network providers, since VOIP services are reducing them to ISPs as well)?  

Here’s some fictitious quotes from a not so hard to see future (roughly within the next decade):

  • “I left Verizon for Time-Warner because Verizon charges too much for the Office 365 and Facebook channels.  Comcast is tempting, though, because they have Google Hangouts and enhanced YouTube in their HD package.” 
  • “I wish Verizon had the same educational channels as T-Mobile or Sprint, though, cause my kids could use that for school.”  
  • “Thankfully my channel provider and my folks across the country both have enhanced Skype.  I can’t Skype my sister at all, though.”
  • “I had to switch banks when I switched carriers.  AT&T hasn’t come to an agreement with my old bank, so I couldn’t use their online services.”
  • “Amazon’s gone bust since they failed to become a viable channel provider, and every other channel provider decided to compete against them.”
  • “Google is the new AOL.  Most folks can’t even get online except thru Google Fiber. Your business does not have an online presence unless it’s thru them.  It’s too bad your competitors already have exclusive agreements with them.”

ISPs love this, because as cable TV providers will tell you, there’s a lot of pricing power in being a channel provider, but not so much is being a connection provider. 

Businesses will struggle with this, however, because getting your website on the Internet will become a much more complicated proposition.  Sure, you’ll be able to get online the same, but your content won’t be carried the same.   Essentially, small business content will be at the whim of “local access channels” provided by each channel provider.  They’ll all have their own rules and regulations, and even more importantly, their own fees.  Is your audience growing?  You’ll have to hammer out deals with each channel provider to make sure your content gets to all your customers.

Further, how long will it be before we start having a resurgence in custom network interface hardware to the point of ending Wi-Fi and Ethernet as we know it?  We’ve already seen netbooks and tablets that have wireless Internet service tied to specific cellular carriers.  I’d be willing to bet that as channel providers gain hold and start to flex their newfound muscles, a breakdown in connectivity standards will take hold.

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

What’s Hiding Behind “Low Resolution” Metrics?

100 data points

I’m a software application developer, but I get this.  Metrics are the photographs of business. 

While I’m at it, here’s another classic cliché for ya…  “A picture’s worth a thousand words.” 

What if your picture has been reduced to a small number of data points? 

You get something like the image on the left…  there’s actually 100 data points in that image:  the resolution has been reduce to a very small number of pixels, each expressed as a block of color.  (The image it was originally reduced from is about 40,000 data points.)  

Anyway, this is what metrics are to a business… data points that, when taken collectively, become the model or picture of the state of the company.

Standard GAAP accounting is supposed to provide a meaningful definition of metrics for any company, of any size, and for some purposes this may be sufficient.

Problems generally come in with the specialization of a company… the metrics it measures its own processes and performance by. 

Too many metrics, and it can’t all be taken in… like getting a close up of the whisker I missed when I shaved.  (From the “be careful of what you wish for” department.)  Thankfully that doesn’t happen very often;  it’s hard to imagine justifying the expense of that kind of metric “resolution”. 

It’s far more likely there are too few metrics. 

Imagine what it would look like if we reduced the resolution of the picture further… say to one data point.

Imagine, for example, if you only considered the price of a share of common stock in trying to get an idea of how well a company is performing.   Indeed, that’s definitely a “single pixel” view, and it really won’t tell you anything about the stock or the company attached to it.

Now take this, again, to internal processes.  Let’s imagine a bank that measures its loan officers only by their average ROI on loans. 

Ok… so that’s a silly extreme, but let’s just run with it for a moment…

Imagine trying to provide a bonus-impacting performance review of a loan officer when the only metric you had was the ROI on their loans. The average interest rate of the loan may be a valuable metric, but only when taken with other metrics. 

It won’t be long before all the loan officers are writing a few extremely short term loans for a penny at hundreds to thousands of percent interest.  Hey, for $99.99, ROI on the penny just netted someone another $10k in bonuses, right?  Again, a goofy extreme example, but you get the point.

This is a problem that’s plagued more than just a few business units… more than a few businesses, corporations, conglomerates.  Really, it’s impacted more than just a region, and even the nation.  Poor metrics beget poor metrics. In the global economy, poor metrics, taken collectively, have hidden a great number of sins that contributed significantly to the global downturn referred to as “The Great Recession”.   (Who wants to know where they’re going when they don’t like the answer, I guess, huh?)

No one, from your boss, to world governing bodies, can point the ship in the right direction without a clear picture of where we’re at.

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Developing Business Intelligence Apps for SharePoint

I happened across a copy of “Developing Business Intelligence Apps for SharePoint” at the local Barnes and Noble today!   

How could I not be psyched that Jason Himmelstein, good friend and co-organizer of the Granite State SharePoint Users Group, SharePoint Saturday New Hampshire, and the Granite State Windows Phone Users Group has copies of his book (co-authored with David Feldman) on the shelf at the book store?!   (and according to B&N’s website, it’s at stores all over NH…. and I’m sure well beyond that, too)   (ISBN: 978-1449320836)

The guy even had the nerve to put my name in it, too…  🙂

I’ll post my (fully unbiased) review as soon as I’m done reading it…  🙂

I also figure that if I can be in any small way an inspiration to someone accomplishing something like that, I might possibly have to stop resting on my published apps, give myself a boot in the butt and get some pages out there, too… as soon as I find time.  

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Time to Remodel the Kitchen?

A few good reasons to consider keeping your IT infrastructure up to snuff…

(I’m honored to have the post accepted & published on Edgewater’s blog.)  🙂