June 12, 2012  9:55 PM

Taking a risk on relocated or remote workers may be worth reward

Karen Goulart Karen Goulart Profile: Karen Goulart

If it feels like the IT talent pool is drying up, maybe it’s because you keep fishing from the same pond.

Think globally and acti locally is a fine mantra for the green set, but it simply doesn’t carry over when it comes to hiring the best people for your IT organization.  And yet, that’s what many CIOs are doing: trying to compete in a global market while limiting their search for new employees to the region in which their company resides.

The reason? Well, to twist a phrase: It’s the stupid economy. At least that’s what Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO at CompTIA (Computing Technology Industry Association), has come to believe after talking with IT leaders around the country in recent weeks. After hearing these folks bemoan the total dearth of job candidates with soft skills, project management experience and so forth, he asked how many of them kept their searches regional. The hands flew up. This, Thibodeaux said, is consistent with data around the country, which shows that companies are scared or unprepared to widen their nets because it might cost more money.

By and large, Thibodeaux noted, companies aren’t taking the time to reevaluate positions to identify jobs that could be done remotely — perhaps because they don’t have the infrastructure to support remote workers. Or, with many folks underwater on their mortgages, paying for a potential employee’s relocation becomes a scary prospect. But by avoiding the financial risks, these companies are missing out on great employees who could improve productivity and introduce skills that could wind up enhancing the company’s financial position.

“What we have right now are surpluses of skilled people in some parts of the country and deficits of skilled people in other parts of the country,” Thibodeaux said. “The thing for people to do is look nationally for talent, and if you find someone really good, either take the risk and relocate them or take the risk and let them work remotely; I’m not sure you have a tremendous amount to lose.”

June 7, 2012  6:52 PM

Access is necessary but not sufficient for mobile IT

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

We’ve been pretty diligent here at about covering the advent of mobile IT in the enterprise, particularly in the iPhone era. That’s when consumer technology launched its full-fledged assault on traditional IT. We reported on early iPad deployments, on mobility strategy tips, and on the difficulty of forming a mobile strategy.

What came through loud and clear from the many CIOs we’ve talked mobility with over the past two years is their determination not to be left behind. Stung by their failure to lend support to iPhones, CIOs were not going to let the iPad get away from them. They would lead the charge on providing access to the Apple tablet. (As for bring your own device (BYOD), IT organizations have been so eager to accommodate mobile devices that industry experts are pushing a new term to rein these programs in — BYOAD: Bring your own authorized device.) It sometimes seems that providing mobile access has become CIOs’ highest virtue.

As my CIO Matters column this week suggests, however, access is necessary but might not be sufficient to bring mobile IT to maturity. Read why, and please let me know what you think.

June 5, 2012  3:41 PM

CIO skills in most demand: The ability to ‘helicopter’

Christina Torode Christina Torode Profile: Christina Torode

I’ve been collecting chief information officer jobs ads for the past month (yes, an exercise that smacks of not having a life) to find out which CIO skills are in demand in the here and now. What’s telling about the skill sets in high demand is not so much the long lists of qualifications and expected experience, but the words used time and again in all the ads.The most used one? Timely. As in (my italics):

  • “Maintain direct and timely communications with senior and middle management.”
  • “Contributing to the definition of the organizational risk profile, and ensuring that all IT risks are highlighted and agreed actions addressed in a timely manner.”
  • “Proven experience developing and maintaining a qualified, diverse ITS staff through appropriate hiring, staff development and training, and effective, timely performance.”
  • “Build strategic partnerships with vendors to maximize investment and provide timely delivery of initiatives.”
  • “The executive is also responsible for ensuring reliable, timely, cost-effective, efficient and secure delivery of information technology to all areas.”

Another common denominator? Very rarely did an ad call for CIO skills that were timely but not cost-effective as well.

There were also a few job descriptions that screamed Landmine ahead. For example:

  • “The ability to defuse conflict.”
  • “Develop greater confidence throughout the organization and with physicians in the ability of information systems to meet the needs of individuals and the entire organization.”
  • “Reports unusual events appropriately.”
  • “Motivate subordinates.”

My favorite description was from a publically traded energy company (but then, I have a soft spot for CIOs): “The impact of this position on company performance is very high.”

We will be running down the top CIO skills in a future article, but just to share one more tidbit: This one skill was posted by a religious institution: “The ability to ‘helicopter’ from big picture, strategic issues to more granular levels of detail as needed.” Whee!

I just found a new way to say multitask.

Let us know what you think about this blog post; email: Christina Torode, News Director

June 2, 2012  7:30 AM

Social media tips and other helpful lists

Karen Goulart Karen Goulart Profile: Karen Goulart

The Late Show Top 10, Billboard’s Hot 100 — everybody loves a good list. (Except, perhaps, those of the “to-do” variety.) To help satisfy that hankering for digestible order, this week’s roundup includes three lists, each offering tips on a different topic: data integration, social media tips for the novice Tweeter and the admittedly hyperbolic sounding, “6 Most Important Bits of Advice for CIOs.” We’ll let you be the judges on that last one. Drum roll, please.

  • This top 10 list on best practices for data integration is pretty lacking in the joke department, and there’s no celebrity/politician reading it to you, but we bet Letterman never taught you a thing about data management discipline.
  • We’re not sure these are the “6 most important bits of advice for CIOs,” but they do make a nice refresher checklist.
  • A little bird told us you’re not so good with the Twitter. Before everyone else finds out and assigns you embarrassing hash tags, check out these four tips on becoming a 140-character-thought leader.
  • Think all that Twitter and social media stuff is silly? Bayer’s MaterialScience CIO Kurt De Ruwe would beg to differ.
  • And finally, an insightful take from the trenches on how the antivirus industry failed in the face of Flame and Stuxnet.

May 31, 2012  9:22 PM

The talent to fill soft skills gap may be closer than you think

Karen Goulart Karen Goulart Profile: Karen Goulart

Did you know there may be unicorns in your IT organization? Let me explain.

Earlier this week, I wrote a piece about how IT leaders are looking to fill soft skills gaps. It was based on a combination of conversations with CIOs and other IT execs and a recent study issued by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). The soft skills in absentia included things like innovative thinking, analytical skills, teamwork and project management abilities.

The story generated more responses from readers than I anticipated, and interestingly they seemed to share a general theme: filling that soft skills gap shouldn’t be that difficult. As one reader, Tony S., colorfully put it, in response to Modell’s COO Dan Sheehan’s search for good project managers, “You make it sound like Dan Sheehan is looking for the mythical unicorn.” Tony S’s contention? These skill sets are out there, but those who possess them are being weeded out of hiring processes because they tend to be older workers. The wisdom of experience is being eschewed for next-gen talents.

An anonymous reader, who self-identified as a software engineer, made a similar argument. “What’s interesting to me, in my experience, is that it took many years AFTER being a SW engineer to develop the rest of the skills in the article. Now with all the rest of the skills well in hand, I’d be pretty stretch[ed] to write code.”

There was also Tony B., a program manager consultant with 20 years of experience, who suggested the unicorns may be hiding in plain sight. His point: the talent is often there in the IT organization but it’s rarely cultivated. He maintains that the majority of executives, despite their best intentions on filling soft skills gaps, give little more than lip service to such goals because of the corporate environment in which they work. “The constraints are that they are measured in a way — short term cost-saving delivery targets in economically constrained markets — which is in conflict with their positive intentions on soft skills.” IT executives have the ability to unlock potential but lack the support to do so. Just get it done trumps innovation, analytical skills, teamwork, etc. every time.

I’d like to know more about your experiences. Are you part of an IT organization in which you yearn to show off your soft skills, but no one’s asking? Are you an IT leader who wants to champion the potential of your team members but are shackled by short-term pressures?

Or maybe you’re like outsourcing casualty Tony G. (yes, another Tony and my most avid reader) — a 40-year IT vet with a CV full of project management success stories who feels like those four decades of experience may now be working against him. After he read the piece, he asked somewhat jokingly, but with a wisp of hope, “Do you think that Dan Sheehan guy is taking resumes?”

May 31, 2012  6:44 PM

Why IT spend as a percentage of revenue doesn’t work

Christina Torode Christina Torode Profile: Christina Torode

Using IT spend as a percentage of revenue to figure out how to divvy up IT investments doesn’t work in many large companies. For one, most enterprises have varied business units and goals. One business unit might be in fast-growth mode and require more tech spending; another might be mature and held to a lower IT spend; and yet another might be going through a transformation project that requires a different spend. So picking a standard IT spend as a percentage of revenue for all of those units isn’t going to cut it.

And this pigeonhole of a metric certainly doesn’t reflect the ever-evolving and growing importance of IT investments in relation to a company’s ability to grow and compete. The run, grow, transform (RGT) model may be a better approach.

Read my CIO Matters column to see why Richard Hunter, vice president and Gartner fellow, recommends using a RGT model (and other more forward-looking metrics) for allocating IT spend, and learn about the real-life challenges CIOs encounter when using said RGT model.

May 26, 2012  4:31 PM

Tell your CEO to get a social media life (s/he will thank you!)

Karen Goulart Karen Goulart Profile: Karen Goulart

At long last, we’ve successfully traversed the drudgeries of late winter and early spring and are poised to embrace those most rejuvenating unofficial first days of summer, otherwise known as Memorial Day weekend. Can you tell we’ve been looking forward to this?

As you reflect and relax with family and friends this weekend, we hope you’ll spend a little time with this week’s roundup. We kick it off with bits from the social media realm, including why your CEO is hurting the company if he/she isn’t living a rich social media life; a few reasons why Facebook had a thumbs-down kind of week; and why social media and silos don’t mix. Finally, we hope you’ll take a few moments to help out with important research at The CIO Leadership Institute by taking their survey on social media.

  • Funny, he seems so bubbly at the company meeting. Forbes looks into a recent IBM study that claims a CEO’s lack of a social media life may be to the detriment of the company.
  • Unless you count the release of its rather Instagram-y camera app, Facebook had a pretty crummy week. Blogger Nigel Cameron offers up three simple reasons no one seems to want to be in a relationship with FB since its IPO.
  • It’s called social media for a reason – keeping it siloed is against its nature (oh, and a waste of money).
  • What happened in Utah could happen anywhere, a simple little mistake cost millions of dollars, scores of data and a CIO’s job — so what can we learn from the little big breach?
  • Still on the fence about bring-your-own-device, or BYOD? Ugh, just do it all ready, says Mashable, rolling its eyes and handing you these five easy steps to BYOD transformation.
  • It’s a long weekend, so we know you have the time to take this survey from The CIO Leadership Institute — you can use the hand not holding the hot dog to tap the screen or click the mouse. Thank you!

May 25, 2012  8:39 PM

MIT Sloan honors pair of CIOs for information technology innovation

Karen Goulart Karen Goulart Profile: Karen Goulart

A pair of winners was selected for this year’s MIT Sloan CIO Symposium Award for Innovation Leadership. Sharing the honor, announced this week at the 9th annual symposium, are Catherine Bruno, vice president and CIO of nonprofit Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems (EMHS), and Chris Perretta, executive vice president and CIO at State Street Corp.

The award honors CIOs who lead their organizations to pursue IT innovation and business processes that deliver business value. congratulates the winners and invites readers to dive a little deeper into what makes them leaders in information technology innovation. Perretta recently recorded a podcast with our Senior News Writer Linda Tucci about building a private cloud at State Street. And we hope you’ll stay tuned for a soon-to-be-released exclusive video interview with Bruno.

In her roles at EMHS, Bruno successfully developed information systems strategic plans and governance designs at three large health care organizations. She has implemented and integrated major clinical, financial and decision-support information systems, two of which received the Nicholas R. Davies Organizational Award, the nation’s highest award for implementation of a system-wide electronic health record. She is the executive sponsor for the Bangor Beacon Community and co-chair for the Leadership and Governance Community of Practice for the national Beacon Community program.

Bruno said being a CIO is about bringing out the best in those you work with, adding that the award also honors those she collaborates with in delivering health care services in Maine.

Chris Perretta has global responsibility for State Street’s IT activities, leading a team of more than 5,000 IT professionals in 29 countries. He oversees the IT strategic planning process, application development and maintenance, system architecture, global technology infrastructure and information security for the firm. Perretta is also the co-leader of State Street’s Operations and Information Technology Transformation initiative.

Perretta said the award is a great honor that underscores his organization’s ongoing work and commitment to using technology to deliver innovative solutions to their clients.

In a statement, award program co-chair Ray Chang said judges were pleased to recognize both Bruno and Perretta “for their strategic use of technology to significantly impact and improve business performance for their respective organizations.”

Chang noted that both serve as prime examples of how technology can drive business success and the important role of CIOs in organizations worldwide.

May 25, 2012  2:30 PM

The revolution is here, but is the CIO’s role about cleaning up the mess?

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

What would the CIO role be without all the hand-wringing over whether it will survive another minute? This week was the annual MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, “Piloting the Untethered Enterprise,” a one-day conference so crammed with provocation, bon mots, covert deal making and rubbernecking (who is that ready-for-TV techie in the next seat?) to make one’s head spin.

Of the sessions I was able to attend, the boldest one was the MIT academic panel, followed by an after lunch free-for-all on big data and analytics that was anything but a siesta. (Look for a piece soon on why CIOs might want to run away from big data.) The three MIT academicians who gave their take on the untethered enterprise are professors, but not exactly of the Mr. Chips variety — beacons of calm in the midst of unimaginable change. They were more like bomb -throwers, invoking all the forces — consumerization of IT, cloud, crowdsourcing, social networking, the voice of the customer, — that are blowing up the enterprise as we know it. In this brave new enterprise, agility trumps strategy and resilience trumps strength. Today, customers should be serving the company (think Facebook’s 800 million users generating content).

I was entranced. As I wrote in my CIO Matters column this week, however, I was also leery of — OK, confused by — how all this will impact the CIO’s role. There was some talk about how pruning and curating will be important as companies try out new things willy willy-nilly, so maybe the CIO role will be defined as master gardener. One of the profs mentioned a childhood friend now at eBay who does nothing but figure out the “checks and balances” between buyers and sellers. So maybe the CIO’s role will be akin to Founding Father. As someone who has done my fair share of time in the kitchen, I would only urge CIOs that the one metaphor you don’t want to embrace in this latest computing revolution is doing the dishes. Check out the column and you’ll understand.

May 23, 2012  12:46 AM

CEOs: CIOs earn seat at the table by creating competitive advantage

Karen Goulart Karen Goulart Profile: Karen Goulart

CEOs — just who do they think CIOs are? Who do they want you to be?

Mobile may be on your mind. Perhaps you have your head in the cloud. That’s all well, good and important to the CEO, as long as you can show you’re adding value to the business and creating competitive advantage.

The theme of MIT Sloan’s 9th Annual CIO Symposium, held Tuesday in Cambridge, Mass., was “Piloting the Untethered Enterprise.” But the strong message coming from a panel of CEOs to CIOs was to make sure you’re firmly entrenched in the business — and all the better if that spot is between the business and the consumer. And, oh yes, that magical word everyone likes to invoke — innovation — came up a lot in association with the CEO’s preferred CIO.

It’s crucial that CIOs have a firm handle on new technologies and delivery systems. Object Management Group Inc. chairman and CEO Richard Soley pointed out that, as enterprises transition into this untethered age, the CIO has to be there to solve all the standard problems — security, for example — for the new wave. But if IT leaders stop there, so might their careers.

“What’s important is, are they involved in the CXO suite’s informal discussions and where the company is going strategically? And are they part of the decision of where the company is going strategically?” Soley said, adding that he likes the idea of CIO standing for chief innovation officer. “Standards are the basis for innovation, and that’s the opportunity for the CIO: to bring in standards both global and local and make changes to the organization.”

Jeffrey Markley, CEO at Boston-based Markley Group Inc., drew a comparison between the CIO and another C-suite member: the CFO. If a CFO functions as “just an accountant,” what does that do for the business? He’s doing his job, a job that needs to be done, but adds no unique value. What CIOs do is critical, but if they stick to the strict definition of the role, they’re going nowhere.

“It’s really up to the individual. We know people in this room who’ve gone from CIOs to chief innovation officers, people who are making changes in the organization,” Markley said. “I want to surround myself with brilliant people who are going to make our company stronger, better and get us into new opportunities and make our customers grow and be happy and want to do business with us.”

Scott Griffith, chairman and CEO at Zipcar Inc., based in Cambridge, Mass., got specific with his expectations. He used his own company as an example of why it’s imperative for the CIO or IT leader to have a seat at the C-suite table. With big-name rental companies Hertz and Avis poised to assert themselves in Zipcar’s business space, information is Zipcar’s biggest weapon in keeping its competitive advantage.

“We know more about our customer than anybody that’s going to enter this business. We did 4 million reservations last year, and shame on us if we didn’t mine all of the information out of those reservations and figure out how to become a better company and drive a better experience and be more profitable,” Griffith said. “Information is integral to all that. [The CIO role is] a seat-at-the-table job, and every company should be picking that up. The top information job is going to be more strategic.”

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