How’s this for a year-end bummer? According to a survey from McKinsey & Co., IT is not living up to anybody’s expectations. The survey, titled “IT’s Unmet Potential,” found that CIOs, CTOs and non-IT executives all agree there is a disjunction “between their IT organizations’ current priorities and what IT could contribute.”
It seems the old IT/business alignment thing still needs aligning.
The silver lining, if you can call it that, is that this disjunction is actually a step forward. Instead of having IT and the business disagree about IT’s purpose, now at least both groups are on the same page.
Both CIOs and their non-IT executive peers have reached concordance on the idea that IT should play an important role “in developing and executing business strategies” by, for example, promoting innovation to “better enable companies to seize new opportunities.”
The bad news is that what’s on that page is not actually what is going on in these companies.
For example, only one quarter of the respondents believe that IT is currently “partnering with the business to develop new business capabilities.” Similarly, only one quarter believe that IT is “proactively engaging with business leaders on new ideas/enhancements to existing processes, systems.”
The other evidence for this disjunction between what is and what could be is the respondents’ answers to questions about current IT priorities versus ideal IT priorities for the next budget cycle.
For example, “reducing IT costs” and “ensuring compliance with regulations,” according to the survey, should ideally be half as important on the IT priority list as they currently are. On the other hand, the respondents said that in an ideal world, IT’s role in “creating new products and service” should be almost double in priority.
For the new year, perhaps CIOs and their business peers can take heart in the idea that the first step in solving a problem is defining it.
The survey was conducted in October, after respondents “had time to absorb the implications of … the deteriorating economic environment,” said McKinsey authors; 548 executives responded, 49% of them identified as C-level executives.
Linda Tucci’s story on SearchCIO.com today on disabling accounts after employee layoffs and the security risks “orphaned” accounts can pose if not properly closed out was a timely one, of course. I’m actually sort of surprised we’re not seeing more stories about disabling employee accounts, considering November saw the loss of 533,000 jobs in the United States, and December layoffs might be just as bad – or worse.
If I may try to add some levity to the situation, the “orphaned accounts” story (particularly the line about one person who was still on the payroll six months after being terminated) reminded me of the first minute from this infamous clip from the film “Office Space.”
Now, I don’t think anybody would question that there are risks associated with leaving employee accounts open following layoffs. When you’re laying off IT folks, it’s even riskier, according to Tucci’s story, since these individuals “usually have the keys to the kingdom” and could wreak absolute havoc. Hmmmm, reminds me of a little IT hack incident earlier this year in San Francisco you may have heard about.
Unfortunately, I think the points touched upon in Tucci’s story might strike a cord with a lot of the people who read this blog – I know they struck me, both on a personal and professional level. It seems unnecessary to immediately disable the accounts of 99% of laid-off employees who wouldn’t dream of downloading sensitive company information. They might have downloaded a picture of a grandkid on their work computer, or may have even been in mid-email when their access disappeared. Yes, their computers belong to the company, but shouldn’t these employees have an opportunity – even if it’s brief and monitored by current staff – to recover those items? I believe so.
Precluding former employees’ access to their contacts and working documents with little or no warning could be bad for the business, too. Particularly if a company is laying off longtime employees who might have hundreds of contacts built up in Outlook, or have files that would be useful to others in their organization. If the employee is immediately locked out, then recovering and piecing through that business information is likely to be a lot more challenging for remaining co-workers.
And yet … I sure wouldn’t want to be the head of IT in a company that took a lackadaisical approach to disabling employee accounts after layoffs and was burned by one of the 1-percenters who caused problems in the system.
So for any of you with experience in layoffs: Have you gone with immediate system lockout, or ever considered a less drastic approach (for the reasons I cite above, or others)? Do desperate times call for Draconian measures, or is there room for a more personal touch?
I hope everybody had a nice weekend! For those playing catch-up, here are the most recent stories from SearchCIO.com:
- Five questions to ask before launching a BI system — An economy in recession puts business intelligence (BI) on the top of the 2009 agenda. But CIOs will have to look at BI differently moving forward. Want five tips for getting it right? Read on.
- Economic downturn will hurt IT hiring in 2009 – Unfortunately, you knew this news was probably coming. A new survey shows fewer jobs, the possibility of layoffs, a flattening of salaries and a rise in the number of qualified IT job applicants ahead.
- Managing user adoption makes the most of a BI solution – A good case study for those looking to manage a BI solution adoption correctly: A user-friendly interface and superior architecture sold Meredith Corp. on a BI solution from MicroStrategy, but it was IT’s rigorous “managed adoption” process that ensured people used it.
- Gartner picks top 30 countries for offshore IT outsourcing – Moving beyond outsourcing giants India and China, learn more about countries like Mexico, Poland and Vietnam, which have strengthened their offerings as outsourcing alternatives.
Cybersecurity initiatives aren’t about just you, the CIO, or your organization. And because of that, the solutions shouldn’t come solely from you, but from shared knowledge from all sectors.The same model applies to the U.S. government’s approach to cybersecurity initiatives. The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, a panel formed in August 2007 “after the United States suffered a wave of damaging attacks in cyberspace,” recommends that incoming President Barack Obama should establish a new White House office and appoint a presidential assistant to oversee a “comprehensive national security strategy for cyberspace,” CNN is reporting.
As we noted last week, 2008 has been a very spammy year, with threats targeting social networking sites. The cybersecurity report takes the spectre of these threats even further, stating that cybersecurity is one of the major national security problems facing the U.S. and “all the tools of U.S. power” – diplomatic, intelligence, military and economic – are needed to deal with cybersecurity, CNN reports.
Some of the recommendations with regard to national cybersecurity should sound very familiar to enterprise CIOs charged with overseeing cybersecurity protocols in their organizations. For instance, the report recommends “requiring better authentication” of digital identities and limiting government purchasing to secure products and services. Research, training and education should also be expanded, the report says.
The lesson here? Your cybersecurity insights and experiences carry far beyond your individuals organizations’ walls. Share your cybersecurity stories and solutions with others. You can start by clicking the “comments” link below!
There’s nothing like a Hewlett-Packard software news announcement to get me a’wondering.
The typical missive usually begins with some global statement about HP helping IT deliver better business outcomes. Then rapidly devolves into a dizzying catalog of product enhancements and new integrations and, of course, the array of HP services for those IT departments that can’t figure out the new integrations and enhancements on their own. The HP point person cheerfully gets on the phone to sort it all out, but in the end, I realize I’d have to be on much closer speaking terms with the world’s largest technology company to understand what was new, newish or just another name for something HP announced seven months ago…
But today’s HP news (enhancements to its business technology optimization, aka BTO, software) came with a little jolt — namely that there is no more business as usual, even in HP press releases. Right there in the headline was a pitch worthy of a car company: “New HP Software and Zero Percent Lease Financing Helps CIOs Respond to Tough Economy.”
It occurred to me that this must be very expensive software to warrant 0% financing. Unfortunately, HP doesn’t get into how much it costs with the press. I did find out the offer ends Jan. 31.
The software, from what I can glean, sure sounds nifty — a big brain to keep track of all your IT parts and help you figure out how best to use them. (According to the release, it saved “a leading health care provider” $30 million. Who knows what it could do for you?)
In case you missed it, we’ve had a very active discussion on FatWire’s sex-site demo at a Boston Web 2.0 conference. Feel free to add your own views and, while you’re at it, check out our stories and virtualization guide from SearchCIO.com this week:
- Six Sigma, ITIL, other business processes cut IT costs in lean times – Looking to cut IT costs? Who isn’t nowadays? Don’t be too hasty: Business processes such as Lean Six Sigma and ITIL are better ways to reduce your IT costs than just blindly making cuts, say Forrester experts.
- Domestic and offshore outsourcing facts CIOs need to know – Think you’re up on the latest trends in outsourcing, which has seen both highs and lows this past year? Take this outsourcing quiz on offshore and domestic outsourcing to determine your knowledge of the IT outsourcing industry.
- Internet search technology shifts from content to intent – You know how it sometimes seems like search engines can read your mind? There’s a reason for that: Internet search is moving from content to intent, Yahoo says. The company’s new open source development tools allow users and developers to customize how their search results look.
- Data center and desktop virtualization guide for CIOs — Data center virtualization has become fairly widespread, but now focus is shifting to the desktop. In addition to general data center and virtualization trends, execution strategies and tools and technologies, this guide addresses decision criteria for extending virtualization to the desktop; hardware and software options; best practices in deployment; cost analysis and network considerations.
Symantec has released its MessageLabs Intelligence 2008 Annual Security Report, and social networking sites and the credit crisis are providing new platforms and fears upon which new spam attacks are being launched, CNNMoney.com reports.”Web 2.0 offers endless opportunities to scammers for distributing their malware — from creating bogus social networking accounts to spoofed videos — and in 2008 the threats targeting social networking environments became very real,” said Mark Sunner, chief security analyst at MessageLabs.
“Web 2.0 thrives on user-generated content, as do the spammers. The ability to adapt to new mediums and upload enticing content as ‘snake oil’ to persuade an information-hungry user to activate it is one of the cybercriminals’ strongest talents and has made them successful in transforming deception into a fully scalable business model within the underground shadow economy,” Sunner said.
In addition, towards the end of this year, the credit crisis generated many new finance-related spam attacks as scammers tried to take advantage of the resulting panic and uncertainty. “Spammers increased the number of finance-related emails, including phishing attacks targeting banks and credit unions, lottery scams, loan and job offers and other financial enticements,” the report finds.
In particular, the article mentions phishing via fake profiles on social networking sites, which I’ve witnessed on Facebook this year. In a couple of instances, spammers managed to commandeer an individual’s screen name and post “wall” comments (linking to suspicious-sounding sites) as though they were that person. And I have certainly noticed an increase in the number of emails notifying me of the “contests” I’ve won if only I’ll provide bank account information, or “exciting job opportunities” for the unemployed. I thought I must have accidentally provided my email address to a questionable site, but it sounds like the number of those emails really has increased.
I’d encourage you to look over the full report to better understand the spam landscape. Among the report’s findings: Total spam levels peaked at 82.7% in February and averaged 81.2% for the year, compared with 84.6% the year before (so, surprisingly to me, the percentage of spam has actually decreased). As much of 90% of the spam was distributed by botnets.
Talk about a booby trap. Yogesh Gupta, the president and CEO of FatWire, was glibly making his way through his presentation on “Online Engagement — The Key to Success in Good Times and Bad.” The gist of the first 20 minutes or so was that in hard times companies can exploit the Web to gain market share, retain customers, etc., without spending a ton of money. When it came time for the FatWire commercial — you need a pro to really get your Web presences right — Gupta called up one of his employees to show the audience a demo of what FatWire can do for its customers in terms of data analytics. The site that was called up was none other than Playboy’s and, in particular, Playboy’s Cyber Girls. But no worries, says Gupta to the audience, it’s been “sanitized.”
“It’s still offensive,” calls out a woman in the audience, and therein ensued what must be a first for an IT/Web 2.0 conference: a heated exchange about why Gupta chose this site and did he understand that it was an assault on women in the audience. The woman, who happened to be sitting near me, ended up extracting an apology from the podium and a personal apology after the talk was over. More later…
The Society for Information Management recently asked a panel of CIOs to talk about the attributes of a successful CIO. For CIO Karan Sorensen, an emphasis on the greater good is a must –from developing your staff and learning your company’s business to being the “change agent” role model for your business peers in these tough times.
Sorensen oversees the information technology systems and support for two operating companies of New Brunswick, N.J-based Johnson & Johnson Inc.: J&J Pharmaceutical Research & Development and Centocor Research & Development. She also has responsibility for setting and executing the IT agenda for Centocor’s finance, communications, human resources, sourcing and procurement departments. She put her advice in the form of a top 10 list. Here is a condensed version:
1. Be an inspirational and ethical leader: “Focus on the greater good if you expect others to follow.”
2. Don’t be afraid to be a change agent: “Everything we do in information technology creates change. We’re comfortable with change. Be that beacon of light to the business when they are going through rough times and change.” And when you take your place at the executive table? Go in as a business leader, says Sorensen. “Help bring the business discussions forward. That way, when you want to talk about IT, they are ready to listen because you have brought leadership into the room.”
3. Enable leadership: “Develop individuals, organizational talent and successors. That can be done through mentoring, coaching, sponsoring and networking, but it is all about enabling leadership. Be a leader of leaders and do not hold anyone back.”
4. Know how to run a business: Understand the “back office” — human resources, finance, procurement, negotiating, contracting, vendor management.
5. Understand the commercial side of your business, the sales and marketing, customer support, the multiple business channels.
6. Understand your business’s operations. What makes your business tick? “Whether in manufacturing or in services, understand what it takes to get from input to the output.”
7. Make friends with the R&D function at your company: “Way too many CIOs pass by their R&D departments quickly. Get in there. It is amazing the discovery, the creativity and partnership that they need from you. New ideas are where your future lies.”
8. Deliver on regulatory compliance. Understand the regulatory environment your company lives in and respect that.
9. Deliver on infrastructure. Most companies find that up to 50% of the IT spend is on infrastructure. “You can lead and drive change. There are amazing things to educate your company on, like cloud computing.”
10. Deliver on your commitments — on scope, schedules, budgets, quality and business benefits from IT projects.
I hope all of our readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! Now it’s back to work. Please check out this past week’s stories from SearchCIO.com:
- Managing user adoption makes the most of a BI solution – What’s the point of purchasing new software if nobody in your organization understands how to use it? This case study explains how Meredith Corp. opted for a BI solution from MicroStrategy based on a user-friendly interface and superior architecture, and why IT’s rigorous “managed adoption” process ensured people used it.
- Giving thanks for a robust technology outlook – The economy was surely felt at many tables around America this Thanksgiving, but that doesn’t mean we should be unappreciative. Take a peek at some of the things we have to be thankful for, including a robust technology outlook.