CIO Symmetry

March 11, 2011  4:28 PM

Why aren’t more women in executive careers in IT?

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Tuesday was International Women’s Day. The United Nations‘ theme for 2011: “Equal access to education, training and science and technology.” Last week at the FusionCIO conference in Madison, Wis., a casual poll of the attendees list shows that the woman-to-man ratio was about 1:8. The girls playing with Teen Talk Barbie (the one that exclaimed “Math class is tough!”) back in 1992 are in the workplace today. Are they following a path to IT leadership, or do they still think that math and IT are tough?

At the conference lunch, this disparity became obvious when I sat down at a mostly empty table for eight. One by one, the seats were claimed by women until I joked to our one male dining companion that I hoped he wasn’t feeling like an “odd man out.” There were over 200 executives at that conference and only 40 of them women, and what are the odds that there would be a table with a seven-women, 1-man split? I’m hoping someone tells me in the comments because math is hard (just kidding)!

According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, in 2009 women earned only 18% of computer science degrees. When the world’s first computer, ENIAC, was born in 1947, its programming team was comprised entirely of women. So what happened? Actually, the more interesting question is, why is it still happening? The problem may be stereotyping: Women are perceived to be better in nurturing fields, according to “Where are the Women in Information Technology?” But leaders with people skills will always be prized in IT, regardless of gender. The successful CIO manages the mechanical and the personal with panache.

As evolved as we are, we still have primitive instincts to band together. Whether it’s football teams or water-cooler talk, we negotiate an internal, inherent need to be with “people like me,” no matter who those people are, just like our ancestors did back when information technology was wheels and fire. We can look no further than the FusionCIO lunch room to see that theory in action, but if we continue to recruit and encourage women to come to the table, I am confident that it won’t be too long before Barbie is raking in the VC to support her legion of iPad apps.

Should we actively try to break this glass ceiling for women in IT leadership, or is it male-dominated for a reason?

March 8, 2011  6:09 PM

Computer automation is already changing everything

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

I am a fan of the Science Channel shows “Factory Made” and “How It’s Made.” I find it fascinating how automated factories can do everything from build light bulbs and create fireproof suits or manufacture breakfast cereal, box it and ship it.

Robots and other automated machines have definitely changed the face of manufacturing and many other routine office tasks. But now computer automation is creeping in on other types of jobs, those normally reserved for skilled, highly educated (and often highly paid) white-collar employees.

If you saw the IBM computer “Watson” beat the “Jeopardy!” contestants recently, you will know where this is going. contributor Adrian Bowles says that Watson-type machines will eventually become skilled at managing governance, risk and compliance (GRC) and enforcement thereof.

Next, the legal profession is seeing a major impact of technology taking on most of the arduous task of e-discovery, with computers capable of screening more documents in less time and at lower cost than human lawyers and paralegals.

Computers won’t completely replace these skills, especially GRC, which requires more than monitoring risk controls to be successful. As I wrote back in January, IT departments are learning to do more with less. If these trends continue, however, some IT departments are going to have a much easier time of it, while more specialized employees find themselves looking for work.

March 3, 2011  7:22 PM

Dice report: With poaching on the rise, is your IT talent happy?

Christina Torode Christina Torode Profile: Christina Torode

Virtualization pros — not just VMware experts, but people who know how the big picture behind server virtualization works and can connect the dots between servers, storage, networking and desktops. And application developers who have a talent for designing business apps for smartphones. These are the members of your IT staff you should be keeping your eye on — because the poachers are coming.

I don’t have numbers to back this up, just trends and conversations. Mobile application development and mobile workforce strategies are high on CIOs’ agenda and, well, it’s just hard to find a well-rounded virtualization expert, say the data center managers I’ve been talking to lately.

Across the board, it’s going to get harder to keep IT talent from taking off. Of the 2,697 recruiters and hiring managers across 26 industries surveyed by Dice Inc., 54% expect poaching will get worse this year. Hiring managers in the technology and consulting industries are gearing up for what could be a brutal year of losing talent, with 64% expecting poaching to increase.

What’s causing this IT talent grab? It’s as simple as strong demand and a shortage of talent, according to the Dice respondents.

Linda Tucci, senior news writer for, recently wrote about how Chevron is creating a new career path for its IT talent as a way to tackle IT retention. It’s a technology career path, versus a management career path, for those who want to stay on the tech side.

The top three tactics hiring managers and recruiters are using to keep “at risk” employees from taking off are granting flexible work hours, giving IT talent the ability to work with emerging technologies and increasing salaries, according to the Dice survey. Here’s a rundown of other ways hiring managers and recruiters are trying to attract and retain IT talent:

  • Offering better career opportunities
  • Giving promotions
  • Giving bonuses, or put people on a bonus-eligibility program
  • Allowing employees to telecommute

It was nice to see salary increases make the survey’s top 3. Our own IT salary survey of 920 senior and mid-level IT executives, IT managers and IT staffers found that salaries, particularly those of mid-level IT executives, increased by 5% to $121,979 in 2010, and this group expects a salary bump of 4.5% in 2011.

Still, not all IT staffers are feeling the love. According to the same survey, IT managers saw a 2010 salary increase of only .3%, for an average pay of $95,000, and IT staff members expect only a 3.2% pay raise in 2011, compared to senior executives, who expect a 5.3% pay raise this year.

March 1, 2011  7:09 PM

What would an Internet kill switch really mean?

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

The Internet shutdown in Eqypt last month raised questions regarding whether the U.S. would be able to do the same with a so-called Internet kill switch bill.

This is not the first time such a bill has been discussed. The Rockefeller-Snowe bill last year contained a kill-switch option before it was pulled out.

Fears are circulating that this ability would be used to censor the Internet or take away access to the public. But the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act (S.3480) is expressly about being able to thwart a cyberattack on what is deemed critical infrastructure.

I’m suspicious of that, really, despite the efforts of the bill’s sponsors to sort out myth from reality. And I seriously doubt the ability to be able to selectively shut down certain parts of the Internet without grinding the U.S. economy to a halt.

However, the shutdown concept should be considered, especially from the IT perspective, rather than the purely political. Attacks are getting more and more sophisticated and are able to target systems that where once thought to be immune from cyberattacks, like manufacturing production systems. So beyond the government thinking about the concept of a kill switch, U.S. businesses should also be thinking in terms of their own critical infrastructure and treat security as a business continuity issue.

February 24, 2011  5:38 AM

Food for thought: Cloud computing technology minimizes human touch

4Laura Laura Smith Profile: 4Laura

The topic of innovation made for choice dinner conversation last week when President Barack Obama met with a dozen titans of the IT industry at a private home in Silicon Valley, Calif. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama wanted to know how lessons learned by the technology industry — a bright spot in the U.S. economy — can be applied to other U.S. industries as well.

It’s an interesting time to ask the question, given the shifting terra firma of the IT world. Convergence is the word of the day, from both technology and business points of view. Consider that, in the last month, global telcos have gobbled up cloud computing technology and content providers (Verizon Communications Inc./Terremark Worldwide Inc.; Comcast Corp./NBC Universal Inc.) to deliver digital content as well as cloud services. Meanwhile, traditional IT vendors of various cloud computing parts are forming alliances faster than you can say virtualization. Cisco Systems Inc., VMware Inc. and EMC Corp., for example, offer the Vblock converged virtual architecture, a “cloud in a box” solution for midmarket companies that seek the scalability and measured service of a cloud while maintaining control over private data.

Ever since the first PC was networked three decades ago, business computing has been on a rollercoaster: The dot-com buildout and ensuing bust; a cost-cutting wave of virtualization; the consumer-led influx of social networks and smartphones; and, now, cloud computing technology, with its associated risks.

In January, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra lit a fire under the National Institutes of Standards and Technology to accelerate the adoption of security and interoperability standards. Identity management remains a hurdle in this race, so the government has also announced initiatives toward a “trusted identity ecosphere.”

Let’s hope someone at the presidential dinner asked the “elephant in the room” question: If everything moves to the cloud, and the cloud is an automated environment, what will become of all the people who work in the IT industry?

“Yes, cloud computing will cause you to lose your job,” predicted Greg Shields, senior partner and principal technologist at Concentrated Technology LLC, an IT education and strategic consulting practice in Denver, Colo. “Any industry is going to get simpler when we figure out how to automate.”

But when one door closes, another one opens. Perhaps legions of IT staffers will become independent cloud brokers, transitioning to a growing small business/home office market as more people work remotely to reduce their carbon footprints. Maybe IT executives will dive into vertical markets to reinvent themselves, as Dell Inc. is attempting to do with its cloud in a box for health care.

What’s on your plate? Send me an email.

February 22, 2011  7:47 PM

Get cloud computing security in line with enterprise practices

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

You have been reading a lot about cloud computing on and lately. With good reason: The cloud is the latest game-changer in corporate IT. Sure, there’s the associated hype, but the reality is most CIOs we talk to are taking the cloud seriously.

That is, seriously in terms of how to streamline IT and business operations, but also seriously in terms of the one aspect of cloud computing that gives IT pros pause: security.

At a recent conference I attended for health care CIOs, attendees said that cloud computing security was really their only concern.

The advice from panelists there was that the day will come when we feel as secure about having our personal health information online as we are about having our financial information and accounts online.

This is not a good answer, though, for the question, “How are we going to get there?”

Whatever is the best cloud computing security strategy is already going to be the best security strategy for your own on-site data center: Nonstop diligence, up-to-date technology and monitoring services, and a culture of security in the organization from top to bottom.

Most organizations cannot claim absolute security for their own systems, and until they do, they should worry about cloud initiatives. So start including cloud security in your overall plan to get it in sync with the rest of your operations.

February 17, 2011  5:57 PM

Application retirement: Saying goodbye isn’t so easy

Christina Torode Christina Torode Profile: Christina Torode

There are forces moving organizations down a path toward application retirement but, for some, it might be easier to keep a legacy application rather than put a more modern spin on it.

The arguments for application modernization are many: Increasingly mobile workforces want access to back-end systems without having to call on IT; new generations of workers prefer Web-based interfaces; and the money previously spent on maintaining legacy applications can be put to better use elsewhere.

Technology and services options abound to make the move easier. Applications can be retired and moved to a Software as a Service (SaaS) provider, removing the need to support and maintain the software. There are companies that specialize just in migrating data out of older systems into a new ERP suite, and there are vendors that will do a code audit, removing wasteful code and using the “good code” to build a new application.

But for each of these steps, there are months of up-front preparation. The first step is choosing which applications stay and which can go. Skill sets must also be evaluated to figure out which modernization path is the best fit— for example, does your staff need to learn a new programming language if a service-oriented architecture (SOA) is you application retirement path? You will also need to factor in and plan for business disruptions.

You could also choose to not modernize the back-end system and instead build a new front-end. In this case, it may be simpler to leave the back-end alone and enable a larger set of users to meet changing business needs with a friendlier interface.

Or is this a Band-Aid?

Let us know what about your application retirement plans; email Christina Torode, News Director.

February 15, 2011  3:14 PM

Pros and cons of disaster recovery in the cloud

Christina Torode Christina Torode Profile: Christina Torode

Disaster recovery in the cloud is manna from heaven for some IT executives.

There’s no grappling over IT dollars for DR for a given project. The cost of DR is simply slipped in as part of the monthly subscription fee, whether the service is for a hosted application or hosted infrastructure.

Not too shabby. And, as far as cloud proponents are concerned, the providers are going to make sure that disaster recovery is a priority because their business models and reputations are built up (or ruined) if they don’t get DR right.

That’s a pretty big incentive for cloud providers, so it makes sense that their DR capabilities are going to be better than their customer’s.

That’s one way of looking at it. Another is that disaster recovery in the cloud could hurt — rather than help — your DR plans.

Some IT executives are ground-shipping their data to their cloud provider because they don’t want their data on a public network. They’re also afraid that, once the cloud provider has their data, they may lose access to it for a variety of reasons: the cloud provider’s employees could mishandle the data, or the company could experience a service disruption or even go out of business. Cloud provider outages do not exactly make a case for disaster recovery in the cloud.

According to a blog post on ReadWrite Cloud on the Top 5 cloud outages, “Mark Williams, a cloud computing consultant based out of the United Kingdom, found 23 reports of cloud computing failure in 2010. Google had 12 outages. Amazon had five. He reported that Microsoft had four outages. had two.”

Laura Smith, features writer for, recently wrote about the top 10 public cloud risks, and while security was number one, availability made the list, too.

“It’s all about quality, not about low-cost services anymore,” Lalitendu Panda, global CIO of D&M Holdings Inc., pointed out in Smith’s story. “Interruption of service is an issue; we have had a couple of situations. It’s not like having your own [infrastructure] that you can modify. You have no control over what else is running on the cloud that could degrade performance.”

If the company can afford to lose access to an application, it would seem that disaster recovery in the cloud is a moot point. As cloud providers push to accommodate more mission-critical applications, enterprises will inevitably lose access at some point.

But that happens anyway in some organizations. So maybe we should just call it a draw.

February 10, 2011  9:43 PM

Effects of the Egypt Internet shutdown

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

It’s a sign of how dependent our lives have become on the Internet, or more accurately, of “being connected.” News of Egypt cutting off Internet and cellular service for five days this week shocked the world, with fears that news of the revolution would disappear down a black hole or, worse, prevent the protesters from communicating with one another.

But guess what? News did not disappear. Information and video still showed up on Al Jazeera and CNN and other outlets, and such ancient technologies as fax, dial-up modem and ham radio served as alternatives for the unplugged. The Egypt Internet shutdown did not appear to slow down the protesters. The oldest form of communication — word of mouth — may work faster on a local level than anything in our digital world.

It seems as if wired Americans in particular were the most derailed by the shutdown because they were no longer able to get news from Egypt via their preferred channels of Twitter and Facebook. And Frank Rich makes a lot of sense when he argues that we are affected by “the default assumption that the Egyptian uprising … must be powered by the twin American-born phenomena of Twitter and Facebook.”

There are still serious questions about how effective social networking tools can be in these situations. I wrote last year about how the revolution will not be Tweeted. This week, another Middle East hotspot, Syria, opened up Facebook and YouTube after a three-year ban. But really, what better means is there to keep an eye on dissent?

February 8, 2011  3:59 PM

Software tools can be basis for successful ITIL strategy

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) can be a useful tool — for those who have ventured into it. Just 40% of 169 IT managers at midmarket firms surveyed by last year are using ITIL best practices for IT service management, although 57% are planning or investigating the framework.

Of those who are using ITIL, two-thirds say their ITIL strategy has lived up to expectations. The problem is getting started, training staff and getting buy-in from upper management to implement the practices.

Probably the easiest method to get ITIL into your organization is through software tools that have ITIL processes embedded into them.

Jennifer Gianfrancesco, director of IT at Pittsburgh’s Magee-Women’s Research Institute and a certified ITIL practitioner, threw out the old Excel-based help desk system she inherited three years ago and brought in Cherwell Software Inc.’s Cherwell Service Management.

Her staff uses it for asset intelligence, configuration management, incident reporting and software management, among other services. The key, however, she says, is that the tool enables you to apply ITIL where you need it, and doesn’t require you to go for everything. Like ITIL itself, the software enables “a method. It doesn’t tell you how to implement.”

If you are looking for some advice on ITIL strategy and picking ITIL tools, check out contributor Jonathan Hassell’s column on must-have ITIL tool features.

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