The Other Woman

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The Other WomanI'll never forget the look on my husband's face when he held Betty for the first time. Cradling her almost reverently with a sparkle in his eyes and a childlike sense of wonder, Jim examined every facet of her sexy, smooth skin to ensure she was flawless and virginal, as promised. It was the way he used to gaze at me.

He spent days researching Betty's numerous talents and learning how to best use and care for her. She was sleek, with smooth curves, a vision of perfection. She sang to him, dazzled him with sports trivia and kept him abreast of the latest news. Betty filled my husband with excitement, mystery and wonder. I, on the other hand, was merely human.

Though I had Bruce-my own BlackBerry-I was jealous of Betty. She was an upgrade, a Storm, and she offered Jim much more than I could. When she first moved in, Jim often disappeared to be alone with her. He'd explore her features and wipe off his fingerprints afterward so I wouldn't know where he'd been. Then he started bringing Betty to bed. While I watched late night TV, he caressed her, learning all of her idiosyncrasies while she chirped with delight. I seethed with jealousy. Jim claimed he needed Betty near him 24/7 because he was on call, but I knew better. I could not compete.

He tried, perhaps out of guilt. We were newlyweds, after all. Before going to sleep, Jim laid Betty on his nightstand, trying to put her out of his mind, but the little vixen would not be ignored. She flirted with my husband with her winking red and green lights and her seductive purr.

Trying to ignore her siren song, I'd roll over and stare at Bruce. He was attractive, a bit older and thicker, but he got the job done. He was mine and I loved him. Bruce was fun and as comfortable as an old shoe, but he and I just didn't connect the way Jim and Betty did. Bruce wasn't... alluring. He tried to make me feel wanted; he'd blink his single red light at me and beep his single note. But it wasn't enough. And Betty wasn't letting Jim go.

I wanted to captivate him the way Betty had. I wanted Jim to leave her in his office when he came to bed and to look longingly at me when he discovered one of my new skills or talents. I knew I could fill her shoes. I could be Jim's personal assistant, update him on the latest sports and weather, post to his Facebook profile. He didn't need Betty.

But first I had to put Betty in her place. I considered the obvious-hiding her in our compost pile, accidentally flushing her down the toilet, tossing her from the 520 floating bridge-but I knew those methods wouldn't work. Jim would just replace Betty with a newer, sleeker model, a Marilyn, a Roxanne, or a Vanessa.

Instead, I needed a more subtle approach. I had to wean Jim from Betty. I started texting him to say, "i love u," e-mailing useful web links to him and flirting with him on Facebook. I silenced Bruce during dinner and turned him off at night. I even laid Bruce next to Betty one evening, hoping they'd hit it off. (They didn't. Bruce thought she was too superficial, and Betty thought he was just too old.) I even left Jim's browser open to a page on virulent BlackBerry viruses.

Gradually, as often happens, the shine began to come off Betty and Jim started spending less time with her. He'd leave her on the counter when he left the room, and he silenced her when we spent time together. I knew I'd made progress when Jim turned Betty off during date night. He thought I was crying at the end of Gran Torino, but I was secretly rejoicing.

Some things haven't changed. Betty still comes to bed with us, but I'm the one Jim holds. I just hope Bruce doesn't get jealous, either of Jim or this hot little iPhone 3GS I have my eye on....

 

CEO Adviser: Paving the Way to Digital

CEO Adviser: Paving the Way to Digital

How the Northwest’s leading asphalt company is embracing technology.
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“What’s the ROI on software?”

This is the question facing many leaders of traditional mid-market companies. For a well-established family-run business, there is often the temptation to invest in assets that can generate revenue faster in the short term instead of technology upgrades that don’t deliver immediate profit.

When I first met Mike Lee, president of Lakeside Industries, he asked an interesting question: “Are we doing the right things when it comes to technology?” Lee understood that his 600-person asphalt company in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood had to make technology a strategic objective in order to ensure the future of the business.

Here are a few ways Lee showed leadership in making ones and zeroes important in an industry focused on rock and oil.

Establish crystal clarity about how digital can support the overall vision.

Lee had a compelling “why” and vision for the company in place: to make a lasting impact on our community, our relationships and our people, and to be the low-cost supplier that provides an exceptional customer experience. The core values focused on safety, environmental responsibility, quality and profitability. But there was no solid technology vision to realize it, and IT didn’t have a presence at the business table, so Lee made a point to involve the CFO/acting CIO. The beauty of setting a digital vision is in its simplicity — not looking at every solution available, but only those that can further the company’s reason for being. In Lakeside’s case, how could new technologies bring it closer to its employees, its community and its customers? How could software make it improve efficiency, visibility and environmental commitments? When Lee looked closely at his vision, it became clear that technology could help bolster it, but that it couldn’t happen without tech being elevated.

Identify the gaps that technology can fill. 

“There is more to our business than asphalt and paving,” says Lee. “We have to keep up with plant and equipment management, communications, competitors, security and environmental regulations.” Lee met with his CIO and IT directors to determine how technology was going to add value inside and outside the business. The firm developed a digital roadmap that provided clarity around the technology initiatives people were going to work on; for each, it set accountabilities, timelines and goals. They used this roadmap to manage ongoing progress and to determine whether or not the new “shiny technology objects” matched the vision and strategy. The most important initiative was to replace Lakeside’s aging enterprise resource planning system. This would require modernizing processes and technology infrastructure to support collaboration with business management across the company — a broad impact to the business. Another key initiative was improving how it estimated projects and managed customer relationships. This new system would only be successful with buy-in from the people in the field using the software.

Communicate the importance of technology to the management team.

While its employees are part of a family, Lakeside Industries is also a distributed business run by a group of autonomous regional managers who needed to believe in the vision. Lee presented the specifics of the strategy to all managers: The message was “IT can no longer be just a department.” Business and technology leaders — who rarely interfaced — had the opportunity to discuss and debate what was at stake. Their conclusion? Software isn’t a gutsy gamble or a bold bet — it’s table stakes. The result was a set of guiding principles, alignment and excitement for what’s ahead. For the first time in the company’s history, business and technology people now have harmony around a shared digital vision — working together as one to contribute to healthier profitability and improved customer relations. In the end, Lakeside Industries’ road to the future has been paved with much more than good intentions. 

TIM GOGGIN is president of Sappington, a Seattle consulting firm that advises clients on digital change. Reach him at tim.goggin@sappington.co.