CIO Symmetry

February 14, 2012  4:54 PM

CIOs learning to juggle business growth strategies with technology

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

You start spending enough time around CIOs and you can really feel the changes swirling around them.

On the one hand, CIOs and senior IT executives must drive business growth strategies through technology. On the other hand, they are being asked to do more in areas that have nothing to do with technology.

I spoke recently with Mark McDonald, group vice president for Gartner Executive Programs. He puts the CIO second only to the CEO as the center for innovation and “amplification.”

George Westerman, a research scientist at the Cambridge, Mass.-based MIT Center for Digital Business, told’s Christina Torode, “I’ve seen a CIO take over the HR function and the cafeteria functions.”

Helping sort through this is a new columnist coming to our sites: Harvey Koeppel, executive director for the Center for CIO Leadership. He will define “the drivers of the dramatic changes that we are seeing from both business and technology perspectives … [and] what leaders should be focused on to ensure that their investments are returning maximum value and creating increased competitive advantage.”

We welcome his unique point of view as a former CIO (of Citigroup) and thought leader for the Center for CIO Leadership. And more than ever, we welcome your input and comments on your experiences as a CIO and how you are adapting to the new rules of business and technology. Please write me at

February 13, 2012  5:25 PM

How free mobile apps risk personal data privacy and security

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Each week, we scour the Web and bring you the choicest cuts for your approval. This week, we’re looking at data privacy and security in the form of denial-of-service attacks, smart chatting and two free mobile apps suffering from major personal data security issues.

Your team is your first line of defense with your company’s data privacy and security, yet your employees are sharing company secrets — intentionally or not — via IM clients. Check out this primer to ensure that sensitive information stays out of chat logs.

We all know that meetings are a critical part of managing a team, but they can be enormous time-wasters too. Here’s a great drill-down of a best practice for the weekly status meeting.

What does the term distributed denial-of-service attack, or DDoS, really mean? We predict that “Anonymous” won’t appreciate Forbes calling its work “digital graffiti.”

Blogger Ian Thomas argues that we might be jumping into big data before we’ve gotten our storage strategies in line.

Hackers have broken into the Google Wallet app on Android devices. Google is addressing the personal data privacy and security breach, but when you start hacking into the world of finance, everyone gets a little testy.

If you’re worried about personal data privacy and security, be careful with your free mobile apps. It turns out that the free Path iPhone app was grabbing its users’ contact data and uploading their data to its own servers. What? You mean a free service is taking advantage of its users somehow? Color us shocked.

February 9, 2012  10:52 PM

Are your social media policies turning off your Millennials?

Sarah Blanchette Profile: Sarah Blanchette

There’s a certain sense of technology entitlement among my Millennial peers. If you don’t believe me, walk into any college classroom on any college campus and you will see the majority of the students there either glued to their smartphones, surfing the Web on their new MacBooks or scrolling through their shiny tablets. Most are blatantly ignoring the lecture in order to be in constant connection with the Internet world; cutting oneself off from Facebook for an hour seems more dangerous than failing that upcoming midterm.

This entitlement apparently carries through to Millennials in the workplace, and was further confirmed by the Cisco Connected World Technology Report. Among a number of intriguing findings, there were only a few that actually shocked me. The most surprising was that more than half (56%) of college students either would reject a job with strict social media policies or would attempt to find a way to circumvent those policies. The fact that college students would reject or risk a job because they wouldn’t have access to their precious social network was at first concerning.

After some thought, however, the Cisco report makes sense. Millennials have lived the majority of their lives consumed by technology. By the time most of us were in high school, it was mandatory to pass in a typed paper, and when we were in college, emailing assignments became the norm. We’re a generation that has seen computers transform from massive machines that dominate a desk to handheld devices that can do everything but read our minds. Most of us taught our parents how to write a text or open an email account. Young people not only have witnessed the Internet revolution, but also were among the key figures leading the charge — the most obvious example being Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook and 27-year-old billionaire.

There’s a long list of things I would consider deal-breakers when scoping out a real career post-graduation, but harsh social media policies probably would be towards the bottom (although most Millennials in the workplace seem to disagree). However, senior executives should realize that strict social media policies could drive away some of the brightest, most qualified young people, as shown in the Cisco report. Young people realize that the office is not the classroom. They know that they can’t waste hours on social media, but they don’t want to give up their precious social networks completely. CIOs want Millennials in the workplace to stay productive, but I can assure you that the 30 seconds we take to check our Facebook every hour will not impact our work.  We’re accustomed to networking and actually working simultaneously. Sure, we have a lot to learn in the business world, but there’s also a few things we could show you. Just don’t be concerned by the fact that we constantly have a tab open for Facebook.

February 9, 2012  5:16 PM

Can adding a second monitor hurt your worker productivity?

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

I’m writing this blog post on my second monitor. It’s a 21-inch widescreen. I also have a third monitor, a 24-incher that actually belongs to a second computer — and sometimes I use my iPad as another auxiliary window to the world. And to think that just a few years ago I was satisfied with just a single 14-inch laptop screen! According to this week’s story in The New York Times, I’m multitasking on multiple monitors. But am I really? Is adding a second monitor like driving a car while talking on a cell phone?

Most of the time, I’m using one monitor to read source material while actively working in the second. Adding a second monitor can be like two hands washing dishes: The left hand might be scrubbing and the right hand might be rinsing, but you’re still doing one activity.

However, for other workers, working on two monitors might mean having a project open on one and their email and Facebook open on the second. In that case, true attention-splintering is taking place. A famous 2005 study found that email distraction can cause a decrease in functional IQ, akin to a whopping 10-point decrease overall. That’s worse than the impact of smoking marijuana. Ironically, the study was sponsored by a Hewlett-Packard, a major vendor of computer monitors.

Regardless, an easy way to increase employee retention is to give them excellent tools to do their job. If adding a second monitor is the thing that makes a worker — like me — happy, it’s a no-brainer. Whether it’s a productivity tool or a detriment to overall creativity is up for debate.

Out of curiosity, how many monitors do you have on your desk right now? What’s the ideal scenario for productivity? The comments are waiting to hear from you.

February 2, 2012  9:24 PM

Post-PC era: Is 100% remote desktop virtualization even smart?

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Last August, I sat at VMworld 2011 with 19,000 other IT literati and heard CEO Paul Maritz assure us that we were in the post-PC era. But are we really?

Certainly there isn’t much argument about how remote desktop virtualization increases worker productivity by giving them access on multiple platforms.  Furthermore, desktop virtualization reduces company costs and upkeep.  CIOs are definitely paying attention to the benefits of virtualization.

The main problem with this description is that it discounts the PC entirely and smacks of absolutism. CIOs live in the real world, and there are always differing use cases in every business. With judicious application, it’s possible to have your benefits of virtualization without damaging the productivity of some workers, especially around specialty-use cases and ergonomics.

Specialty-use cases come up when you have highly specialized software, as engineering or science professionals do. These highly technical workers have applications that simply don’t work, or work poorly, in a virtualized desktop environment. Overzealous rollout of a remote virtual desktop where the goal is 100% coverage creates an absolute — one that works counter to the company’s overall productivity.  Crippling your engineers in order to fulfill an unrealistic goal? Not good for the business. CIOs need to remember that achieving 90% to 98% coverage is fantastic, and that those stubborn last percentage points are desktop users who actually might be better off being left alone, post-PC era or not.

Smart CIOs are mindful of the physical well-being of their workforce. Everybody loves a lighter, thinner laptop, and everybody loves a sleek tablet device. However, for workers who are not highly mobile, smaller screens and slick, tiny keyboards are a recipe for eyestrain, backaches and carpal tunnel syndrome. CIOs need to make sure that the IT departments they run are aware of use cases and are not making one-size-fits-all decisions. Certainly, use cases cannot be allowed to get too complicated, but a few standard configurations based on role will make employees more productive and prevent long-term problems for their health and happiness.

What do you think? Is this really the “post-PC era”? Is 100% remote desktop virtualization adoption even feasible? Is it pointless to cut the cord for each and every worker? Is it possible to extract some benefits of virtualization without going all the way? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

January 31, 2012  3:08 PM

Shared services are the next generation of IT

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

Last week I wrote about the transformation of banking services into products. This week I want to discuss different types of services–shared services.

One of the first technology news stories I ever worked on in my career was titled something like “Mainframe at your server.” The phrase recalls the bygone days of client/server, when hardware was king. Today’s adage, however, is “mainframe at your service.”

The February edition of the Enterprise CIO Decisions ezine on the topic of shared services is an important one, as the promises of virtualization, cloud computing and centralized IT become fully realized in enterprise computing. Yet IT executives don’t have a set definition of what shared services are. For some, the concept is all about pooling resources through virtualization; for others, shared services are a means to an end, that end being cost savings and efficiency.

But in reality, shared services are about moving from the server to the service. “It’s a fundamental shift,” says Jake Hughes, chief technical architect at Seattle Children’s Hospital, in the ezine. “Instead of HR saying, ‘That is my server and that is my storage,’ it is their service and they have no idea what’s on the back end. It is no longer any one person’s or any one business unit’s storage because we may move that storage 10 times in one week, depending on the needs of the overall organization.”

Experts agree that the goal of a services-oriented IT environment is to make services readily and easily accessible to end users. That in itself is what will really revolutionize IT.

January 30, 2012  3:52 PM

Does anyone still care about corporate social media?

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Each week, we scour the Web and collect all the best and brightest links to start your week off swinging. This week, we’re looking at the latest credit card hacks, how Apple tricks its employees into keeping corporate secrets and a successful corporate social media campaign that will please all the Gen-Xers in the crowd.

• Honda managed to hit a whopper of a successful corporate social media campaign with its Ferris Bueller revamp for the Super Bowl. Alas, Cameron is nowhere to be seen.

• With a $50 device bought off eBay, hackers can lift credit card info from the cards inside your wallet.

• Move over Seattle and Silicon Valley, the hot new tech cities include San Antonio; Greensboro, N.C.; and St. Louis.

• How serious is Apple about maintaining corporate secrets? Way serious. It creates fake projects for new engineers to work on until they can be trusted.

• Does your corporation have a corporate blog? The corporate blogging trend is on the decline, according to a recent study by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Don’t worry, you can still get your blog fix right here.

• In an effort to become one of the top tech cities, should a local government sell stock to raise money for a broadband network? What the Green Bay Packers and rural England can teach the world about raising capital for technology improvements.

• Fresh Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson is wasting no time cleaning house. The Internet company has announced it is whacking 10 of its big mobile apps, like Yahoo Deals and Yahoo News.

• Twitter announced that it was going to allow country-specific censorship of Twitter posts last week. The proposed #TwitterBlackout on Saturday, however, really didn’t do anything (as one might have suspected).

January 27, 2012  2:22 PM

Google privacy policy changes? Get over it

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Three days ago, we all learned of some changes to Google’s privacy policy. With the new changes, it will take what it knows about its users and “combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services.” With that proclamation, the blogosphere exploded with cries of J’ACCUSE! and the implication that this was proof that Google had defied its own promise to not be evil.

First, maybe I’m pessimistic, but I’m kind of shocked that Google hasn’t been combining its information about users all along. I mean, it’s 2012, right? Facebook basically knows enough about me to successfully predict what I’m going to wear tomorrow, yet we all grudgingly accept Zuckerberg’s evil empire and go on with our status updates. But Google makes one tweak with how its own products manage a user identity and everyone is up in arms? Face it, the war was over a long time ago when it comes to online identity. You want to be mad at a company, it’s not Google — not this time, anyway.

A single Google privacy policy across Google’s products is nothing but a good thing. It protects its own users. I understand that some people prefer to have their services broken up into manageable pieces, but for the majority of users, it’s a good thing when Gmail talks to Google+. And there were already Google-wide preferences before, so it’s not like this change is completely off-book for Google or its users.

Of course, there’s the new Google Personal Search, which I’ll admit is a little disarming, but then again, I am somewhat surprised that there are still people who believe that the stuff you put on the Internet is somehow hidden from the world. This naïveté might have been appropriate in 1996, but at this point, how can people not understand how the Internet works?

If the idea of people seeing your Facebook timeline in their Google searches is unnerving, turn it off. Google has provided a handy way to opt out of Google Personal Search. Pick “Do not use personal search results” in the Google Search Settings and you’re golden. Then stop worrying that the Google privacy policy means that Google is the evil empire. I’ve seen the face of evil, and man, it sure is not Google.

January 24, 2012  8:34 PM

Anti-piracy laws like SOPA and PIPA highlight online priorities

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

The recent pullbacks of the two controversial anti-online piracy bills — SOPA and PIPA — don’t mean that users can continue indefinitely to download their favorite content whenever and wherever they are. But they also don’t mean that copyright-conscious content firms will be getting every penny and page view coming to them.

Proponents of tough anti-piracy laws will be back with more specific language about what defines a site that hosts online content and which punishments will be enforced for sites that host content “illegally.” Once that is settled, content providers can begin focusing on true pirates, not everyone who might have a rogue video posted on their server.

Assuming that eventually happens, the big issue seems to be users’ desire for online content and what they are willing to give up for it, whether it is a credit card or personal information or risk being able to download it at all.

While these fights are going on, lawmakers for the European Union are attacking another hazard of online life: privacy. EU officials are proposing privacy protections for data and individuals that are even more strict than existing EU laws. Opponents of these proposals say such stringent measures will hurt business and innovation.

I think it is interesting that the U.S.-based businesses (primarily entertainment firms) behind SOPA and PIPA are a lot more concerned about prohibiting unauthorized access to content than they are about protecting the privacy of their customers, whose data are mined by the terabyte every day in order to find more ways to get them to view all of that content.

What users should be fighting for is for more control over their online lives, and that means tougher privacy laws.

What do you think?

January 24, 2012  4:48 PM

Google data center solutions to adapt in your own IT shop

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Each week, we scour the World Wide Web to give you a quick punch of last week’s biggest news stories and interesting blog posts. This week, we’re taking a look at whether computer science should be mandatory education, the new Wi-Fi coverage in the London Underground, and two very creative data center solutions that conserve energy and allow for more choices in data center build sites.

  • The fancy new Facebook Timeline is now open to all, and you get a week to go through your old posts and hide anything you don’t want your neighbor or your old girlfriend to see. You know, stuff you did back in those naïve days when we thought that posting on Facebook was totally harmless. Ah, youth!
  • We’ve all heard that the Internet is a series of tubes, but now Londoners will be able to surf the tubes while riding the Tube. The London Underground will have Wi-Fi coverage in time for the 2012 Olympics. We hope they don’t forget to mind the gap.
  • With bigger and bigger data centers on the horizon, it’s always a struggle to find a place to put them. This developer has submitted a design for 36,000-square-foot data center solutions that hide in plain sight as a luxury mansion.
  • Only days after we waxed poetic on the future of RIM, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balisillie are stepping down as co-CEOs of RIM. Is there any hope left for BlackBerry at this point?
  • “Stay hungry, stay foolish” is probably one of the best Steve Jobs quotes around, and now it’s going to be making the rounds on a Virgin America plane named after Jobs. You probably don’t even have to ask if it’s got great Wi-Fi coverage, right?
  • Should computer science be mandatory for kids in school? Andy Young believes that all kids should learn coding along with their reading and ‘rithmatic, but first we need to make sure normal people understand what “coding” means.
  • Have you ever experienced some of these stupid user tricks?
  • Google recognizes its green data center solutions with solid ideas you could adapt for just about any size company.

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