I don’t look anything like a basketball player, or even the stereotypical fan. I’m 4’11″. I prefer high heels and dresses to jerseys and sneakers. Even some of my closest friends said they didn’t realize that I grew up as – and continue to be – such a hardcore Boston sports fan.
Yup, I was watching every minute of the Boston Celtics’ often frustrating but ultimately incredible playoff run, which reached a pinnacle when they won the NBA Championship last Tuesday by blowing out the Los Angeles Lakers, 131-92, to take the series four games to two. I went out at 12:30 a.m. that night and heard people honking their horns and celebrating in the streets. I watched Kevin Garnett’s instant-classic “Anything is Possible!”/”Top of the World!” interview over and over. I even braved the crowds and chased down duckboats in the “rolling rally” victory parade Thursday.
Ah, it’s good to live in Title Town. (And for all you haters: Dude, we put up with an 86-year-curse and the biggest letdown in NFL history, not to mention horrid New England winters and Mitt Romney as governor. We have every reason to celebrate our successes.)
The Celtics’ win was made all the sweeter by their underdog status entering the NBA Finals. Over at the venerable ESPN.com, nearly every analyst selected the Lakers to crush the Celtics in this series. Who could have predicted the Celtics’ astounding performance?
Well, Michael Gliedman, for one. He’s the senior vice president and CIO of the NBA and, according to this article, one of the driving forces behind the NBA’s Lenovo +/- Stat. Now in its second year, The Lenovo Stat demonstrates the power of teamwork by showing the point differential when various combinations of players are on the court. Lenovo Stat information is collected courtside on Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablets by statisticians who log about 500 pieces of data during each game. The data is then delivered to a Sysbase database at the NBA’s data center in New York for analysis before being uploaded to the NBA.com site and other distribution points, Gliedman says.
At the beginning of the Finals, the Lenovo Stat ranking showed the Celtics’ starting five outscoring the Lakers’ starting five by a 13-point margin. That’s a pretty hefty advantage – and it doesn’t even take into account X-factor performances like Leon Powe’s monster 21-point showing in Game 2, or the Celtics bench’s key role in the Game 4 24-point comeback.
The Lenovo Stat’s applications don’t end there: Gliedman said that the NBA plans to enhance it in the future so that fans can create “dream matchups” – for instance, a showdown between the Celtics’ championship squads from 1986 and 2008. Larry Legend vs. Paul “The Truth” Pierce? Now that’s what I call fantasy basketball.
I know ESPN.com already lives by statistics, but maybe some of its analysts should check out Lenovo Stat prior to making their next round of playoffs predictions – and before coming down so hard on my hometown boys.
Oh, and by the way: The Celtics are already 7-2 favorites to win the title next year, too.
I’ve become a tad protective of CIOs in my three years covering your daily battles to bring our economy into the information age. When I hear an IT consultant lecture CIOs on aligning with the business or learning to speak the language of the executive suite or proclaim that 50% of CEOs believe IT actually inhibits progress, a not-so-sotto-voce sneers, “Oh yeah, what about the suits in the corner office? When are they going to learn the language of information technology?” I’m the belligerent parent on the sidelines of the school softball game. “Get real, ref! The future of business is information technology!”
So it was fun yesterday to hear Susan Cramm, the former CIO of Taco Bell turned “leadership coach,” tell a ballroomful of CIOs that successful companies of the future — 2015, in her imagined scenario — will not treat IT as an expense to be minimized, but as an asset to be optimized. Tech-savvy business partners will be your allies in aligning IT and the business. For ITopia to be realized, however, the standard operating model of IT has gotta go, Cramm said.
These days, the big, ugly road to ITopia is clogged with business projects that are driven by IT people, the only ones with a license to drive, Cramm said. Your business partners along for the ride spend half their time trying to take over the wheel and the other half trying to bail. In the back seat is a big, hairy, smelly guy who goes by the name of Lights On, hogging space, edging out your business partners.
Some of those business partners left on the side of the road take matters into their own hands, jumping on horses to get where they need to go, invariably breaking the rules of the road and inevitably having to be bailed out by IT. In the shootout that sometimes ensues, it is always your IT guys, not the business renegades, who end up in the pokey, Cramm said. And the CIO? In the doghouse. Blamed for not being able to drive the business partners everywhere they need to go. Nothin but a houndog.
If the standard operating IT model is going to change, CIOs need to get real and realize the job of IT is too big, Cramm said. Ridiculously big. Cramm started in IT as a programmer 30 years ago, and except for four years spent as a CFO at a midmarket company, she has been living and breathing IT ever since.
“Every day that I spent as a CFO was easier than any day I spent as a CIO,” she told her room of CIOs.
As a CFO, she had fiduciary responsibility for the company – a heavy-duty job, no doubt – but she didn’t have to manage every dollar. Nobody came to complain to her when they didn’t make their numbers. That was their responsibility! The IT job is too big.
“We try to be the sole provider of all the IT solutions. We want to be the lowest-cost provider. We are expected to lead all the change and innovation, manage most of the products, ensure the business strategies are IT-enabled. We write the business cases, write most of the functional requirements and do most of the business analysis,“ Cramm said. “And if that is not enough, we challenge ourselves to know more about our business than our business partners.”
CIOs are missing two critical ingredients she had as CFO: knowledgeable, accountable business partners and the authority to make sure that people follow the rules. CIOs need to figure out how to get these ingredients, starting out by giving their business partners more control.
To drive home the get real part, Cramm told, well, a driving story about her 17-year-old nephew Brady. Actually Brady doesn’t drive. On the one hand, his parents are cool with that. It’s safe. But Brady expects them to drop everything and drive him where he needs to go, and when they don’t — he tends to whine.
“It’s way past time for Brady to learn how to drive,” said Cramm.
So it is with your business partners. But they can’t learn until you teach them to be savvy IT drivers.
“CIOs have to give up control in order to gain control,” Cramm said, urging the audience to give their business partners the education and tools that will make them partners in aligning IT with the business.
To hear Cramm’s address, check back on the blog later in the week for a podcast.
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