TotalCIO


September 12, 2008  10:24 AM

Why Wall-E should matter to you

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

Who’s seen the movie Wall-E? You know, the tale of a loveable robot left behind on Earth to clean up humans’ messes while humans headed off on a cruise-style spaceship, gained a lot of weight, and forget how to communicate face-to-face?

Especially for a kids’ movie, Wall-E has a lot of satirical elements, but there is some truth in most of them – including the future-of-humanity example listed above. And poor Wall-E’s entire existence hinges upon tending to out-of-control human waste (Wall-E stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifter, Earth-Class). And, considering how much time we spend at our jobs, a lot of that waste is workplace-generated.

If you haven’t had a chance to read my colleague Linda Tucci’s story on electronic waste, or e-waste, please take a few minutes to do so…it invokes Wall-E in a way that shows how frightening real that dystopian scenario could become if not for vigilance in proper disposal of computer equipment. The EPA estimates that 40 million computers became obsolete last year. Imagine how much that number will continue to grow. And imagine when you start throwing in cell phones and other mobile communications devices…and business-generated paper waste….

So, as a CIO, what are you doing to ensure that your organization is properly managing its waste, electronic and otherwise? And where should I be throwing away this plastic bottle, again?

September 5, 2008  4:57 PM

CIO weekly wrap-up

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

I refuse to believe that Labor Day marks the end of summer – the weather in New England is still too darn nice. It’s been a busy week for us here at SearchCIO.com, and here’s a round-up of what we’ve been working on.

  • SearchCIO.com Salary and Careers Special Report — Enterprise CIOs are still feeling secure in their jobs despite the faltering economy thanks to their contributions to organizational efficiencies. But that doesn’t mean CIOs are shying away from seeking new career opportunities or considering telecommuting if it would make their working lives better. Don’t miss our special report!
  • CIO Briefing on risk management for enterprise CIOs — Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) encompasses the methods by which organizations predict, identify and mitigate circumstances that could be detrimental to the enterprise. Using the case studies, news and trend articles in this month’s CIO Briefing, learn to recognize and proactively address risks in your organization.


September 5, 2008  12:03 PM

Think like a hacker (and other World of Warcraft-inspired musings)

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

Yesterday, I attended Forrester’s security forum in Boston. In one of the morning sessions, “Exploiting Online Games,” Gary McGraw, chief technology officer at Cigital (and co-author of a book by the same title) discussed how online gamers are contributing to a multi-billion-dollar industry.

Online games draw up to 900,000 simultaneous users at any given time, McGraw said. The ubiquitous World of Warcraft has 10 million subscribers. If 10 million users pay the $14 subscription fee each month for a year to play the game, you’re talking about $1.68 billion. Wow. I am definitely in the wrong industry.

(Side note: I don’t know much about World of Warcraft, outside an excellent, Emmy-winning “South Park” episode…no, really, you think I’m kidding but I’m not. Probably NSFW, but here are some clips if you want to check it out later on.)

So why was McGraw presenting at a security conference? Because, in online gaming, security problems are built right into a successful business model. Game makers want millions of people to be accessing and interacting within their site. But what if they’re handing that piece of Internet real estate over to unsavory folks who might cause damage with it? And how do organizations in a Web 2.0 world deal with similar challenges?

To bring his point home, McGraw talked about Dan Farmer, whose controversial Security Administrator Tool for Analyzing Networks (SATAN) program would, essentially, allow companies to hack their own systems to determine their vulnerabilities. But, upon its release in 1995, Farmer’s employer fired him, fearing that it would increase malicious hacks.

The irony, McGraw says, is that nowadays, an IT exec charged with minding security could possibly be fired for not attempting to “think like a hacker” and protect his system accordingly. While his presentation got into the legal and financial ramifications of gaming, I think that the most important message for network security administrators was “think like an attacker,” and do the proper code review and architectural risk analysis on the front end to prevent problems later on.

Has your company adopted a “think like a hacker” approach to IT security? Any success stories you would like to share? Or just general love for “World of Warcraft” so that I can better understand the online sensation?


September 5, 2008  10:51 AM

Google Chrome not so shiny?

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

I’ve yet to weigh in on Chrome, Google’s new web browser, largely because this has been a really busy post-Labor Day week and I haven’t yet had the chance to try it out myself. But I’ve been picking up snippets here and there and, for once, it sounds like Google might have botched a debut, at least according to online reporters and chatters.

I remember playing with Google Street Maps, Google Earth and Gmail not long after their debuts and being immediately impressed. And it sounds like Chrome’s sleek appearance, tabs and privacy settings (called “Incognito”) carry that same Google charm.

But I’m also hearing some Big Brother-ish features. For instance, Google has changed its End User Licensing Agreement, which originally called for the right to retain the rights to anything you do or create while using Chrome.

For a measured view, I’m turning to this list of reasons for and reasons against trying out Chrome.

Is this brouhaha a matter of people looking to take down Google-as-Goliath? Who else has tried out the beta version of Chrome? What are your initial impressions? Could it draw you away from Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari or whatever other web browser you currently use?


September 2, 2008  5:13 PM

CIO leaders are born and made

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

Today, on SearchCIO.com we’re talking leadership with Bob Rouse, professor of computer science at Washington University in St.Louis and a program director the Regional Leadership Forum, a CIO training program launched 15 years ago by the Society for Information Management.

In a wide ranging discusssion, Bob gamely takes on some of  the big questions–are leaders born or made? Are the leadership qualities of the successful CIO different from those required of, say, the captain of a ship or the CFO? Do you have to be young to have this stuff stick? He also weighs in on why we shouldn’t be surprised by the gulf between IT and the business.

Some background:  The RFL program runs from January to September, meeting six times for intensive two-day sessions. Classes are coached by CIOs  and facilitators and include a 30-book reading list. Participants are prodded  to discover their inner leaders by presenting topics, leading discussions and persuading classmates that their experiences have relevance for others.

 You can find a transcript of our conversation here. Read the condensed version here.


August 29, 2008  2:23 PM

CIO weekly wrap-up

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

I’m heading down to New York City for the long Labor Day weekend…I hope everybody else has relaxing and fun plans as well! To take you into the weekend, check out this week’s stories on SearchCIO.com:


August 29, 2008  10:58 AM

“IT should not just be subservient to the business”

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

The Society for Information Management unveiled its survey of top CIO concerns this week. What’s on the headache list? IT and business alignment, the No. 1 issue for four of the past 5 years, reclaimed the top spot after dropping to No. 2 last year. The IT talent issues that dominated year ago — attracting IT professionals and retaining IT professionals, both ranked No 1 last year– slipped: retaining IT pros fell to the No. 8 spot, attracting talent to No. 4.

The survey of 291 companies — 350 company executives — was done in June, and it would be natural to conclude that economic realities have intruded on the profession. In anxious times, people are more likely to stay put, grateful for a job. IT strategic planning, No. 8 a year ago, is up in the No. 3  spot this year, suggesting that hard times call for better planning.

But SIM’s Jerry Luftman, author of the survey, cautioned against reading too much into the changes, noting that in the broad survey  (to be released in November at SIM’s annual meeting) “there is no sense the sky is falling.”

“We do ask other questions vis-à-vis how they allocate their budgets — do they see their budgets going up and down, the picture on hiring, and so on. Knowing what those responses are, it is clear to me that even though the economy is on their minds, things seem to be OK,” said Luftman, whose day job is professor of IS programs at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.  “We are not panicking.”

Luftman, under orders not to spill the beans on all the findings, said  IS executives indicate they are working closer with their business partners, in order to ward off the “slicing and dicing and panic.”

“Without giving you too much, people seem to be still having opportunities to hire, budgets seem to be staying the same or going up, even with the concerns,” he said.

That actually jibes with what we heard from CIOs in our survey last month and recent prognostications from Gartner and Forrester on IT spending and jobs.

When asked why IT and business alignment persists as a top concern, after all these years, Luftman gets a little hot under collar.

“First, it is that people in academia and people in consulting especially are playing a semantics game. Everybody says there is not an alignment problem-it’s ‘linkage’ or it’s ‘integration’ or it’s ‘convergence.’ All of these different words!” said Luftman. “What we need to do is stop debating what we call it, and focus more on how to address the problem. That is probably the No.1 problem with why this is it is taking so long.”

But here’s the outrage: “We are still focusing too much on how IT is aligned with the business, as opposed as to how IT and the business are aligned with each other. It’s an equal partnership; it’s a two-way, it is not a one-way thing. IT should not just be subservient to the business.”

Funny, I’ve been known to feel the same way.

The Scoop: Server virtualization yes, but CIO heads are NOT in the Cloud

Top 10 management concerns really don’t budge much year over year in the SIM surevy unlike the top technologies, which tend to be more dynamic. And?

After a bit of prodding, he revealed that the although two top technologies — virus technology and business intelligence — again occupy the top two spots on the survey list, the remaining three are all different: business process management (BPM) and continuity planning/disaster recovery are tied for No. 2, and server virtualization makes the top 5 for the first time. Given the case study after case study we’ve been seeing this year about server virtualization, that did not seem too surprising.

“No, but I thought I would have seen a lot more of the cloud computing, SOA and stuff like that,” Luftman said.

So CIOs don’t have their heads in the cloud? “It’s way way down on the list.”


August 28, 2008  9:28 PM

Trimming the fat off “bloatware”

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

I hadn’t heard the term “bloatware” before, but it apparently refers to software that comes pre-installed on computers – Quicken, AOL, Yahoo – per agreements between the PC maker and the software provider. According to this article in the New York Times, such agreements can often make or break a profit margin for the computer manufacturer, who can earn $30 or more for each computer by reinstalling software.

But $30 is apparently a key number when it comes to “bloatware”: for that same price, consumers can have professionals, such as Best Buy’s “Geek Squad,” remove the pre-installed programs for them.

“You’d be surprised how often consumers tell us to get rid of it,” said Robert Stephens, the head of Geek Squad, the technical support division of Best Buy that removes the software. He declined to say how many people were paying for the service, but said that “it’s going to increase in popularity.”

Maybe I’m not the minimalist that some computer users are, but, come on, spend $30 so that somebody else will remove these pre-installed programs? Is it really that annoying to have them on their desktop? Or to follow some online instructions and remove them on their own?

My questions are these: Do corporate IT leaders consider “bloatware” in purchasing and deploying computers to their staff? Would you ever consider paying a service like Geek Squad to remove those programs to save your staff the time and effort of doing so? Have you seen any advantages to purchasing PCs with these pre-loaded programs?


August 27, 2008  4:21 PM

Dude, the world is getting a Dell

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

The slowing U.S. economy has apparently encouraged Dell to reexamine its international growth model. Today, the computer giant unveiled four low-cost computer models for China, India and other emerging economies.

The two notebook and two desktop PCs are the first Dell models designed especially for emerging markets, according to Steve Felice, the U.S. computer maker’s president for the Asia-Pacific. They are meant for small-business users and are to be sold in 20 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America, according to the AP.  Prices for the new Vestro notebooks will start at 3,299 yuan ($475) and for the desktop PCs at 2,999 yuan ($440).

Now, I know the SearchCIO.com readers aren’t “small-business users,” but this statistic struck me: Dell’s first-quarter sales in China India, Russia and Brazil grew by 50%, about 10 times the U.S. rate! No wonder Dell is one of many companies turning to foreign markets!

I’m trying to find out if these are available for purchase to American companies with foreign outposts. In the meantime, read the full article and let us know what you think of Dell’s strategy. I know SearchCIO.com has some international readers, and it would be great to hear from you, too.


August 22, 2008  3:05 PM

CIO weekly wrap-up

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

Thanks to all of you who have made the TotalCIO blog so lively of late! Here’s a round-up of this week’s stories on SearchCIO.com — feel free to weigh in below on any of these topics.

  • ERM: Unearthing the potential paybacks – We delved into the guts of ERM (it’s not as gross as it sounds), discussing challenges and potential paybacks, and providing some best practices for making it work.


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