Most IT managers started reading in the first grade. So far as I can tell, most stop shortly after they’re hired for their first full-time position.

I’m no longer surprised, but am chronically disappointed in the response when I ask members of IT leadership teams what they read to stay informed about industry developments. The usual response? Embarrassed shrugs, punctuated by acknowledgement that Gartner is their primary … make that sole source of strategic IT insights.

You’re reading this right now, which makes you an exception. On behalf of all of us who write and publish, thank you.

But if you’re in management and especially if you’re in IT management, reading is just the ante. It won’t win you the pot.

As a reader you’re aware that “Digital” has become a noun. As a regular KJR reader you know that, whether noun or adjective, Digital is about turning new technologies into new business capabilities and turning those new business capabilities into competitive advantage.

Presumably you read more than just KJR, familiarizing yourself with specific Digital technologies that seem especially promising for your company. That’s what prepares you for conversations about using them to increase marketshare, walletshare, and mindshare.

As a regular KJR reader you’re an IT leader no matter what your job title or official position on the organizational chart is. If you weren’t, your eyeballs would be elsewhere. And so, a reminder: The most important difference between a leader and an individual contributor is that individual contributors succeed. Leaders build organizations that succeed.

It might be my fault. I named this e-letter Keep the Joint Running to embody the principle that, as put forth in the KJR Manifesto, before you can be strategic you have to be competent.

Keeping the joint running is no small thing. That doesn’t mean it’s enough. It’s necessary, but it isn’t sufficient.

Reading isn’t just for management. Reading is the difference between a data warehousing team actively promoting hyperscale “schema on demand,” data-lake repositories and wondering why IT management brought in outside consultants to make them happen.

It’s the difference between developers embracing microservices architectures and saying, “This is no different from what we used to do with COBOL copylibs,” while IT management brings in outside consultants to develop new applications built on a microservices foundation.

It’s the difference between IT infrastructure management advocating replacing the company’s MPLS-based WAN with an ISP-centric connectivity model, and figuring they’re meeting their SLAs so it’s all good while the CIO brings in an IT services firm to make it happen.

So reading isn’t just important for management. It’s everyone’s tool for staying current and not slowly sliding into irrelevance.

It’s everyone’s tool, and as an IT leader it’s up to you to encourage every member of your organization to use it … to recognize that being knowledgeable matters. Maybe not quite as much as competence, but close.

What does this encouragement look like?

Here’s one possibility: With the rest of the IT leadership team, settle on a handful of promising Digital technologies and parcel out responsibility for turning “promising” into either “important” or “never mind.”

Then, each IT leadership team member involves their staff in the process. For small and medium-size IT organizations this might mean reserving two hours in everyone’s time budget for this purpose — one hour to read and one hour for discussion. The desired outcome: A briefing on the technology, that (1) defines and explains what it is; (2) lists and describes the new or enhanced business capabilities the technology might make possible; (3) assesses the technology’s maturity and market readiness; and (4) sketches an adoption roadmap that takes IT from incubation to integration.

And, by the way, once-and-done isn’t good enough. These briefs will be out of date as soon as they’re published, and new high-potential technologies are popping up all the time. Those who write the briefs are responsible for keeping them current.

Keeping track of Digital possibilities is a vital role for IT because the company’s org chart says it is. It is, that is, unless the CEO gave up on the CIO’s ability to provide this level of leadership and hired a chief digital officer to pick up the slack.

In our upcoming book, There’s No Such Thing as an IT Project, Dave Kaiser and I reserved a chapter to describe IT’s new role as business strategy leader. It’s a role that’s important for IT because a department that doesn’t know What’s Going On Out There is a department that neither receives or deserves respect from the rest of the business. It’s important for the rest of the business because …

Well if it isn’t, what’s all the fuss about Digital about?

Every system IT deploys must be given a clean bill of health by your Compliance department. They’re the folks who make sure you don’t run afoul of the federal, state, county, and city statutes and regulations that establish boundaries and set requirements for organizations doing business within their jurisdictions.

If your company is multinational, multiply by the number of nations within which you do business.

And don’t complain … not because I want to convince you that regulation as public policy is a good thing.

Don’t complain because what good will it do you? As a leader, complaining will do you no good at all. Quite the opposite – it will cause harm by demoralizing the employees who have to make compliance happen.

So figure out the good idea that’s at the core of most compliance requirements, make sure everyone understands that underlying good idea, never mind the cumbersome implementation requirements, and move on.

Move on to what?

To Facebook, and its emerging status as an independent government, as intriguingly explained in “Facebook has declared sovereignty” (Molly Roberts, The Washington Post, 1/31/2019).

Is Facebook-as-nation real, or is it metaphor? That’s a surprisingly hard call.

If Rocket J. Squirrel lives in a private residence at 246 Freon Drive, Frostbite Falls, MN 56537, his home ownership and property rights and privileges are defined and protected by various U.S. governmental entities.

But Mr. Squirrel also has a virtual life. He goes online and it’s Facebook that provides the real estate in which he resides … his home page … and just as surely provides the foundations on which the social media society in which he lives has been built.

There’s more: Facebook must defend itself from intruders with malicious intent — it needs a department of defense — and also must help its citizens protect themselves from smaller-scale intruders: It needs a police force. Calling the two InfoSec doesn’t change their functions, only their names.

That isn’t the end of it: Many on-line businesses let you make use of your Facebook credentials instead of establishing a separate login ID and password. Facebook issues passports or, if you prefer, these other sites award visas to people who possess Facebook passports.

Facebook-as-nation leads to all sorts of questions, like, when its citizens are living their virtual, as opposed to their physical lives, does Facebook have a role to play when the governing entity for its citizen’s physical location wants to independently impose rules restricting their on-line behavior?

Some countries, for example, recognize sedition as a felony, unlike the U.S., which long ago declared such laws unconstitutional. So …

A Dutch national posts content that insults King Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand, which can be and is read by various and sundry citizens of the Netherlands.

This is, in Holland, a crime (who knew?). The Dutch government, reasonably enough, would probably like (not Like) Facebook to enforce its laws when functioning in the Netherlands — to take down offending posts and reveal the criminals’ identities to the proper authorities.

But … the criminal responsible for posting this content might not, as it turns out, post it while in the Netherlands. J-walking might be a misdemeanor in New York City but that doesn’t mean I’ve violated New York City law when I J-walk in Minneapolis.

It was, the miscreant might argue, posted in Facebookland, not the Netherlands.

And … it gets even more complicated from there.

All things considered, a declaration of national sovereignty on Facebook’s part might actually simplify things. Its offices become embassies, and all of the complexities of enforcing local laws in Facebookland are dealt with by negotiated treaties.

Interesting or not, this might not appear to be relevant to you in your role in corporate life.

Except for this: Your business undoubtedly has its own social media presence — on Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram, and all the rest. That means your business is a citizen of Facebook, subject to its laws and regulations just as it’s subject to the laws and regulations of every governing entity within which it does business.

I suspect that right now, responsibility for complying with this new regulatory landscape isn’t clearly defined.

Which leads to this week’s suggestions for Things You Can Do Right Now to Protect Yourself from Harm:

1: For any project you’re involved in that might be affected by social media laws and regulations — especially but not limited to Facebook — make sure someone is responsible for defining these constraints.

2: Make sure that person isn’t you.

3: Suggest to whoever is responsible that the Compliance Department might be a good place to start.

4: Duck.