Some avocations cry out more than others for the helping hand of a mentor. I’ve decided the CIO job is one of them. Maybe it’s because the chief information officer is a relatively new entrant into the realm of bosses. Or maybe it’s because the CIO job is so hard, demanding that right- and left-brain hemispheres be in top working order. My reporting a few years back on women in IT who became CIOs showed me what a difference mentors (literally mentors, in their cases) made in building their IT management careers, from encouraging these women to take on technically difficult projects to going to bat for them on equal pay.
At a recent lunchtime seminar titled “The Path to CIO”, two seasoned CIOs talked about the influence of mentors on their careers. For Anthony Sirabella, CTO at the Boston-based Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo investment management firm, the mentor was a national sales executive. At one point, this man needed some data quickly. Instead of using COBOL, Sirabella figured out another way to extract the data ASAP.
“He saw some value,” Sirabella recalled, and soon the sales executive was taking the young technocrat to business meetings. As Sirabella got closer to the inner sanctum of meetings, the sales exec pulled him aside and said, “Tony, stop speaking like a technologist.” Common advice for CIOs, but Sirabella was not a CIO then and took the advice to heart. “Sometimes when you are hearing things from the business folks … you have to put it in your pocket and run with it,” he recalled.” For him, the comment marked the beginning of a deep education in financial services. Every time he didn’t understand something — an option spread, a particular type of proprietary trading — he asked the sales guy to teach him. Along the way, he studied for the Series 7 Exam, the financial services industry’s toughest certification test. “I never took it, but I got to understand what they were talking about,” Sirabella said.
Daniel Sheehan, CIO of Dunkin’ Brands, whose brands include Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, met his mentor, Marriott International CIO Carl Wilson, back in the mid-1990s during a problematic SAP implementation at Georgia-Pacific in Atlanta. At the time, Wilson was CIO and Sheehan was an IT manager on the SAP project. The stress they both felt working in a business where the “business didn’t want to change,” cemented the bond between them. Indeed, the project was called off, but thanks to Wilson, Sheehan landed on his feet, working on a $1.7 billion global SAP rollout for Coca-Cola. “He helped put me with the Coke folks, and six weeks later he left Georgia-Pacific,” Sheehan recounted. “If I have something I want to run by him, he is always there.” (Sheehan also learned a big lesson about change management, as detailed in today’s story on SearchCIO.)
Of course, both Sirabella and Sheehan would not have had the benefit of mentors had they not shown some value, as Sirabella put it. Mentors take on manatees (as 30 Rock character Tracy Jordan calls them) when they see that the time investment leads to a lasting, useful relationship. So, aspiring CIOs in need of mentors should be ready to bring something to the table.
I hope all of our U.S. readers enjoyed a lovely three-day weekend. I certainly did, but it almost feels as though it’s not worth it when there’s so much work to return to Tuesday!
I’m catching up on the most recent tech headlines, as well as the most recent stories from SearchCIO.com. Follow the links below for more information.
CIOs must manage changes in IT due to cloud computing services — Cloud computing services cast a shadow of fear over IT departments that are scrambling to change amid a flurry of business units bypassing traditional channels.
The CIO job under a microscope at MIT Sloan CIO Symposium — Tactical and strategic, behind the scenes and front and center, IT control freak and innovation unleasher: The MIT Sloan CIO Symposium explores the paradox of the CIO job.
Five questions: What works and what doesn’t in a green IT strategy — Four IT pros talk about how their companies are pursuing a green IT strategy, and offer plenty of tips and advice about what works and what doesn’t.
Is it the CIO’s job to reduce energy consumption? — CIOs will be given the responsibility to develop products to reduce energy consumption, a recent report says, and they should start now to build expertise in energy informatics.
Did you know that your company might be changing your IP address scheme, whether you like it or not, in the near future? Admittedly, this is something that never occurred to me, but it turns out the Internet could actually run out of IP addresses in the next 18 months, as more and more devices, from personal computers to smartphones, are accessing the World Wide Web.
Thankfully, this is a fixable situation. The Internet is currently built around IP Addressing Scheme v4, which provides about four billion IP addresses, but waiting in the wings is IPv6, which will make trillions more addresses available, CNN reports. But businesses are apparently slow to adapt to IPv6, so it’s possible there could be a crunch by next fall with companies that have previously resisted changing their IP address scheme.
We think of the Internet as an unlimited resource, and maybe it is, but keeping it that way takes further technological advances and a willingness to change. The CIO’s to-do list is already a mile long, so I’m wondering if changing your IP address scheme to IPv4 is even on your CIO radar yet?
A story in this morning’s New York Times on BP’s risk management strategy will no doubt send chills down the spine of many a corporate risk and compliance officer.
The story reports on an internal BP document showing that for financial reasons and expediency, the oil company chose to use the riskier of two options to seal up the well that soon after started spewing untold gallons of oil into the ocean. The document was provided to the Times by a Congressional investigator.
Presented with the internal evidence that BP knowingly chose the riskier of the two options, a BP spokesman reportedly told a reporter there “was no industry standard” for the casing used to seal up deepwater wells. The approach used by BP “had not been unusual.”
Unfortunately, the result of BP’s choice is very unusual.
In the absence of an industry standard, BP pursued a risk management strategy that turns out to put the planet at risk. The response certainly makes a case for industry standards, and shows why government must step in when fools don’t fear to tread.
Anyway, I think it’s safe to say that BP’s risk management strategy didn’t pay off. It already has cost this conglomerate far more than the billions it will take to clean up after it.
The new face of BP is a dead brown pelican, blackened from bill to tail with oil, neck twisted and defunct wings outstretched. No industry standard, BP? Go tell that to the dead and dying.
A year ago, when I brought up private clouds to IT executives, many were flat out not interested.
Flash forward a year, and their stance has changed. Many IT executives are entering boot camps sponsored by systems integrators and cloud providers to find out how a private cloud can help them gain a competitive advantage and efficiencies, as well as save money.
Managed service provider Logicalis Group, for example, offers cloud discovery workshops. “The CIOs that come in are trying to understand the cloud … they are peeling back the onion to understand the options and complexities of private and public clouds,” said Mike Martin, director of cloud computing at Logicalis. “They are at the point of developing strategies around the cloud, and figuring out what aspects of their environment make sense in a private vs. public cloud.”
At Presidio Networked Solutions, a large IT infrastructure service provider, CTO Dave Hart spends a lot of time educating IT execs about the private cloud, aka next-generation virtual data center. Hart is seeing CIOs adopt SaaS and PaaS, but he said there isn’t much pickup of IaaS. “They are trying to figure out how to build a private cloud on their own,” he said, adding that once IT execs figure out what an optimal private cloud looks like and are comfortable operating applications in a private cloud, they will start to think about the pieces they can move off to a public cloud.
But what exactly is a private cloud? I have heard many definitions and concepts. Some public-sector CIOs believe it is a means for like-minded government agencies to share resources in order to develop services for constituents.
Hart defines private clouds as next-generation virtual data centers:
A private cloud is a virtual data center. From a lexicon perspective, a private cloud is what the next-generation data center looks like. It’s a far more efficient use of capital resources in its greenest form. It’s also something that has a very tight orchestration and management model so that I am able to abstract applications from the underlying hardware. [That way] I can provision things more quickly and very dynamically move workloads around, based on the application requirements, without having to have a whole separate project around it, because I’ve finally achieved this concept of utility computing. That’s where the actual infrastructure itself is available to all applications, not just on a one-to-one basis.
Our sister site SearchCloudComputing.com defines it as:
Private cloud (also called internal cloud or corporate cloud) is a marketing term for a proprietary computing architecture that provides hosted services to a limited number of people behind a firewall.
Advances in virtualization and distributed computing have allowed corporate network and data center administrators to effectively become service providers that meet the needs of their “customers” within the corporation.
Marketing media that uses the words “private cloud” is designed to appeal to an organization that needs or wants more control over their data than they can get by using a third-party hosted service such as Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) or Simple Storage Service (S3).
How would you define a private cloud, and is it reshaping your IT strategy? Let me know at email@example.com.
I’m still recovering from last night’s LOST series finale. I thought it really fit with the themes of the show, but I know a lot of people weren’t happy with the outcome. Your thoughts?
Besides LOST, here are some other conflicts I’ve been reading about online today:
Very interesting New York Times piece on the death of the open Web.
Facebook’s CEO acknowledges that the company has made mistakes with regard to its privacy policies. Really, you think?
It’s Apple vs. Google again, with Steve Jobs stating that Google’s Android operating platform does not qualify as “leapfrogging.”
Also, be sure to check out the latest stories from SearchCIO.com:
Putting applications into the cloud not so clear-cut a process — Putting some applications into the cloud is a no-brainer; others may never be the right fit, experts say.
SharePoint installation helps Continental Airlines track flight delays — A SharePoint installation helps Continental Airlines respond to new regulations designed to shorten tarmac delays.
AAA turns to Web-based collaboration tool to spark new ideas — In an effort to get employees to put on their thinking caps, AAA invests in a Web-based collaboration tool that formalizes the idea-management process — and adds some fun.
Idea management software sounds so futuristic, it makes me think of the movie Minority Report. In fact, ideation management is in the here and now. As SearchCIO.com News Director Christina Torode reported this week, “Web-based collaboration software developed according to behavioral science methods, software algorithms and game mechanics are designed to formalize idea management and to entice employees to take part in the innovation process.”l
Or, as AAA’s social media guru called it, a “suggestion box on steroids.” The automobile-assistance giant has tapped into idea management software to better recognize and reward innovation across the enterprise.
I’ve been awaiting a more formal collation and organization of thoughts shared via social media for quite awhile — probably since I covered a Web 3.0 presentation at MIT a couple of years ago.
Here’s what I reported back then:
“In the next decade, Google searches of the entire Internet might not be the first place Web users look for answers — a fact that enterprise CIOs should keep in mind when developing and exporting their firms’ network strategies. Already, a great deal of information is being shared via Twitter and Facebook status updates in more informal sessions. Information in Twitter, Yahoo Answers and the like ‘is being archived, but it needs to be curated,” said Joseph Smarr, then the chief platform architect at Mountain View, Calif.-based social networking service Plaxo Inc., advocating for better tagging methods. “The reuse of shared knowledge is going to be increased.”
At that time, I was fairly new to both Twitter and Facebook, which didn’t have the permeation they do now. The thought of collecting social media chatter — this whole “ideation management” notion — sounded revolutionary. Now, it sounds commonsense, and companies such as AAA are reaping the innovation benefits.
Has your organization tried to implement idea management software, or do you plan to do so in the future?
It could be I’m overly sensitive to gender issues among the academic scientific elite, having moved to Cambridge, Mass., about the time then-Harvard President Larry Summers made his unfortunate remarks on whether women possess the same innate talent for science and math as men. But at this week’s MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, I sensed an interesting gender divide among the members of the panel of MIT academic stars. They took the stage to talk about the future of IT organizations and how to drive business innovation.
It was the women who were talking about power, control and the value of optimizing the status quo, and it was the men who were the touchy-feely ones. Call it the new “masculine mystique.”
If Tivoli Systems founder Frank Moss were an IT professional today, he would be focusing on the “extraordinary capability” of personal technology — social media, the mobile Web, affective computing — to understand his customers: what motivates them, how they think, what they like and don’t like.
“That’s what constitutes success in the 21st century,” said Moss, now director of the MIT Media lab, during a symposium session. Moss was quick to point out that his perspective is a departure from his Tivoli days. The purpose of IT then — his whole selling shtick for Tivoli — was “about putting IT and business people in control.”
“Your job is no longer about getting control,” Moss said. “It is about recognizing that most of the value in your company is actually being created outside your company, either by customers or by employees,” whose work lives are only partially defined by what they do inside the company, he said.
Nor is it enough just to bring in social media (although he urged any CIO in the audience who didn’t have a Facebook page or wasn’t monitoring Twitter to do so ASAP). That ship has sailed. The Millennials who work for his audience members’ companies are already communicating and connected, Moss said. The typical college student is as adept at managing huge amounts of data and information as IT departments were 10 and 15 years ago.
“I think the real question for information technology is, how do you change your job so that it is no longer about being in control, but in some sense optimizing these tools that your employees have been employing at your company and connecting them with customers,” Moss said.
Moss and Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and director of the school’s MIT Center for Digital Business, argued that IT professionals should dwell less on automating and controlling business processes — that work is done — and focus more on the people who are generating data and on ways to help them make sense of that data. Brynjolfsson talked up the value of controlled experiments to find out what customers really want, on a person-by-person basis.
On the other hand, Dr. Jeanne Ross, director of the Center for Information Systems Research at MIT Sloan, and Marilyn Smith, MIT’s new head of IS and technology, were not convinced that IT professionals should give up control anytime soon. Nor were they ready to pronounce that the productivity gains realized from automating and optimizing business processes are in the past. Many businesses run on legacy systems that can’t be thrown out, Smith noted, and would benefit from being optimized. Most organizations have “sacred transactions” that need to be gotten right, Ross said. Stable platforms give people the freedom to innovate.
“The great irony from everything we have learned about innovation is that the first thing we need is a solid platform that captures the stable part of the business, so you have something to build on when you are building your innovative processes,” Ross said. It was important, she said, “not to throw the baby out with the bath water.”
A report on technology job openings reinforces evidence that the recession is receding. Do you know where your IT staff is headed? It could be out the door.
This month’s report from Dice Inc., the online job posting firm, shows that the number of full-time tech positions has jumped 20% since April, while contract jobs — temporary positions — are flat.
In addition, more than two-thirds of employed technology professionals polled by Dice this month said they have been approached by headhunters at least once since the start of the year.
Chances are, however, you haven’t heard a word about this. Of the tech professionals who are dissatisfied with their current jobs, more than half (53%) told Dice they had not discussed their concerns with their bosses. Their primary reason for looking elsewhere was — not surprising — more money. That reason was followed by “better career opportunities” and “to work on new or emerging technologies.” Green technologies and mobile applications held the strongest appeal for would-be wanderers.
Tom Silver, senior vice president at Dice North America, sees the May jump in full-time technology job openings as a strong indication of economic recovery — or at least, of employer optimism.
“In order to add permanent staff, companies must have confidence in their business outlook,” Silver remarked about the findings.
Whether employer optimism is justified or a double-dip recession is in our future, the Dice data certainly shows a steady improvement in the number of technology job openings since January 2010, and a marked improvement over this time a year ago.
Since the start of this year, for example, the total number of jobs posted on Dice climbed steadily to 69,070 for May from 48,751 postings in January. And postings for full-time jobs show the same upward trajectory, rising to 43,198 for May from 28,142 postings in January — a 53% pop.
And compared with this time last year, the May numbers are positively rosy, representing a 44% increase over the 49,016 jobs posted in May 2009.
A buyer’s market? Not compared to May two years ago, when the monthly job postings on Dice totaled about 92,000 and the full-time positions, 63,771. This is nearly equivalent to the total tech openings out there now.
Still, maybe it is time to ask your prize employees what’s on their minds.
On the conference circuit this week, we’ll have several editor and writers attending the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium in Cambridge, Mass., on Wednesday, so check back for stories, blog posts or tweets coming out of that.
In the meantime, here’s what we’ve been covering on SearchCIO.com:
Some IT budgets in recovery from recession — As the country emerges from the “Great Recession,” IT budgets are slowly peeking out at spending opportunities. Tops on the list: projects that got put on hold.
A CIO’s approach to managing single sign-on in the cloud — Medical informatics provider Schumacher Group integrates on-premises and Software-as-a-Service-based client identities with a single sign-on service.
IT managed service providers: Taking a measured approach — IT managed service providers can help your organization tap into technologies you couldn’t access otherwise, but how do you bring them into your team? Our CIO columnist explains.
Business continuity plans must address massive air travel shutdown — Before the dust settles from an erupting volcano in Iceland, business continuity managers should look closely at their business continuity plans, starting with their supply chain.