ex-CIO of Google has a new book and gives interview to Forbes. Cloud computing. We especially like the comment, "The idea, basically, is to get your files off of the big hard drive that you're paying for, onto a big hard drive that someone else is paying for."
An Ex-Googler's Lessons For CIOs
Andy Greenberg, 04.23.10, 6:00 AM ET
Douglas Merrill isn't your average productivity guru. Before writing his new book, Getting Organized In The Google Era, he spent five years as the chief information officer at Google, running both the customer-facing and in-house information technology of one of the world's most innovation-focused and measurement-obsessed companies.
But Merrill isn't your average top-tier CIO, either. During his tenure at Google he was a more public face than most tech execs, and his work focused just as much on fostering innovation at the search giant as it did on routers and servers.
TheStreet: Intel, Not Apple, Should Buy ARM Holdings
We spoke with Merrill about how the lessons of his book can be broadened to an entire organization, why a CIO's job should be more focused on people than ever before and why -- even after he left Google's payroll -- he's still a fan of cloud computing.
Your new book, Getting Organized in the Google Era, is meant as a sort of personal productivity guide. But as a former Google CIO, can you tell us how the lessons of this book, in terms of productivity, can apply to a much larger organization with thousands of employees?
Douglas Merrill: Well, the first point is facile, but important: Organizations are made up of people. And to the extent you make each one of those people more effective, you make the organization more effective. Talent is the most important thing to manage in today's world, given the increasingly tight resource pool we have to work in. But on top of that, the key points of the book are 1) Use search instead of filing; 2) Ride on the wave of virtually infinite storage at virtually zero cost; and 3) Try to make yourself able to handle information anywhere in the cloud, at any point.
All three of those are changes for most traditional CIOs. First of all, generally systems like Microsoft Outlook, etc., focus on taking a file like an e-mail and sticking it in a folder. Exactly analogous to how we used to use paper.
That's a super ineffective way to store data, because you have to write, in advance, how you're going to use the information later. That's exceptionally hard to do. It's much better to simply search for it later.
So as a large organization, how do you take that advice? Do you just throw the files onto some big hard disk that you can search? And what tools do you use to search in real time?
There are several tools you can use for the Microsoft Exchange systems. But I find it best to move everything into the cloud from Exchange to Gmail or Google Apps.
I use a combination of tools like Google Documents and Drop Box. The idea, basically, is to get your files off of the big hard drive that you're paying for, onto a big hard drive that someone else is paying for.
One of the other ideas in your book is that there's no such thing as multitasking. That people can't multitask. That seems true for an individual. I can't really focus on two things at once. But does that make sense for an organization?
To the extent that your organization pushes you to multitask, to simultaneously read your e-mail, check your BlackBerry, answer your phone, all at once, you are less effective. What organizations should do is teach their employees how not to multitask, and thus, be more effective.
When you're multitasking, you're switching, actually, between one task and another. You're not literally doing two things at once. When you switch from one task to another, that context shift is quite challenging for your brain, and people aren't very good at it. So, what happens is, you lose information, both on the task you're leaving and the task you're moving into.
So, you make [performing] each task less effective than you would have otherwise.
It's not hard not to multitask. If you're reading your e-mail, turn your phone off. If you're writing, then turn your e-mail off. Do one thing at a time, work on it for a set period of time, take a break and move on.