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.
It’s been a few weeks, but the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull (good thing I don’t have to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull — these newscasters weren’t so lucky) is still erupting and the disaster recovery and business continuity lessons keep on coming.
One of my colleagues attended a conference during the no-fly period, and saw first-hand how technology can aid business continuity: A keynote speaker who was stranded in Europe did his talk via live videoconference, even responding to questions that popped up live or via Twitter.
This story was still rolling through my mind as I read Senior News Writer Linda Tucci’s story this week about business continuity and the volcano. Prior to that, I’d been thinking of disaster recovery and business continuity more in terms of the physical limitations of people being unable to travel, but she investigates the supply chain management nightmare created by the lack of air travel for days on end.
The message? You could have an excellent supply chain management strategy – but if you don’t have the disaster recovery and business continuity plan to back it up, it won’t do you a whole lot of good when it matters the most.
Do you have a successful disaster recovery or business continuity story that worked — or didn’t, and you learned an important lesson from it? What’s your supply chain management strategy when things go wrong? I’d love to hear your story; please e-mail me at email@example.com.
“Where the CIO should report is a question as old as the CIO role itself,” says John Van Decker, analyst with Gartner Inc.
Shoot, it’s a stale question even for a reporter who has been covering CIO careers for five years.
But data on the topic, whether from Gartner or Forrester Research or the Society for Information Management (SIM), usually creates a stir and invariably is interpreted as a measure of the CIO role at a company.
The “good” answer for CIO careers, in my experience, is that they report to the CEO. After all, IT is pervasive in the enterprise, and if deployed effectively, a strategic asset. How many other executives under the CEO have the kind of depth and breadth of understanding of the way the business actually runs? Actually, the CFO does.
The nemesis is back — at least, according to a recent survey from Gartner and the Financial Executives’ Research Foundation (FERF). Among a respondent pool of 482 senior financial executives, 42% said their IT organization reported to the CFO, while 33% said that organization reported to the CEO. In addition, 53% of the CFOS said they would like CIOs to start reporting to them.
Here’s the kicker: In 41% of organizations, the senior financial executives (mostly CFOs) who responded to the survey viewed themselves as being the main decision maker for IT investments (my italics). So, what’s a CIO to do?
Well, according to the experts at Gartner and FERF, the CIO and CFO have an opportunity “to form a powerful alliance that generates more value for the enterprise,” but not without a whole lot of soul-searching, it seems, on the part of the CIO. Here’s an excerpt from the press release:
However, this performance is often not achieved because of poor perceptions of IT, a parochial CFO or CIO perspective, or a failure to invest in the CFO-CIO relationship. CIOs must understand the impact their CFOs have on technology decisions in their organizations, and ensure that they are providing the CFO with the appropriate understanding of technology, as well as communicating the business value that can be achieved. …IT must interpret its relative strengths and weaknesses as opportunities for improvement, and must work with the finance organization to improve these perceptions. Establishing career paths for project managers, including a path into the project management organization, from which they can provide valuable training and coaching of apprentice project managers; and investment in project portfolio management solutions are just some of the ways that the IT organization can improve its position with the CFO.
Obviously these surveys have to be taken with a grain of salt. Survey results on this loaded question tend to vary depending on the survey pool. In this one, for example, the responses come from CFOs, the very people most inclined to inflate the power of their position at their organizations. (Technology costs a lot of money.) When SIM surveyed its mostly CIO members last year on this very question, 49% of CIOs said they reported to the CEO, and only 25% said they reported to the CFO.
I don’t know that it is such a bad thing for the CFO to have the final say on IT investments. The argument was made to me recently — by no less than veteran CIO Tom Pyke, formerly with the U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Commerce — that there are good reasons to keep the financial decisions and strategic decisions about IT separate.
But if I were a CIO reading this, what would stick in my craw is the scolding assumption that the burden to improve the relationship is all on the IT staff.
Sys-Con, creator of the sixth international Cloud Computing Expo held last month in New York, blamed a real cloud for the absence of traffic on its show floor. It wasn’t enterprise concern over security, interoperability and portability of cloud services that kept attendees at bay, but airborne ash from the eruption of the Icelandic volcano.
Indeed, organizers said 15% of the anticipated 5,000 attendees were grounded in Europe, although there was no explanation for the visible lack of large corporate customers from the U.S. Virtually all the keynotes and informational sessions were led by one of the 100 cloud vendors (or industry consultants) whose booths occupied a basement corner of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
During the keynotes and other premier sessions, the show floor was closed, presumably to fill the hall with bodies. Case studies of the cloud in action were presented as hearsay in cryptographic terms: “a large financial institution” or “a leading manufacturer in the energy field.” True, there were a couple of partial case studies among small or smallish mid-market firms, and to the show’s credit, most of the information presented was vendor-neutral. Sys-Con employed a cloud-based videoconferencing system to broadcast the main panels to Europe and around the world, including a lunchtime discussion at which a quartet from Iceland stood up to hawk the first “green cloud”—the volcanic ash having blown east to enable their departure.
When the floor reopened, traffic among the booths came primarily from staffers taking a break from other booths, and cloud partnerships were blooming faster than you can say latency. R1Soft, for example, a cloud vendor of backup software, told me about its partnerships with Hosting.com and The Planet. Likewise, LTech, a developer that helps companies “forklift their applications to the cloud,” emphasized its cloud partnerships with Google, RightScale and Soasta.
“Soasta is the coolest company here,” said LTech’s marketing guru of the firm, which measures performance of a cloud installation. “You should go over there; tell them the guys at LTech sent you — they love us.”
In a market that is sure to contract, the question is, who will buy whom? Driven by commodity pricing, no doubt many of the cloud vendors will die on the vine or be swallowed by larger competitors, according to Jeff Kaplan, managing director of ThinkStrategies, a consultancy in Cambridge, Mass.
Cloud vendor viability is a classic issue. Not many enterprises buy from startups, especially when cloud business models are unproven and unarticulated, confirmed Mike Grandinetti, managing director of Southboro Capital LLC, an entrepreneurial consulting company in Sudbury, Mass.
That would naturally drive the kind of cloud partnerships that formed at Cloud Expo in lieu of actual customers. “If you’re selling into CIOs with mission-critical data, it’s almost inevitable that a startup is going to have an uphill battle,” Grandinetti said. “Without a large big brother to put an arm around your shoulder and walk you in, there is not a prayer of being successful.”
After an excellent long weekend in San Francisco (I felt right at home in my techie tendencies), I’m back in Boston and catching up on the latest IT news, as well as the latest pieces from SearchCIO.com.
It’s been confirmed: AT&T will retain iPhone rights until 2012. Does AT&T iPhone exclusivity have any impact your business mobile communications strategy? Meanwhile, Twitter is launching a “Twitter Business Center.” Will this cause you to give Twitter in business another look?
Business intelligence data gets a Web service treatment — Retailers and insurers are proving the worth of business intelligence data by creating new service offerings for their customers.
Microsoft CIO Tony Scott predicts big changes ahead for CIO role — Microsoft CIO Tony Scott predicts 2010 will usher in big changes for CIOs, starting with “unprecedented demand” for IT and the expansion of the CIO role to business operations.
Five top concerns about cloud service providers — Cloud service providers are being asked by IT execs to lay bare their security, data integration, compliance and performance capabilities — and to have an exit strategy.
IT vendor management strategy guide for enterprise CIOs — Enterprise CIOs are looking to codify their IT vendor management strategies as vendors provide opportunities for cutting costs and increasing efficiency. Learn more in this guide.
Here we go again with Facebook privacy issues: Consumer advocacy groups are assailing Facebook for a recent security flaw. One has even filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), claiming that a recent security flaw temporarily exposed private messages between friends. It’s also sobering to learn that nearly one of four Facebook users isn’t using the privacy settings at all.
The timing of this new wave of Facebook problems dovetails with our recent coverage of social media addicts and security. As SearchCIO.com Senior News Writer Linda Tucci reported, more employees are using social networking technologies either for work purposes or during work hours.
I don’t see why the FTC would get involved. Nobody is forcing anyone to have a Facebook page, and although frustrating, it doesn’t seem like Facebook is breaking any laws. If enough people stopped using Facebook’s service, or brought their social networking elsewhere and it affected the company’s bottom line, I bet Facebook would be more likely to notice and reconsider its approach.
But these Facebook privacy issues — specifically, the breaking down of privacy barriers between individuals and their employers — are disturbing on both sides. What if employees using Facebook in the workplace discussed sensitive work matters via the social networking platform, and their conversations were exposed?
Moreover, as an employee, if you want your employer listed on your profile, you now will have no choice but to connect to your employer’s page. And as an employer, do you want employees past and present directly linked to your company’s Facebook page? Thoughts to ponder as Facebook’s privacy issues become more and more pronounced.
Microsoft CIO Tony Scott was the keynote speaker at a modest but interesting gathering of CIOs in Boston yesterday, and he more or less stole the show, arriving in a rumpled suit and displaying the sort of brash, jargon-free intelligence that is still a novelty at IT shows. He’s predicting that CIOs are going to be hit with a tsunami of pent-up demand for IT very soon. (He wishes, right?) Actually, his metaphor was water pushing against a dam. In between the obligatory Microsoft plugs, he paid lip service to some of the changes in store for the CIO role, appropriately enough because the title of the meeting, put on by the Mass Technology Leadership Council, was “A New Paradigm for CIOs.”
But it was in the Q&A session after his remarks where he gave us Beantowners a feel for what it means to be CIO of the world’s largest software company. (Or is that Oracle? No matter.) Asked what would happen to traditional IT departments — and the CIO — as more aspects of computing really do become like electricity, a utility distributed on a grid, Scott sensibly said there will be lots of jobs for IT people who can do a good job of creating utility computing.
“That’s going to be a great business,” Scott said. But even in the face of utility computing, the “application business is going to flower waaay beyond even where it is today,” he added. For sure, he’s never met a developer who complains about having too much compute power. Imagination still outstrips computing reality. To wit:
“We’ve become good friends with James Cameron, who did Avatar. He built Avatar on Microsoft technology, and he’ll tell you that he had to wait to make the movie until there was enough processing power to do what he wanted to do. And when we talk to him, he tells us that he may have to wait again to make his next movie, because what he wants to do, he can’t do today. There is not enough processing power. So, one example, but I think that’s where we are headed.”
Yup, just one example. I’ll be writing about the lively panel debate on security, privacy and social media that followed his talk for our IT Compliance Advisor blog site later this week, with more Scott insights. Meantime, here’s the Microsoft CIO’s blue-tinted vision of what’s in store for IT in the next five years:
“James Cameron showed us the way — 3-D is going to get real, it’s going to get cheap and it’s going be pervasive. Second, natural user interface. We’re shipping something in Xbox, I think this year. Playing Xbox games, you won’t need a controller anymore. It can read your body motions, and you can interact with the Xbox. That will make its way into the computer world. So, there are a lot of things you’ll be able to do with the compute devices in your world that won’t require a keyboard and a mouse. And the last one, combined with 3-D, is multitouch interfaces … and the things that you can do, manipulating information, data, graphics and so on with your hands, is nothing short of art. And coupled with science, I think it is going to lead us into some really fun things.”
I’m having a slightly cranky Monday morning. The Greater Boston area is on a “boil water” order due to a catastrophic water main break — which is most immediately affecting me in that there is no coffee at work! So please forgive any typos I might make today as I peruse the latest tech headlines.
Is Flash dying? Steve Jobs would sure have you think so. Fortune investigates the future of Flash.
I blogged way back when about the hack of Sarah Palin’s Yahoo e-mail account. Authorities caught up to the Sarah Palin hacker, and the young man accused of the crime was convicted Friday on charges of obstruction of justice and misdemeanor computer intrusion.
And, as always, here’s the latest news from SearchCIO.com:
Gartner rates the Big Four business intelligence vendors — Gartner Inc. rates IBM’s, Microsoft’s, Oracle’s and SAP’s capabilities as business intelligence vendors, from BI platform functions to strategy.
IT business continuity and disaster recovery planning: Test your IQ — IT business continuity and disaster recovery planning are topping enterprise agendas in 2010. Read about the strategies and technologies here, and take our quiz to test your smarts.
Cloud computing identity management standards could push cloud use — Cloud computing identity management standards are in the works to ensure the open and secure exchange of identities in the cloud.
Veteran CIO Tom Pyke shares advice on dealing with IT security threats — Read what veteran CIO Tom Pyke has to say about combating the next generation of IT security threats, and why it’s important for CIOs to get with the program — program management, that is.