Innovation is a popular topic among IT professionals and media. It’s also one of the more misunderstood concepts. If you ask 10 CIOs what IT innovation means to them or to their companies, you will get 10 different answers. You will get some original thought on it; you will also get some useful nugget that someone borrowed from someone else.
This ambiguity is one reason why we have started to talk more directly to CIOs about IT innovation, with the CIO Innovators: Profiles in IT and Business Leadership. Not innovation in an abstract sense, but really, what role did innovation play in the execution of a successful IT project? Was the original idea born out of innovative thinking, or did innovative methods enable the project to get off the ground or clear significant hurdles along the way?
What we are seeing is that what’s more important than the random innovative thought or impulse is being able to create a culture of innovation in which out-of-the-box thinking can thrive. More to the point, to create a culture in which innovation is part of everything you do.
An example of this is from Steven John, CIO of H.B. Fuller, who explained that an innovative environment is a function of time. You have to allot time to people to develop ideas, and you have to have enough foresight into the goals of an organization that you can start planning how to get there early — early enough that you can still bat multiple ideas around rather than have to stick to one because there isn’t time to think of an alternative.
John also said that in order to free up time to think in an innovative way, you have to make sure that no one is wasting their time or others’ in day-to-day activities and that no one is duplicating tasks. “If you are doing something that someone else can do, then things that only you can do are not getting done,” he said.
Make that a resolution for 2011: Eliminate wasted time. That may not be “innovative” in itself, but it could put you on the right track.
Reader Jim Dries offered me another point of view on the SearchCIO.com salary and careers survey, which was completed late last year.
In our 2010 IT salary survey, all signs point to increased salaries for most levels of IT managers and above in most industries and companies, large and small. The numbers were higher than 2009 and also pointed to a better 2011 for most involved in the profession.
However, our IT salary survey numbers may overlook one area that Dries says should be taken into consideration: “My … interpretation of the higher IT salaries is that it has less to do with the rising economy and more to do with a leaner staff being paid more to stay and do more with less,” he said in an email.
He’s right in the sense that IT managers, directors and executives have been learning to do more with less for several years now. And certainly the total numbers of IT personnel have dwindled, so we should consider the number of jobs lost to the increased efficiencies that IT is building into its systems, as well as lost to outsourcing outright.
“These are the type of actions businesses are taking and evidenced by industry information. Less can be said of the evidence for a ‘recovering economy,’” he wrote.
I remember talking to an IT manager about his XP migration plans to Vista, and he said that he was going to hold on to XP come hell or high water. Mainstream support for XP had ended and extended support for the OS will end in April 2014, but it didn’t matter to him. He was determined to make it work.
These days, an XP migration to Windows 7 feels inevitable. Vista just didn’t cut it, but Windows 7 is promising to take away the things that aggravated you about Vista, and has features that make your life easier. With Windows 7, you get improved management, security and reliability features: AppLocker, BitLocker, BranchCache and an improved user interface, just to name a few features.
You also get tools that Microsoft has developed to address some of the application compatibility problems, tools like Shims that target specific compatibility problems with applications when moving from XP to Windows 7.
Gartner estimates that it will take 12 to 18 months to plan your migration: gathering information about applications and hardware, testing and remediation and piloting, while some software vendors will stop supporting Windows XP in 2012.
Between the potential lack of support for XP on the part of some software and hardware vendors by 2012 and the end of extended XP support in 2014, Gartner analyst Stephen Kleynhans said time is running out. “It’s like we are test crash dummies heading for a wall,” he said during a recent webcast on migrating to Windows 7.
But I’d like to hear from you about your XP migration plans. Does the 2014 end to extended support make a difference to your plans, and how long do you think your XP migration will take?
The average IT salary in 2010 for senior IT executives, mid-level IT executives and IT managers was $121,797, according to our annual CIO Salary and Careers Survey, taken in November.
This is a $10,000-plus drop from the average IT salaries of the 952 senior, mid-level and IT manager professionals we polled in 2009 (when the average was $132,203). But this is not an apples-to-apples comparison as, year over year, the respondents to the survey are not the same individuals, and the number of respondents within each IT job category also changes.
Disclaimer aside, the 921 respondents to our most recent survey are making less money than the respondents to our survey in 2009 but, on a brighter note, this year’s group of respondents did see salary increases.
When asked about their IT salaries in 2010 compared to 2009, mid-level IT directors said they saw the biggest bump, a 4.3% increase from an average salary of $116,976 in 2009 to $121,979 in 2010. Senior IT executives saw an average increase of 1.7% ($145,899 in 2009, versus $148,380 in 2010). IT managers’ raises were miniscule in comparison, only .3% ($94,744 in 2009 and $95,032 in 2010).
So it would seem that mid-level IT management is not a bad place to be. But senior-level IT executives are expecting the biggest pay raise as we move into 2011 — a 5.3% increase.
Mid-level IT executives, meanwhile, predict a 4.5% pay raise in 2011, and IT managers a 4.1% increase.
Broken out by industry, senior IT executives’ IT salaries in the financial services sector increased by 15.2% in 2010 to $152,437 compared to 2009, and these executives expect a 4.4% pay hike in 2011. On the other end of the spectrum, IT salaries for senior IT executives in health care saw their pay drop by 7.3% to an average $142,686 in 2010.
The government sector was not a good place to be as far as IT salaries for mid-level IT managers. Compared to 2009, their salaries dropped by 7.3% in 2010 to $109,278.
Mood by industry
Despite seeing the biggest drops in salaries, IT professionals in health care and government sectors are not the most pessimistic. Granted, when you start to break the numbers down by industry, the stats become a bit more anecdotal due to their smaller sample sizes in comparison to overall respondents. Of the 100 IT professionals in the health care sector asked about the mood in their organization, 38% were pessimistic, 30% optimistic and 32% neutral. Of the 88 government sector respondents, 42% were pessimistic, 32% optimistic and 26% neutral.
The 22 IT folks in the entertainment sector that answered our question about the mood in their organization were the most pessimistic: 64%.
But overall, 72% of senior IT executives, 65% of mid-level IT directors and 61% of IT managers rate the mood at their organizations as neutral or optimistic as SearchCIO-Midmarket.com Senior News Writer Linda Tucci points out in her story on how IT salaries vary by industry.
Another optimistic sign? IT budgets are expected to grow by about 2.8% this year, according to 2,300 respondents from around the world (excluding China) to TechTarget’s 2011 IT Priorities Survey.
Anecdotally, IT professionals I’ve been talking to lately are on the hunt to hire: One data center manager is looking for several virtualization experts (a hot commodity) and a small consulting firm just hired a new expert.
The conversations I’ve had during the year also gradually turned from a lead focus on cost cutting to prioritizing projects that have been put off. This doesn’t necessarily mean that controlling costs isn’t still paramount, but it is yet another sign that the outlook for 2011 is looking a little rosier.
What’s your outlook? Email me at Christina Torode, News Director.
As we continue to chronicle the “disappearing” data center, we have to consider the ongoing transformation of the enterprise application. Software as a Service, Web-based applications, cloud computing and mobile have effectively put an end to client/server applications that were the rage fewer than 15 years ago.
And even though “cloud” has been part of everyday IT lingo for three or four years, there is still much we don’t know about exactly what a cloud is or what defines a cloud service or application, not to mention private clouds. SearchCIO.com Features Writer Laura Smith this week discusses how private clouds are more than just virtualized environments. Management is just as key an ingredient, and CIOs are starting to adjust their focus.
In reality, we are a long way from getting a grip on not just how to define data center transformation, but what the end-game really is. But a TechTarget colleague recently put a certain spin on it that made a lot of sense. There’s nothing evolutionary about cloud computing, he said. It’s already here, since much of the technology has been around for awhile.
What’s revolutionary about it is that cloud is changing the delivery mechanism for applications, relocating the computing power and management (people) power outward and making executives rethink everything about how they use technology to run their businesses. CIOs must look to new ways to port, build, buy or outsource them; re-learn how to evaluate in-house application portfolios; and understand how to maximize value and reduce redundancies.
And this adjustment needs to happen quickly, because Microsoft is betting on the cloud as much as it has on anything since it first heard of the Internet.
Judging character and qualifications is a tough thing. The annual debate over the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame voting is going on, following the announcement of the two newest members, Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven, this week.
The voters are always asked to justify their votes: Do they go by stats, by whether or not a player used steroids, or by longevity? Some use the “black ink” test, which judges a player by how often he led the league in a certain statistical category, noted by bold type in the statistical record. Others use the “eyeball test,” a more qualitative judgment for those players whose stats don’t quite measure up.
For my money, stats are important, but the eyeball test, whether it’s voting for the Hall of Fame or hiring the right person for a job, is a better measure of a person’s worth, because overall value is not always the sum of someone’s stats or stops along a career path.
For technology executives looking for a job in 2011, the qualitative and the quantitative are equally important, according to SearchCIO.com Senior News Writer Linda Tucci’s “Writing a CIO resume” story this week.
Chris Patrick, global CIO practice leader in the Dallas office of executive recruiter Egon Zehnder International AG, advises clients that it’s not simply about what they did, but about how they did it. “Companies balance the quantitative with the qualitative, and sometimes the qualitative can be more important. How much carnage did you leave behind, or did you actually build a strong collaborative environment where people felt they were participating?” he said. Being able to build a team, to work across a matrix organization and to drive change when one doesn’t necessarily “own or control all the levers” — those are critical attributes for a CIO, he added.
How you communicate the idea that you excelled in an environment where ideas, culture and budgets were stacked against you is a tricky thing. Your job “stats” (accomplishments) in your resumé will likely get you past a first screening. But once you make it past that stage, you can throw the resumé away, because you need to sell yourself as being more than a collection of accomplishments.
A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine toured the halls of a major technology vendor, only to find them virtually deserted. Corporate holiday or off-site meeting? No, just the usual number of people working remotely or from home offices.
It’s not surprising that as the mobile workforce grows, the less bricks and mortar infrastructure matters. The Los Angeles Times reported recently that the walls are closing in on workers and that physical workspace dedicated to employees is shrinking. The square footage used to determine how much space a company needs has fallen from up to 700 square feet per employee to an average of 200 square feet. That number could go down to 50 square feet in five years, the article said, while the average cube space has fallen from 64 square feet to 49.
But internal space isn’t so important a factor in the shrinkage as the growth of virtual space, and management thereof, putting a premium on network, wireless and VPN infrastructure, as well as mobile devices and applications for them.
It follows that mobile devices are going to take on an even greater role from now on. Users are going to demand them and IT managers are going to have to start accommodating them, and developing apps for them.
Yankee Group analyst Eugene Signorini went even further when he discussed mobile workforce applications at the Health IT Insights conference earlier this month. He said eventually mobile apps are going to be developed by end users themselves (or, in that particular case, by doctors) who need a specific function out of their mobile devices.
This kind of scenario could invite chaos and panic in IT shops of today, but it’s a vision that is entirely possible and plausible, and one that companies need to prepare themselves for.
There are still many IT shops that have not virtualized the majority of their servers. Many still haven’t moved virtual machines (VMs) to a production environment yet. In fact, some may sidestep deploying their own virtual machines altogether.
I made that acronym up, but the point is that some SMBs could skip the virtualization vendors — VMware, Microsoft, Citrix, Red Hat, Oracle, etc. — and go straight to the cloud providers — Amazon, Google, Rackspace, SunGard and IBM — for an out-of-the-box hosted VM service.
Leave it up to the cloud providers to figure out why one VM is sucking the life out of the others in a cluster, or why the accounting department’s VM suddenly shuts down. After all, if analyst firms like Gartner are right, all virtualization roads lead to the cloud, so why not let the cloud providers configure your VMs for you?
That is not to say that midmarket companies aren’t choosing to deploy their own VMs. Midmarket companies’ adoption of virtual machines is expected to surpass the adoption rate under way in F500 companies within a year, said Gartner analyst Tom Bittman during a recent webinar.
Another Gartner survey found that by the end of 2010, 29% of all workloads running on x86 servers will be running in VMs. And by 2012, half of all workloads are expected to be running in VMs, according to the firm.
And if you are deploying your own virtual machines and developing your own virtual machine management strategy, think in terms of the lifecycle of the VM. I’m not just talking about putting policies and tools in place that track who has permission to set up a virtual machine, what resources a given VM is allowed to use, or when a given VM should be retired and repurposed.
Virtual machines are not static, they move around, and they could very well end up … in the cloud. So IT shops may want to keep in mind whether or not their VMs can be moved to the cloud, not just from a security perspective, but in terms of the technology they have chosen and whether or not that technology will be one supported by cloud providers in the long run.
When one of Mark Bowker’s clients went to do an IT asset inventory, they couldn’t count how many virtual machines they had … because they couldn’t see them.
Bowker, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) in Milford, Mass., shared this story as we were talking about IT shops’ interest in virtual machine management.
Visibility — not just for the location of VMs, but also into the impact virtual machines have on the resources they use and how they affect the rest of the physical infrastructure: servers, storage, networking and applications — isn’t happening yet in many shops.
This particular audit was asked for by the client’s security group, which was none too pleased with not being able to find some virtual machines and what data resided on them.
It is not an uncommon problem, partly because of how easily virtual machines can be deployed. A lack of virtual machine management best practices also stems from the fact that, aside from pretty large organizations, server virtualization is still a small percentage of an overall IT infrastructure.
Of 460 companies surveyed with 2,000 or more employees, the majority had less than 250 virtual machines in production, according to a survey ESG conducted in August. Of this 56%, 12% had less than 25 VMs deployed in production, 13% had 25 to 49 VMs deployed, 13% had 50 to 100 and 18% had 101 to 250.
And despite problems that can arise from a lack of VM visibility, IT shops are satisfied enough with the basic virtual machine management tools that come with server virtualization technology like VMware’s vCenter and Microsoft’s System Center Virtual Machine Manager, Bowker said.
“IT administrators are extremely enthusiastic about where they’ve come from (in terms of the management tools they have traditionally used to do their particular job), and are very satisfied with the advances they are getting by still being able to use that single pane of glass,” he said.
Meaning the basic virtualization tools that come with server virtualization technology integrate with the tools that the admins have already become accustomed to.
Advanced tools are beginning to bake. Ones that allow you to keep a close watch on VM location and what’s in them, how to provision them, and the resources the VM and the host need before an application is put on the host. Some even figure out all the complex metrics for right sizing resources to transform a physical environment into a virtual one.
But, for now, many IT shops do not need those types of advanced features, or the cost of buying specialized virtual machine management tools, until perhaps security asks for an audit and finds that a few VMs have gone missing.
How do you know if your SaaS provider is a good choice? A session at the recent MIT Sloan CFO Summit provided some insight that might prove useful the next time you’re vetting a SaaS provider.
The panel was billed as a primer on what CFOs need to know about cloud computing, featuring the top financial executives of four SaaS providers. Far more interesting than the familiar chatter on the promise and pitfalls of cloud computing, however, was the panel’s response to a question from the MIT research scientist and moderator George Westerman on how SaaS providers gauge their own financial health.
Like any subscription-based business, the telltale heart of fiscal health for a SaaS provider is customer acquisition and retention, with the emphasis on retention. “I think of our business in terms of lifetime value,” said Harpreet Grewal, CFO of Constant Contact, an online email marketing provider. The key indicators for his company are how much revenue it is generating from customers, how long it is retaining them and how many customers it is adding to its core base. The cost of acquisition is high, so a smart SaaS provider “has to win over the customer every day,” Grewal said, because it is so easy for customers to switch them off. Panelist Ron Gill, CFO of NetSuite Inc., the maker of Web-based accounting and business software, said that the key metric of a SaaS provider is “net add” to annual revenue.”Basically, it is a game of building up a base of recurring revenue, keeping it and adding to it,” he said. That net add is a more important gauge than whether a SaaS provider meets quarterly guidance, the SaaS providers said.
Because recurring revenue is the mother’s milk of a SaaS business, CFOs claim they have more time to think strategically, rather than sweating every quarter about whether or not the last 20% of revenue is really coming in. That’s probably a good thing.
A prediction one of the panelists made was that the SaaS vendor landscape is poised for huge consolidation, similar to the software business shakeup that occurred after the advent of client-server computing and the release of R/3. “In 10 years, the real winners are those that offer platforms and are not just focused on building applications,” said Gill.
Yes, but what about security?
While security is a concern commonly voiced by customers when vetting a SaaS provider, the panel insisted it is the price of admission for any company that deals with sensitive data and hopes to remain in business. A couple of pointers on security:
1. When your SaaS or cloud provider says it is Statement on Auditing Standards No. 70 (SAS 70)-certified, make sure that applies to the data centers where your information is located, and not just a headquarter location, said Joyce Bell, CFO of ClickSquared, a provider of on-demand marketing software.
2. Read the SAS 70 report to determine if the controls are built into the processes the SaaS provider is running, and if the controls actually matter to your business, advised NetSuite’s Gill.
3. Your SaaS provider should give you a way to measure the controls yourself, said David Frenkel, CEO of Panviva, a maker of enterprise desktop software, or measurements are “as meaningless as the paper they’re written on.”