The Domestic CIO
by Tony Kontzer
As I prepare to move for the fifth time in four years, I've become aware that somewhere along the line, I assumed the role of a CIO. CIO of my house, that is.
I'm sure I'm not alone in this realization. Something tells me a lot of you have been put in charge of your expanding household IT environments. Laugh if you must, but what not long ago was a jokey male rite of passage--connecting stereo wires, hooking up televisions, and setting VCRs--has evolved into a veritable morass of networking, process and software updates, and troubleshooting. And it's not just the equipment--people have changed, too. We've become increasingly dependent on computers and wireless devices, and the connections between them, to manage our lives and entertain ourselves. The more you think about that, the more the idea that the modern household needs its own IT department starts to make sense.
Consider my household of three people. We're hardly a bleeding-edge, state-of-the-art model for the wired home, yet with two computers, a wireless network, three MP3 players, three smart phones, three flat-screen TVs, three digital cameras, a digital video camera, and a growing assortment of video game systems, getting everything up and running as it's supposed to is a project that requires hours, if not days, of tinkering and problem-solving, not to mention a steady stream of expletives. With my son entering 7th grade, it's only a matter of time before he'll need his own computer, adding further complexity.
As with any company, managing IT in a home with growing technology needs requires strategy and execution. What will your home's IT infrastructure look like? How secure will you make your wireless network? Will you upgrade your computers or replace them? What desktop and security software will you rely on? Who will make sure your kid's Xbox 360 recognizes your network? How will you make sure all this stuff works together? How much control will you exert over your child's computer experience? Who will configure the automatic syncs between your PCs and smart phones? Who will manage the expanding libraries of digital music, photos and videos? And what about user support?
The list of questions is almost endless. And unlike household technology decisions of the past, the answers to these questions will go a long way toward determining how efficiently our lives are organized.
Which brings us back to the idea of a household CIO. In business, the CIO is needed to oversee the increasingly complex and important role of IT. CIOs make decisions about what technologies will best support business processes, maximize the flow of information, complement employee culture, and increase the odds of success. They do this by understanding the business they're supporting, knowing about the latest technologies that could benefit them, listening to the stakeholders who are using the technology, and learning from their mistakes.
Likewise, it takes someone who can understand a household, has a finger on the pulse of today's technology, and is willing to admit when he or she is wrong to run the technology behind the modern American household. And if that doesn't sound like a CIO, I don't know what does.