December 23, 2008  3:44 PM

Tough choices ahead in 2009 for enterprise applications

mschlack Mark Schlack Profile: mschlack

CIOs will face a lot of tough choices with ERP and other enterprise-level application upgrades, SOA projects and BPM initiatives in the coming year. If you have to keep a lot of balls in the air most years, this year will be more like juggling flaming clubs while standing on a high wire.

In such a circus, sometimes you just want to put off tough choices. “Just get through it and move on” sounds pretty good, right? Well, the buck may only be worth 79 cents these days, but it still stops on your desk. I think CIOs are going to have to figure a few things out this year besides how to keep the lights on.

And application software is one of those things. SOA, SaaS, cloud, agile development, rich clients – where’s it all headed? The large application vendors, such as SAP, that dominate the major enterprise categories have been rolling out their own SOA-based architectures in upgrades, and the same is true on the dev tools side. It’s likely that you’ll have to make some kind of move in the direction of service-based software well before the Dow returns to 12,000 or risk waking up, like Rip Van Winkle, to a world that makes no sense to you at all.

It’s a confusing mess, and it’s easy to see you could wind up in endless sterile SOA debates about how many software angels can dance on the head of a framework and still have nothing workable. The key to deciphering it may well be to insist on thinking of services as automated business processes instead of abstract technical tasks. At least then you know there’s an intrinsic business value to what you produce. Of course, you really do have to build abstract technical services, too, but making that a focal point is more likely to lead to the dreaded “technology for technology’s sake” dead end.

Many of you are hearing from the CEO and CFO that they’d like IT to pick up the slack from reduced office and factory staffs. That sounds a lot like business process automation. IT has automated many business silos, and now it’s on to the really tough job of automating the transfer of information and decision making between those corporate departments and their disparate applications. Times are right, though, to finally get a mandate to rationalize a lot of redundancy across those different application silos now tightly in the grasp of business owners. If your governance projects don’t include that, don’t expect much in return. Hopefully you can do for software in the coming years what you’ve done with consolidation and virtualization for servers and floor space in the last few years.

Speaking of virtualization, that’s another area where standing still could mean getting left behind, but I’ll leave that for another post.

December 22, 2008  1:57 PM

CIO weekly wrap-up: Limit network access after layoffs, get DR funding

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

The holidays are upon us! But before you mentally check out for the week, take a peek at our latest stories from

  • File transfer solution improves business process – It’s always a good time to look at streamlining business process, but it becomes even more important when companies are looking to save money. At Christie’s auction house, a managed file transfer solution accomplishes both of these objectives, with strong ROI.

December 19, 2008  11:03 AM

IT/business alignment? Not so much, but there is a silver lining

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

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.

December 17, 2008  5:36 PM

Disabling accounts after employee layoffs: A necessary evil

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

Linda Tucci’s story on 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?

December 15, 2008  11:41 AM

CIO weekly wrap-up: Launching a BI system, outsourcing, 2009 IT hiring

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

I hope everybody had a nice weekend! For those playing catch-up, here are the most recent stories from

  • 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.

December 10, 2008  5:16 PM

Cybersecurity initiatives require education, shared knowledge

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

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! 

December 9, 2008  4:51 PM

Sign of the times: Hewlett-Packard software comes with 0% financing offer

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

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?)

December 8, 2008  12:49 PM

CIO weekly wrap-up: Cutting IT costs, virtualization and more

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

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 this week:

  • 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.

December 4, 2008  5:18 PM

Social networking sites, credit fears leading to new spam attacks

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

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, 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.

For more information on spams ‘n’ scams, check out these on Angelina Jolie-inspired spam attacks and malware as a real threat when employees are doing holiday shopping on company time.

December 3, 2008  3:05 PM

FatWire’s sex site demo backfires at Boston Web 2.0 conference

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

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…

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