As a CIO, it’s your worst nightmare: The marketing department dreams up some fantastic promotion aimed at the very core of its prime demographic. The team stirs up a public frenzy with slick advertisements and viral buzz, imprinting the release date into the consumer’s brain. Then when the fateful day arrives, the servers crumble and grind to a halt, leaving consumers and the entire company staring at the IT team for underdelivering.
We’ve seen it time and again. It’s only been a short four months since the Lady Gaga Amazon e-commerce cloud failure . Unfortunately, this time mass merchandiser Target was caught unprepared to handle the onslaught. Its much-anticipated Missoni for Target collection was released on Target.com at 6 Tuesday morning, grinding the website to a halt.
Target had depended on the Amazon e-commerce platform to host and run its online presence for a decade. After spending two years developing its own infrastructure, it redesigned and launched the website on its own platform three weeks ago. Then it saw one heck of a christening with the Missoni for Target collection, which drew more traffic than Target normally gets on the busiest shopping day of the year. The eager consumers basically created an organic DOS attack on the site.
While pundits are certain that the Target brand won’t suffer long-term damage from this fiasco, it still begs the question of why Target was caught without adequate tech for the promotion. It had to have some inkling that the Missoni for Target collection was going to be huge, and that frantic consumers would hammer the website. While I understand that Target made a strategic move to support its own infrastructure, wouldn’t a cloud failsafe be logical in the event of traffic spikes? The retailer should be no stranger to obscene amounts of traffic and unusual data. I tested the site throughout the release day and found it still unusable more than 16 hours after the collection’s release. That’s some serious loss of usability, right there.
While the smoke is still clearing, I’ll be curious to hear details on the point of failure. Was the new platform incapable of handling the traffic? Bandwidth? Some facet of the shopping cart system? Would this have happened if Target had stayed on the Amazon e-commerce platform? It’s possible that we’ll never know, but for now, there are a lot of angry Twitter and Facebook posters who found themselves empty-handed after items sold out on Tuesday. Unlike Amazon’s quick resolution of the Lady Gaga fiasco, Target’s IT team will have an uphill battle to restore consumer confidence.
Even the big guys fail and fail big sometimes. Judging from their track record with data spikes in the past, I suspect that had they acted like a midmarket company and left their e-commerce in the cloud, the Missoni for Target release would have been all win.
No huge loss. I use Windows XP, at work and therefore still have to rely on Google Desktop, but my family’s Windows 7 and Mac machines include quality local PC search functions with the operating systems.
What is surprising is the speed of the application lifecycle in the dot-com age. You will recall that after just three years Google killed Google Health, losing a big bet on personal health records.
Slower-than-expected user adoption was one of the main reasons behind that demise. That can hardly be the reason for ending the reign of Desktop (though others, like Sidewiki, probably had relatively few users).
The concern here is user adoption and confidence. Google certainly wants to keep its users around, but it’s more interested in the big online plays, not marginal add-ons and perennial betas. These recent app deaths aren’t a big deal, but Google Health was. Users need to know they aren’t going to get the app pulled out from under them once they’ve made a commitment.
You might not be ready to say goodbye to summer, but it’s definitely fiscal year crunch time. If you’re like most CIOs, you’re already feeling the pressure and are buckling down to do some serious heavy lifting on your special projects and big picture things like your cloud computing strategy and corporate policies, as well as less fun topics like spending and budgetary austerity. We’ve loaded up a quick executive summary of the best around the Web, including a retrospective on how the 9/11 attacks affected how we approach IT, how we’re managing our work-life balance, and great advice for revisiting your cloud computing strategy.
• We know that 9/11 changed the way we travel, but it also changed the way we approach surveillance in the U.S.
• If you’re thinking about virtualization and your cloud computing strategy, Savio Rodgrigues reminds you to ignore the preview pricing and consider the long term when engaging cloud vendors.
• How rock solid is your corporate social media policy? A judge ruled that five employees who complained about their jobs on Facebook were unlawfully fired and that workers can safely vent their frustrations on social networks. Yeah, probably still not a good idea.
• One new startup is renting the iPad 2 for domestic flights, aiming at the family and casual traveler, but business users might also take advantage of the in-flight connectivity when flying in a laptop-defying coach seat.
• Feel like your work-life balance is a little weird? It’s not just you. A new iPass study finds that 95% of employers either encourage or tolerate workshifting, which means you are probably already doing it and you might not even realize it.
• Do your project leads need to be reminded of the five immutable principles of successful project management?
• Is proprietary open source just an oxymoron? Scott Fulton gives the low down on the new inclusive open source world order.
• Should businesses adopt a multichannel messaging strategy? George Schlossnagle urges businesses to think outside of the old paradigm and look to smartphones and social media.
Last week, CIO Symmetry was in the middle of a veritable booth babe coup. I never would have imagined that the VMworld 2011 promotional models would be such an emotional subject and, yet, the blog post was retweeted multiple times and garnered several response posts, like these from Jon Toigo and Anthony Vandewerdt. I wasn’t the only person offended by the VMworld 2011 booth babes. Some commenters questioned what was the big deal, citing the fact that the booth babes were there of their own will (well, they’re being paid by vendors, actually) and missed the crucial point, which blogger Matt Simmons summed up nicely:
What you end up with is the situation where you, as a conference-goer, walk up to a booth and, because you’re no stranger to how this works, ignore any attractive woman and talk directly to a male at the booth. You assume immediately that any attractive female is there simply for their physical appearance, not for the value that their knowledge brings. This is wrong on every level, and it’s an insidious form of objectifying women — it happens gradually, over time, and the more booth babes you see, the more ingrained it becomes.
On Twitter, the argument picked up even more steam. Hilariously, someone pointed at one VMworld 2011 vendor as an example of booth babe overload, and the vendor piped up with “2 out of 3 of our ‘babes’ had MSc in Elec Eng & could pitch us technically.” See? Even those of us on the anti-booth babe camp have a hard time resisting the objectification.
Simmons has put forth a call to action, asking the IT world to take booth staff to task for employing booth staff with no product knowledge, and also suggests that protesters make it count to the vendors’ bottom line by refusing to do business with them.
What do you think? Should booth babes be banned (try saying that four times fast)? Is this a whole lot of noise about some harmless promotional models? Vote your conscience in our quick and dirty informal poll!
Facebook surpassed 750 million users this summer. That’s a heck of a lot of people, but not really news. What is news is the movement afoot banning Facebook from users.
Many companies are still banning Facebook in the name of productivity. Now some legislatures want to hit students right where they live. A circuit court judge in Missouri recently blocked law that would prohibit student and teacher conversations on Facebook, saying it would violate the right of free speech. The state legislature was hoping to avoid new ways for teachers to harass, sexually or otherwise, their students, and vice versa.
The proponents have legitimate concerns regarding online harassment or manipulation, but even if it was passed the law would probably not have mattered, because students these days know how to circumvent most restrictions on anything online.
Some experts suggest that purposefully slowing down Facebook to a crawl on school networks would be a good deterrent. Taking a different tack, Microsoft and IBM are each trying to build their own Facebook-like platforms to enable companies to be social and be safe at the same time.
What I would like to see is Facebook create safe zones inside the platform, where companies or schools could set up their own mini Facebooks. The users get the benefit of the familiar platform but can use it in a more controlled environment.
Whatever the solutions, running away and hiding or banning Facebook is not the right option — not now and not in the future, when today’s students are tomorrow’s office workers sharing their lives online.
LAS VEGAS — This week, I’m experiencing the life of an endangered species. In the sessions and amidst the vendor stalls and hang spaces at VMworld 2011, I am reminded over and over that there is a serious lack of women in technology.
Oh, some of the women in IT are at VMworld 2011. I’ve even had long discussions about technology with a few of them, and we’ve all laughed about how great it is that we never have a line in the women’s restrooms, while the men’s lines wrap out the door and around the corner. These women know their stuff and have absolutely earned their place at the virtualization table — but unfortunately they amount to less than 25% of the few women in attendance. The rest of the females present seem to be public relations folks, marketing and communications professionals, and by far the largest segment of the female population: the ever-present booth babe.
If you’ve never been to an IT conference, a booth babe is a gorgeous girl — typically, a model wearing something tight or the vendor logo T-shirt — who has been hired by the tech vendor to lure people into its booth. And by people, I mean men because the booth babes soundly ignore me as I walk around the show floor. The booth babes themselves admit openly that they don’t know anything about the technology they’re selling, but they’re happy to scan your badge, hand you a T-shirt and get you to sign up to win an iPad2.
Attendee Carol Dirig opined on her Twitter stream, “Why do industry vendors keep hiring booth babes? What gives? VMworld could have been a classy event.” Even if the vendors hadn’t employed booth babes, the classy part of the event would have ended the second that conference organizers sent out models dressed as mermaids — yes, with fins and the complete inability to move, requiring they be carried. As Anne Hewitt summed up: “Wow. Mermaids were pretty demoralizing. Thanks #vmworld.”
What harm is there in a few booth babes and some innocent mermaids? I know of at least three very smart and successful women in technology who hate attending IT conferences because they aren’t taken seriously. Why? Because they are often mistaken for booth babes. In a strange inversion, their great looks are a detriment in the IT industry. That is a crime, folks. As one Twitter user suggested, we should be ashamed. The tech world has taught us that women are for eye candy. Don’t ask them questions. Don’t take them seriously. Just look and enjoy as they hand you a blinking stress ball.
Consider the opportunity cost for technology. When we wonder why women aren’t flocking to technology careers, we have to question what it is about IT that makes women not want to be at the party.
Rooftop solar panels are finally turning on a light bulb over some business leaders’ heads.
A big office park in my town is putting up solar panels on the roofs of two parking garages on its property. The total of 2,052 panels, which will sit on previously unused space, will generate 585 kilowatts of electricity. The office park will use the panels to offset its power needs, so it will pay less for electricity and get ROI for the investment over time. “We’re finding the payback to be appropriate,” Cummings Properties Design Manager Jim Trudeau told The Salem News.
Not only that, but the office will also reduce its demand for power and put less strain on the electrical grid.
This is a great story, but my question is, what took so long?
There are many trends in rooftop energy conservation techniques today: “Green” rooftops, with parks or gardens on them; and former President Clinton is organizing people to paint black tar roofs white as a way to reflect heat and keep buildings cooler.
The solar-power roof makes more sense. Think of all that solar energy baking away on the expanse of your local mall’s roof.
Payback on solar investments has been hard to come by, but no longer. In addition, a new study says that there is economic value derived from creating jobs in financing, installing and maintaining solar panels. CNet also reports that most of the solar panels manufactured in the U.S. are sold in Asia. This should be the other way around.
CIOs and other senior IT managers can play a part here. You are already engaged with your building facilities managers in terms of power management. Are there places on your property where solar panels would make sense?
It’s been a busy week in tech, between the Earth shaking, hurricane preparations and the departure of one of tech’s most recognizable faces, Steve Jobs. Here’s our favorite pieces of tech news from last week, including an update on the RSA breach, how we’re evolving our management styles in the age of Web 2.0, and some happy birthday wishes to Linux.
• Remember the calamity last March with the RSA breach? The Finnish security company figured out how the RSA breach went down, and it’s a lot less tricky than you would imagine.
• In case you hadn’t heard, Steve Jobs retired last week. We hope that he gets the well-deserved, restorative rest that he deserves. And then we hope that he gets a reality TV show, because we’ll miss the Steve Jobisms.
• Could Apple’s iPad and iPhone competitors take Jobs’ retirement as an opportunity to rally? Sony and Nokia’s stock prices jumped right after the announcement, but time will tell.
• With Web 2.0 and the shrinking globe comes a new paradigm for how we do business — so why are we still managing with the same principles that our parents used in the Mad Men age? Jon Husband suggests that the way we lead must evolve along with technology.
• Linux turned 20 last week! It’s almost old enough to order a beer legally! Man, do we feel old now.
• Did your offices rattle and roll last week? Several earthquakes hit the U.S. on Tuesday. This cool visual representation of the earthquake Tweets really demonstrates that our first instinct after a disaster is to broadcast it to the social media networks.
• This little multiple encryption tool is so tiny that it’s adorable! Even your great aunt could manage this pocket-sized safety measure.
• One of the hackers behind the notorious group Anonymous has been charged by the authorities. The 22-year-old Brit was allegedly involved with WikiLeaks and instigating denial-of-service attacks on a host of Internet companies, including MasterCard, Visa and PayPal.
You may have heard that Steve Jobs has decided to step down from his successful tenure as Apple’s CEO. Without a doubt, Jobs’ effective leadership style was directly responsible for Apple’s complete turnaround in the marketplace. The man is inspiring: He has a vision and very rarely wavers from it, even when his decisions about innovation seemed counterintuitive and spooked shareholders.
However, as CEO, he was always course-correcting how to get to that vision: He has been unafraid to admit that he doesn’t know all of the answers and invited CEOs of Oracle, Intuit, etc., to consult with him on whether he was pursuing the right innovation strategy for Apple. His example of an effective leadership style really underlines the importance of good networks and rock-solid mentors. Good leaders aren’t afraid to say, “Hey, what do you think of this idea?”
While he’s going out on top, he’s no stranger to setbacks. Remember, Jobs was actually fired by Apple in 1985 and yet bounced back to reinvent Pixar, one of the most beloved entertainment brands in the world, before going back to the mothership.
CIOs tell me they struggle with communicating back to the business. We’ve already looked at how IT alignment is a one-sided affair. Everyone at Apple was aligned with the leader’s vision. CIOs can take a page from Jobs and consider adopting elements of his effective leadership style. Jobs became an evangelist for his vision, and his team was confident enough to take up that torch and run with it. He also excels at not only knowing his customer but also in whipping that customer into a lather of excitement for corporate strategy. Not surprisingly, Apple is often cited as the epitome of brand loyalty, not just with the consumer but also with internal team members. Wouldn’t we all want to have our team members voluntarily tattoo themselves with our corporate logo?
Even with my Apple predilection, I’ll really miss Jobs’ effective leadership style. I’ll miss his enthusiasm and the similarly zany impressions on SNL. But most of all, I’ll miss his constant reminders that innovation is nothing short of “magic.” That’s a good reminder for all of us.
Everyone is in the middle of IT business transformation these days.
You could call it re-engineering the corporation, downsizing, rightsizing or just plain old cost-cutting, however. Hewlett-Packard is taking “transformative steps,” said HP president and CEO Leo Apotheker last week in announcing major changes related to its mobile and PC businesses, as well as the acquisition of Autonomy.
When you think about the number of acquisitions HP has gone through in the last decade and the amount of unwinding it’ll need to do now as it is re-engineering the corporation, it boggles the mind. Certainly Apotheker is making the tough decision to get HP out of the WebOS and PC business while it still can (like IBM, when it sold off its PC business), knowing that HP can’t compete with Apple and Google/Motorola. Still, it’s amazing when you consider the potential size of the tabloid market.
But, ironically, the changes reflect the changing IT needs of its customers, which are being directed toward the very types of converged infrastructure and application transformation services that HP is supplying and focusing on for future growth.
It’s a good time for CIOs to look at their own transformation plans, and determine if HP is being a leader or a follower in re-engineering the corporation.