Of interest to me this week: stories of how CIOs are approaching IT consolidation not just in the data center, but also in their organizations. It’s no surprise that flat or reduced budgets impel a leader to look at roles and processes to find efficiencies, and often, when you’ve already done this time and again, your next choice is a massive restructuring.
Often that means IT centralization: Organizations that moved IT out into the business units to get closer to users are finding, as the Salvation Army did, that bringing them back together makes more economic sense, especially given technologies to manage branch offices remotely. Then there’s the move to combine disparate IT units, as is the case in Tulare County in California, where Lee Root, IT division manager, merged two county IT departments. That’s not unlike what Stephen Fletcher set out to do for the state of Utah — combine 24 separate IT departments and 1,000 IT employees into one central IT unit. When we spoke to him in 2007, he expected the effort to take three years.
IT centralization is no small effort — as Tulare County’s Root says, “We had to merge two separate workflows, two separate IT systems, two separate policies and we had to find a new way to manage IT services” — and large enterprise mergers have many times that number of systems and policies. Indeed, there are many other considerations, as Susan Cramm, former Taco Bell CIO, writes in a piece on IT Centralization or Decentralization, and the answer isn’t always soup-to-nuts centralization. Still, evaluating your organization with some centralization in mind makes too much sense not to consider in these tough economic times, and I expect we’ll see a lot more of it.
Welcome back, readers! This past week at SearchCIO.com, we covered desktop virtualization, Software as a Service (SaaS) contract negotiations, IT vendor management offices and data protection services and strategies. Check out the full stories below!
Desktop virtualization not all about cost savings – Virtual desktops have strong security and management benefits, but looking to desktop virtualization to save money may be a stretch. Read this article to get an idea of the benefits and drawbacks.
In SaaS contract negotiations, focus on customization, future pricing – In a recession, everybody is looking to make and save money where possible. Changing pricing models, longer contracts and customization are making it harder to switch providers, so build safety nets into your SaaS contracts.
How to build an IT vendor management office or standards body – Vendor management offices and standards bodies can help large organizations save money on IT purchasing and better manage vendor relations, both critical during a recession. Read this story for advice on how to set up a vendor management office and insights into how they can properly assess vendors.
Data protection services and strategies for enterprise CIOs – Enterprise CIOs can improve data protection in their organizations by reviewing the strategies, case studies, tips and technologies in this extensive guide.
A couple of recent stories, “VDI vs. fat clients: The tradeoffs,” and “Virtual desktops and virtualized applications: An FAQ for IT executives,” caused a few readers to reach out to tell me I missed the boat on some of the key benefits of desktop virtualization.
One reader wrote:
“Your article today, ‘Virtual desktops and virtualized applications: An FAQ for IT executives,’ caught my eye. I did not notice any mention of disaster recovery/business continuity or security in your article.”
In response to the VDI vs. fat client article, another reader called me on having to be connected at all times when using VDI and not including a remedy for the high storage costs related to using this technology:
“I think some of the benefits of VDI were missed by this article. Granted, you need to be network-connected, but one advantage is you can connect to your virtual session from any device that can bring up a Web session. We are currently piloting a VDI solution — I have been running on a VDI session for about six months utilizing an HP thin client device. When I go home, I can hop on my personally owned desktop and connect to all my corporate applications — no lugging a laptop around, no added cost of a laptop over a desktop and no concerns that I will lose corporate data if my laptop is lost or stolen.
“From the storage perspective — some of these problems can be solved by thin provisioning. Also, the next release of VMware VDI will help mitigate some of the added storage costs.
“While the points made are valid — the article could have expounded on the benefits a lot more.”
Yet another reader said the piece was spot on as far as the tradeoffs of VDI but again brought up the question of how to address storage costs:
“It essentially confirms my own line of thinking, having investigated a thin client desktop solution. It would have been nice to compare the actual storage needs in a table so we could see just how much more storage you need for a virtualized solution.”
Storage, disaster recovery and security are obviously top of mind for these readers. Where else did I miss the boat?
Will the economic recession result in an uptick in IT education and training? That seems to be the case at some high-powered New York law firms, where attorneys with unbillable hours on their hands are showing an increased interest in how their IT systems work.
Karen Levy, director of global technology for Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, said that getting face time with the law firm rainmakers is a perennial challenge. They were too busy jetting around the world to talk to you, said Levy, a panelist at the Chief Information and Technology Officers Forum in New York this week.
Recently, Levy’s trainers were asked to do a presentation on Excel at a small subpractice group luncheon they assumed would be attended by junior associates.
“There were 25 partners in the room,” she said, adding, “which gave me a stomachache.” But the sea change gives CIOs an opening.
“I think for the past 15 years at these conferences we have had multiple sessions talking about how challenging it has been to get good training to our lawyers, who are so busy billing hours that it is actually too expensive for us to train them, because there is such opportunity costs,” she said.
“We now have this window of opportunity where they have a little more time, they want to be busy and we can tailor some training classes and keep their professional development going in the period of the downturn,” she said. Her team is developing specific IT education and training for the firm’s lawyers, as a result.
The flip side of that, chimed in Peter Lesser, director of global technology at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, is that because the attorneys are less busy, “they call us more.”
His team is seeing an uptick in the number of calls to the call center. “People have so much spare time. If I was to do the math on the number of hours I’ve spent with our technology committee members, in the past eight weeks the hours have gone up tremendously, because even some of those partners are just less busy and they are trying to find ways to fill their time,” Lesser said, adding that it is incumbent on CIOs to take advantage of that time to educate their customers and build stronger relationships with power brokers.
“We have an opportunity to get in front of people that it was hard to get to before,” Lesser said.
Bad times always bring a rise in crime. But this economic recession is setting us up for a wave of cybercrime. The broken economy, combined with increased digitization as retail and operations move online and ever-more sophisticated hackers, means more data is more vulnerable than ever. That was the warning from former federal prosecutor and securities fraud attorney Orin Snyder, speaking at a data security panel at yesterday’s LegalTech conference in New York.
“I think with the recession that is upon us we are going to see an even more dramatic increase in cybercrime and opportunistic hacking,” said Snyder, a litigation partner at the New York office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
Data breaches have exploded in recent years, despite better technology, despite greater awareness of cyberattacks, Snyder said.
“You have a recession creating more cybercriminals. There is more and more digitization every day as companies accelerate their move from bricks and mortars to the Internet as they are closing stores and centralizing online, and then, of course, the sophistication of the hacking,” Snyder said.
“I think that is almost an unholy trinity of events that will result in an even greater incidence in the coming years of data breach problems,” Snyder said.
Make that unholy quartet.
“What is unfortunate is that companies, as they are laying off and retrenching, are going to budget even less and less for prevention and technology to deal with data breach problems,” Snyder said.
As economic pressures mount, companies will also likely see dramatic increases in employee misuse of data, Snyder predicts, recounting a recent conversation with someone at a major financial institution. “They said that since September there has been a two-fold increase in petty financial crimes, employee-caused –$2,000, $4,000, $6,000 being taken out of bank customer’s account by an employee — not massive theft, but it all adds up.”
Joining Snyder in a discussion on data security was his colleague from Gibson Dunn, Alexander Southwell, also a former federal prosecutor and securities fraud expert; Adam Smith, chief legal officer at Terremark Worldwide Inc.; and panel moderator Alan Brill, senior marketing director of Kroll Ontrack Inc.
Well, it’s not entirely new — you can still rely on us for the collaboration, information and opinion we’ve provided all along to enterprise CIOs, both on TotalCIO and SearchCIO.com. But our blog for enterprise CIOs is now being housed in a different location, and I’d like to take a moment to introduce you to some of our new blog features and also some of the features on IT Knowledge Exchange.
Instead of a long list of categories, we now have a tag cloud. Click any topic in the tag cloud and you’ll see posts on only that topic. The tag cloud is dynamic, so the more a tag is used, the larger and darker it will appear. This helps you quickly see the most popular topics.
You’ll also notice we’ve integrated more of our related editorial content in the right sidebar. If you’re on a post and wish to know more about the same topic after reading the post, be sure to browse the links in the right sidebar.
We always appreciate it when you share our content on social networking sites and we’ve increased the number of bookmarking tools from four to 43. If you enjoy a post, please be sure to share.
Look near the top of the page and you’ll see a row of tabs. You can click the IT Blogs tab to find dozens of technology blogs, both user-generated and TechTarget editorial blogs. You can even request your own blog.
There is also a tab labeled IT Answers. This is where you can ask your own IT question and have it seen by thousands of IT Knowledge Exchange members. So be sure to pose your own question for enterprise CIOs, browse thousands of answers from other IT executives or help out a fellow IT pro by answering a question.
Thanks for stopping by!
How great was last night’s Super Bowl? I wasn’t particularly rooting for either team, but it was a heck of a game. Who else is feeling a little overtired and overstuffed this morning, though? I know I am. As you recover, check out the most recent stories from SearchCIO.com:
- Network access control (NAC): A hybrid approach – In this case study on NAC, the University of San Francisco deploys a hybrid in-line and out-of-band NAC solution from Cisco Systems Inc.
- Virtual desktops vs. fat clients: A review of the tradeoffs – Desktop virtualization has some real benefits but can’t replace fat clients in a number of ways. Here’s the latest on virtual desktops and where they can fit in your IT strategy in 2009.
- Tips for enhancing IT’s role in improving the current economy – What can IT accomplish during a recession? Just for starters, it can help improve the current economy by participating in a strategic planning process that includes cutting costs, measuring performance and prioritizing projects.
- Put your business intelligence software knowledge to the test – This quiz for enterprise CIOs will test your knowledge of business intelligence (BI) software, strategies, tools and technologies. Read the articles and test your BI skills. Best of luck!
This sure was a gloomy week. If you subscribe to any regular newsfeeds, your inbox has probably never seen anything like it. My WSJ News Alerts flowed in like a drumbeat of despair:
Japan’s NEC to Cut 20,000 Jobs, Posts Wider Loss ; (today, 5:34 a.m.);
Kodak to Cut [3,500 - 4,500] Jobs Amid Sales Slump (Thursday, 7:43 a.m.)
Ford Posts $5.88 Billion Loss (Thursday, 7:29 a.m.)
Starbucks to Close 300 Stores, Cut Nearly 7,000 Workers (Wednesday, 4:20 p.m.)
Wells Fargo Posts Loss; Wachovia Loses $11 Billion (Wednesday 8:53 a.m.)
Japan’s Nomura Posts $3.8 Billion Loss (Tuesday 1:51 a.m.)
Worst of all was Monday, which set the tone for the week with 35,000 layoffs announced before I’d had my second cup of coffee. By the time the day was over, the layoff total was something like 62,000, including:
Sprint Nextel to Cut 8,000 Positions (Monday, 8:17 a.m.)
Caterpillar to Cut 20,000 Jobs (Monday, 8:25 a.m.)
Home Depot to Cut 7,000 Jobs, Close Expo Home-Design Business (Monday, 9 a.m.)
Since the downturn-cum-recession began, tech companies have also been in the mix, as have companies of all sizes in many industries — supply chains for financial services, housing/construction, cars, consumer goods, media (especially newspapers) among them. Most of the layoff announcements don’t go into any detail about who’s being let go or why; we all know there’s probably restructuring involved (i.e., layoff survivors Joe and Mary can now do two jobs each, and Sid and Tom will be underemployed for a while) and that the cuts probably involved IT.
In one layoff where I knew some folks who were let go, the IT tally was almost 25% of the reduction in force. Why? Many projects were canceled. In fact, many organizations are finding that their project management office is busier than ever, helping to choose what’s still essential and, sadly, what must go under the guillotine.
How else are organizations hanging on? Recent research by our SearchCIO.com site found that more than 40% of 319 respondents have had budget cuts so far this year. Other organizations are resorting to the kind of outsourcing we saw in the ’90s, like Warner Brothers divesting IT to Cap Gemini, which will hire back a portion of the employees.
As the recession continues, as most experts now say it will through at least most of this year, many of us (layoff survivors and all) are simply hunkering down, making the best of sparse resources and finding creative ways to stay energized and hopeful for the projects that remain. The new administration in Washington may also have something to do with this. How are things at your organization? What are your survival techniques, innovative shortcuts, techniques for staying optimistic? If anything, community is one thing that will keep us all going, so let’s talk about it here.
I hope everybody had a good weekend! For those who might not have visited late last week, check out Mark Schlack’s post on Windows 7 vs. Vista features, and feel free to add your views. And, while you’re at it, don’t miss the most recent stories from SearchCIO.com:
- Appliance-based network access control keeps university network secure – In this case study, find out how an NAC system enforces security policy for 25,000-plus students, faculty and staff, replacing a sneakernet form of worm control.
- As SaaS model matures, complexity grows, but SaaS benefits hang tough – Partners offer the customization and business process improvements that enterprise apps require, but new complexity doesn’t override traditional SaaS benefits.
- IT outsourcing contracts merit review given scandal at Indian firm – You may have heard about the accounting scandal at Satyam; now learn some of the solutions. Satyam customers should weigh their options.
- Also, we included some action steps for non-Satyam customers, since this scandal will have ramifications across the industry if Satyam customers flee and take their business to other IT outsourcers.
So what’s up with Windows 7 — does it have many new features? How does it compare with Vista?
I put up the latest version — Build 7000 — in a VM on Hyper-V. I wrote about my first impressions of how Windows 7 affects the decision to migrate from Windows XP to Vista or wait. But what about Windows 7 on its own merits?
I’m actually writing this now on it. It didn’t blow up, it did work right away, and it seems highly functional with one processor core and 1GB of RAM . This is with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Chess Titans, Performance Monitor, calculator and IE open — I’m using about 75% of my allocated memory. Aside from the occasional spike, CPU is hovering in the single digits. So we’ll have to wait and see what people who run the various benchmarks come up with, but there’s some reason to believe Windows 7 may also be more like XP than Vista on the performance front. Of course, by the time you have this in your shop, the average desktop will be about as powerful as your entire data center was in 1990, but that’s another story. …
Reading the Microsoft site, there’s some eye candy features that I can’t seem to get working. But that may well be because my VM doesn’t have the video chops for that — it’s on a server with a very average video card. The “biggest” thing I can’t get to work is a new feature that allows you to put your mouse in the right corner of the taskbar that then turns your windows clear so you can see your desktop. I’m not actually sure why you’d want to do that, but since I can’t, I can’t figure out how silly it really is.
On the other hand, I can get the automatic half-window resizing feature to work: You drag any window to the right or left margin, hold it there, and it will resize to occupy half the screen. Useful for working in two windows at once, but hardly the stuff of mandatory upgrades.
In general, they’ve tried to keep the silliness quotient lower than Vista. Rather than Vista 2, this is more like Vista 0.5 — as far as the UI goes, closer to XP. The sidebar seems to be gone, although gadgets are still possible (now you can put them anywhere on the desktop). The taskbar has actually been improved to accommodate today’s multi-multitasking workforce — doing email while writing a report while IM’ing friends while answering Facebook messages while shopping online while updating a spreadsheet while buying movie tickets for a date tonight while downloading iTunes while watching YouTube while updating a spreadsheet. You can make the icons bigger if you want, and hovering over each one gives a little thumbnail and text description (“Windows 7-Microsoft Word”).
Of course, as always, Microsoft has added a widget or two that is supposed to be helpful but could just as easily be confusing, like the little file older icon on the taskbar that’s NOT a running app, but there to trigger a window of your “library”– seemingly another name for My Documents, except that the folders are actually virtual ones that aggregate like content (.docs in Documents, .mp3s in Music and so on) from anywhere on your hard drive. And you can enable a little widget called “Desktop” on the taskbar that has a fly-away menu with some of the more important stuff you might go to the left-hand Start menu for. But it’s not really complete, so which one do you go to? Hmm….
The hated User Account Control (UAC) is now controllable, not just on or off. By default, it no longer queries you every time you make a change to the machine. It just does it when a program does, and it doesn’t black out the screen, it just makes a transparent black window. You can turn both user-generated and externally generated triggers either on or off. OK, so maybe some users won’t freak out because their screen blacks out, but still – this is one of those features that no one knows what to do with. I’ve been running Vista since it was a beta and I’ve never said “No” to a UAC prompt. When would I? I guess if some hacker was dumb enough to give me a prompt that said “Hacker trying to wreck your machine.”
There are some things I need to investigate more: Is Remote Assistance just a new name for Remote Desktop Connection? Are there any hidden self-healing or managing features that weren’t apparent at first blush?
I’ve already gotten feedback from my first post that performance will be a concern for some of you, and I’m going to start researching that.
How many of you have kicked Windows 7 tires or assigned someone in IT to do that? What are your first impressions?