CIOs and the recession

I was recently asked to do an interview for the Economist Intelligence Unit on the role of the CIO in a recession.

The interview found its way into a report that is available here >>> EIU Article

Interestingly (or not – depending on your views on these things) it morphed into a panel discussion that is now up on their website. The webcast was set out to “….discuss how CIOs are driving innovation in their organisations today, amidst continued budget stringency and in an uncertain growth environment.

  • How will continued cost discipline affect IT-led innovation?
  • Who are now the CIO’s most important and effective allies as champions of innovation?
  • Has the recession weakened employees’ and managers’ resistance to change?
  • How central are social media and cloud computing to innovation initiatives today?

OK it doesn’t quite have the cut and thrust of BBC Question Time but you can see how we all got on

… or click here for the webcast and content  >>>  EIU Webcast

Enjoy and, as usual, please feel free to post comments, retweet or whatever.

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I’ve looked at clouds …

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now

From up and down, and still somehow

It’s clouds illusions I recall

I really don’t know clouds, at all

– Joni Mitchell

I really must stop using song titles and lyrics in these blog entries but ……

Anyway, I recently sat as part of an august panel of CIOs, drawn together to critique yet another a vendor proposition on cloud computing, and listened intently as we all described “Cloud” differently. Chatham House rules apply so I wont name names but it was all kinda worrying as the discussion was actually supposed to be about something called “hybrid cloud” which I subsequentyly learnt is supposed to be  “the intersection of public and private clouds” – or cloud 2.0 as some wags are now calling it.

After much debate one of the attendees lent forward, cupped his head in his hands and proclaimed “What is all this B***s**t ?? Come on guys lets get real !! Am I really going to sit in a room with my CEO and have this conversation ??”

I found myself strangely drawn to his candour. Its bad enough that many CEO’s still think that IT spends too much time with its head in the clouds, now we’re introducing vocabulary that even we don’t even understand.

In an earlier post I issued the plea to stop banging on about what this cloud stuff is or is not and to focus on harnessing the underlying technologies to deliver / enable our business strategies. I still hold firm to this view but the IT industry – particularly the vendor community – do have a responsibility to put some shape and form around this whole debate. Now you can agree or disagree with my previous post about “nothing changes” and that actually this is all just ones and zeros painted a different colour (albeit offered at a lower price point), but one thing that IT supposedly does well is process and standards – so why are we as an industry ignoring our strengths and perpetuating the marketing spin and hype.

So, with that in mind, here are my 3 essential priorities for any supply side cloud advocates – “my 3 x S’s”

1. Shape – put some real and tangible definitions up that give this whole debate some shape and meaning. What do things like Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS) actually mean in practise ?? How do you engage and more importantly disengage with suppliers?? What should you really focus on ?? What do you need inside the enterprise to succeed ?? etc etc
2. Standards – we desperately need standards that address the well articulated security and data integrity / audit concerns whether they be fact or fiction – remember that perception IS reality !! The supply side MUST address this and, whilst there are emerging initiatives around data location, exchange/interchange protocols etc these are in their infancy and need to be embraced and accelerated
3. Segmentation – there is no one size fits all “cloud solution” so it is incumbent on the vendor community to start helping different industries and sectors chart a path to meeting their disparate needs.

The onward march of cloud computings underlying technologies is inevitable – what is up for grabs here is whether we can accelerate the road to practical adoption by removing the hype.

JMHO

5 Technologies that CEOs intend to invest in next year

Amid all the CIO and vendor hype about where the next round ou IT investment should be focussed, it was hugely refreshing to read on Silicon.com the 5 technologies that CEOs will invest in next year. Not a mention of cloud computing, virtualization, web 2.0 > enterprise 2.0 and all that jazz, just some very basic fundamentals that will driver their businesses forward

  • Better data collection and retrieval systems… to directly drive business growth and find more savings as well as new business opportunities’.”
  • Home and remote working… to get more performance from their existing workforce whilst reducing travel overheads at a time when unemployment is on the rise.
  • Mobile commerce… CEO’s are starting to believe that, after 10yrs of hype, this might just be ready for prime time
  • Business intelligence… track and responding to customer behaviour – if you’re not doing it then you competitors sure are and implied customer loyalty is long gone.
  • E-discovery systems …. “In difficult economic times, legal challenges tend to increase” … so how good are your retrieval and analytical systems ?

Now clearly I’m not saying that cloud computing, virtualization, web 2.0 > enterprise 2.0 et al don’t have a part to play in many of these priorities but shouldn’t we be focussing on the problems – as articulated by our most important customers – rather than the technologies and their somewhat abstract labels

JMHO

Is green the new black ?? …. I hope not !!

Having just come back from a week of discussing ‘green IT’ with folks in Silicon Valley, I have to admit to being a little worried and frustrated. Two things bother me.

Firstly, whilst there seems to be a fair level of activity and some well intentioned chest beating and lobbying, there is a distinct lack of agreed process and structure to many initiatives – which is surprising from IT folks. If there is one thing we’re supposedly good at, it’s all the ‘metrics, process and standards’ stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not diminishing the commitment or intent, but from what I saw, there seems to be only aspiration targets being set and no common method for measuring or comparing progress.

As you would expect, the most successful initiatives have a positive business case but most of these reached their tipping point as a result of the available subsidies and not from an underlying commercial commitment.

Secondly, and perhaps more worrying, is the spin around the IT industry about being “seen to be green”, which extends to the shameless re-branding of existing solutions as “Green technologies”. The most blatant is the current spin around virtualization. This is great technology, be it VMware, Solaris Containers, SWsofts cross platform solution or whatever flavour you like, but its hardly new and was only recently classed as ‘green’. If I recall correctly, it was originally about improving utilisation and speed to market.

Now as an industry, IT is an easy target – hell we still have Y2K and he dot com bomb to live down so the last thing we need is being seen to be jumping on a green bandwagon. So let’s be sensible here. The technology community has a huge responsibility here to both reduce our current consumption (by our, I mean our organisation – IT footprint might go up to deliver overall corporate savings) and drive innovation to find new power sources and processing options/methods. Let’s make sure however as technology and business leaders we measure effectively and realistically, take justifiable credit for the right things, avoid the seductive voices of a ‘re-branding quick fix’ and accept the challenges of this inconvenient truth.

JMHO