Tag: infrastructure demands

There Is Something About Trains, Indeed


Like many of you, when I heard about the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine (OH) on February 3, my heart went out to the people in that community. The train was carrying some hazardous materials, and no one was quite sure what was vented, especially when officials did a “controlled burn.”  Still, though, I didn’t think much about it; although I live in Ohio, I’m about as far away as one can be within the state.

Yesterday my local water company shut off access to water from the Ohio River. “We are taking this preventative step to ensure the health, safety, and confidence of residents,” said Cincinnati Mayor Aftab.  (Note: it reopened access today).

East Palestine isn’t all that close to the Ohio River, but whatever chemicals got into the local streams eventually started reaching it, and a “plume” of them slowly meandered the 400 miles downstream to here. Initially, the water company noted how small the particulate levels were – well below any danger – and that normal filtering processes would take care of them. Then they announced that they’d add a second filtering step, just in case.  I guess people weren’t reassured, because they still closed the intakes, if only for a day.

I can only imagine how worried the people in East Palestine must be.

The scary thing is that this derailment was not a freak occurrence.  There are about 1,000 derailments every year. Fortunately, most don’t involve either hazardous materials or result in deaths. If it’s any consolation – and it shouldn’t be – most hazardous material spills come from trucks, not trains (but, then again, trucks carry the most freight).   The odds are against bad things happening. But, with 1.7 trillion ton-miles of freight carried by train every year, the odds eventually result in an East Palestine (and there were train derailments with hazardous materials in both Houston and Detroit since East Palestine’s). 

Continue reading…

The Joy of Success

As the year ends, I’ve spoken to many CIOs.   2011 was a hard year filled with Meaningful Use (including many upgrades to certified systems or self-certification),  5010 (the deadline for upgrading billing systems is January 1, 2012), accelerating compliance demands,  new security threats, rapidly evolving technologies, and unprecedented demand for new projects driven by the consumerization of IT.

At the same time that CIOs and IT professionals are running marathons, they are being held accountable for events that are not directly under their control.   They are not being congratulated for the miracles they create every day, but are being criticized for not moving faster.

What do I mean?

One CIO received a negative audit report because new generations of viruses are no longer stopped by state of the art anti-virus software.   Interesting.  The CIO cannot control the virus authors, nor the effectiveness of anti-virus software.    No one in the industry has solved the problem, but audit firms revel in creating fear, uncertainty and doubt at the Board level as it enhances the reputation of the auditor.

Another CIO was held accountable for infrastructure demands that were not forecasted, planned, or communicated.   CIOs do their best to be proactive, but in the world of Big Data, past trends may not predict future needs.

Another CIO was was given 10 goals and 5 unplanned urgent projects.   She completed 8 of the planned goals and all the urgent projects, yet was told she only met 80% of expectations.

In a world that expects leaders to continuously perform miracles with constrained resources in limited time,  we all need to step back and take our own steps to stop the madness.

With your own staff, celebrate the joy of success and focus on what really matters.

Continue reading…