Question: What do CIOs and rifle heiress Sarah Winchester have in common?
You’re haunted by ghosts and can’t stop building, says Phil Murphy, principal analyst with Forrester Research.
Phil was a keynoter at our CIO Decisions Conference last month, a gathering of some 200 CIOs in Carlsbad, Calif. Before giving CIOs a primer — and detailed scorecard — on how to sort out the many competing demands for IT dollars and get the most out of your IT investments, he began with the cautionary tale of Sarah Winchester and her 160-room Victorian mansion.
Winchester was heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. business in New Haven, Conn. Her only child died as an infant. After the death of her husband in 1862, she was left with an extraordinary income of $10,000 a day and an unshakeable feeling that the family she had married into was cursed. She sought guidance from mediums, one of whom obliged by saying the Winchester family was indeed under a black cloud — cursed by the spirits of the people killed by Winchester rifles.
To break the curse, the widow was told to move to California and build a house for herself and all those spirits. If she stopped building, she would die, so work continued 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year for the next 38 years.
And the resemblance to CIOs and IT platforms? You can listen to Phil spell it out in this blogcast excerpt from his keynote.
Meantime this tidbit from the Wikipedia entry on Sarah’s building boondoggle gives you the idea.
Due to the lack of a master plan and constant construction, the house became very large and quite complex; many of the serving staff needed a map to navigate the house. The house also features doors that open into walls, staircases that lead nowhere, the recurring number 13, and windows that look into other walls.
Check out an aerial view of the place here.
Is it possible that in this hair-raising economy, supply and demand in the IT job market are in balance?
Data out this week suggests that may be so. The latest report from Dice, the online career site, shows a 14% drop in the number of available technology jobs from the same period a year ago — 86,988 as of July 1, compared with 101,438 jobs in 2007. The year-over-year decline, the largest so far this year, follows the trend of the last six months. The job numbers posted by Dice in 2008 have mostly lagged last year’s totals by between 2% and 12%. Another worrisome fact: the recent months mark the first time since 2003 that jobs listings have gone down.
But if the demand for IT workers is decreasing, so may be the supply of IT workers.
Unemployment in computer-related jobs is near historic lows at 2.3%, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. Compare that with the 4.7% total unemployment in the last quarter, or 5.5% unemployment figures for June, and IT would seem to be a sweet spot in a sour economy. Or at least the number of people leaving the field appears to be in synch with the demand for IT expertise in this country.
Should we keep waiting for the other shoe to drop? When I reported on jobs in April and the two data points showed the same pattern — a decrease in jobs combined with record-low unemployment — some industry experts like Andrew Bartels of Forrester Research wondered whether the healthy numbers were a leading or lagging indicator of the IT sector.
Copacetic is not a word often paired with the IT industry, but it may be an apt descriptor for what’s happening with IT jobs. Let us know what you’re seeing in your neck of the woods.
Some details from the Dice report:
The July jobs numbers from the Dice Report also come with a note about the perception gap between Human Resource (HR) departments at companies that hire their own IT staff and the staffing, recruiting and consulting firms that dispatch IT employees to workplaces. In short, the majority of the HR professionals (52%) told Dice they anticipate no change in hiring plans for the next six months, while 62% of the staffing, recruiting and consulting outfits expect their clients to cut back on hiring. Interestingly, both groups say it is taking longer to fill positions than a year ago but differ as to why. The HR pros say it takes longer to fill positions because of the scarcity of qualified candidates, while staffing and consulting firms chalk up the lag to a slowdown in hiring, and lack of urgency on the part of employers.
Read on, for the job numbers from the top 10 metro areas for IT employment. Seattle was the sole city in positive territory, with a 7% increase in job listings.
Help wanted: The chart shows the number of job listings as of July 1, 2008, by metro area, and the percentage change compared with the same period a year ago.
|9,042 New York/New Jersey||-17%|
|4,150 Los Angeles||-17%|
|7,347 Washington, D.C.||-11%|
Source: The Dice Report, July 2008, July 2007
As you head into this disappointingly short two-day weekend, be sure to catch up on anything you might have missed on SearchCIO.com this week:
- Think you’re a green computing guru? Put your knowledge to the test with our green computing and energy efficiency quiz!
- Learn about IT asset tracking software, which quickly inventories what’s on your network and promises “actionable” databases that will help cut costs and improve security.
- Be honest: Do you love or loathe cloud computing? Check out these 12 aspects that could sway you either way.
- What’s the point of outsourcing portions of your business if you don’t have the proper contract in place to protect your organization and allow it to thrive? Reduce risk by covering all of the contract basics in your outsourcing endeavors. For more on this topic, see our previous post.
Today, we posted a story on SearchCIO.com about mitigating risks in your outsourcing contracts. Clearly, it’s a topic affecting organizations all over the world and, while catching up on my tech-news reading this morning, an article from Financial Times dealing with chemicals manufacturer Ciba’s outsourcing contracts and efforts caught my eye.
Since 2006, Ciba has agreed to four main IT contracts, each covering a set of “service towers” for different IT functions, the article says. The company’s CIO, Erwin Becher, goes on to cite the triumphs, disappointments and lessons learned from his firm’s outsourcing contracts.
Check out both articles and come back to share your thoughts. Is your company outsourcing some or all of its IT functions? If so, what elements have you found most crucial in crafting a contract?
News flash: The Boston Globe reports today that a representative of Cognos ULC, the business intelligence software maker, improperly offered a Massachusetts state official a job in 2006 when the company was pursuing a multi-million dollar contract with the state.
Globe reporter Andrea Estes and correspondent Stephen Kurkjian report that the job offer “could have violated the state’s conflict of interest law, which bars individuals from offering anything to a public office with the intent to influence an official act.”
The job offer is “another instance of Cognos appearing in the thick of questionable activity in pursuit of state business,” the story contends, pointing to a $13 million performance management software contract awarded to Cognos in 2007. The contract raised eyebrows after critics complained it was signed in haste, and it was subsequently revoked by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick in March 2008.
The Globe reports that in the case of both contracts, dealmakers from Cognos, now owned by IBM, bragged about ties to Salvatore F. DiMasi, the powerful Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. DiMasi has denied having anything to do with either contract.
Joseph Lally, the Cognos rep who allegedly made the job offer on the 2006 contract, did not respond to requests for an interview from the Globe.
Negotiations on the state contracts occurred before the Canadian BI maker was bought by IBM. Big Blue spokesman Chris Andrews told us that IBM has no comment on the Globe story.
Welcome back! As you catch up on all your post-July 4th emails, here are two of the latest pieces we’ve run on SearchCIO.com:
Outsourcing deals being evaluated in weak economy: While IT outsourcing remains steady at most large companies, the weak dollar and service issues are causing some CIOs to reconsider their decisions. And that’s not all — loss of flexibility and control can also be factors.
All Ears: Susan Cramm on ITopia: Cramm was the keynote speaker at the fifth annual CIO Decisions Conference last month at La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, Calif. As promised, we’ve got a podcast of her talk.
A reminder, gentle reader, as you head into the holiday weekend that the summer months can bring ungentle weather. The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season started June 1 and promises to be above average. And that isn’t good.The latest forecast from hurricane experts Philip J. Klotzbach and William M. Gray of Colorado State University puts the probability of a category 3, 4 or 5 hurricane hitting the U.S. coastline at 69%, compared with the average 52% for the last century.
We called up Harriett Kummer, senior director at SunGard Availability Services Consulting in Alpahretta, Ga., for her thoughts on what CIOs need to be thinking about as they fine-tune their disaster recovery plans.
SunGard worked with more than 200 businesses hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The “consistent theme” in their recovery stories, Kummer said, was they had not done enough to prepare the people directly involved in the recovery efforts. They told Kummer they should have practiced the recovery plan more; assigned backups — key people will be unavailable; and made sure funds were available to lodge employees near recovery centers. Other lessons learned? Families need to go along when recovery efforts stretch from days to weeks. There needs to be at least three means of communicating with employees, because the most obvious mode — cell phones, for example — can fail.
Listen to Harriet talk about putting people first: [display_podcast]
For the story of how Shane Loper, COO of Hancock Bank, oversaw the Gulfport, Miss., bank’s recovery and construction of a new $16 million data center, click here.
Have a happy and safe July 4.
So, who’s off to the beach this weekend – or even slinking out of the office a few hours early today? If you’re like me and need to get your mind off work and enjoy a good beach read (I’ve got a travelogue in my queue), check out Amazon’s summer reading suggestions.
But, if you’re still thinking about work during your time off, Amazon has also pulled together a whole list of business books. Light beach reading? Probably not, but you know best!
That reminds me of the Leadership Award profiles we did over at SearchCIO-Midmarket.com. If you scroll toward the bottom of our Q&As, a lot of our interviewees mentioned that they were still reading business books, journals and magazines in their spare time, but some mentioned other selections as well – be sure to check out some of their suggestions.
Feel free to share any of your favorites by leaving a comment below! And have a great 4th!
Channeling Marshall McLuhan, James McQuivey of Forrester Research has a report out about how video will take over the world and – no surprise here – suggests a new name for the phenomenon. The world’s most powerful medium, TV, is about to evolve into a form Forrester is calling OmniVideo, OV, for short. Oy vey! According to McQuivey, OV is bigger and better than TV because it:
•1) Displays on many devices. (PC viewing accounts for 16% of video viewing in a typical day.)
•2) Can be made by anyone. (Indeed.)
•3) Is never finished. (In the OV era of mashups and annotated content, “final cut” becomes meaningless.)
•4) Multiplies itself (comes from anywhere, seen everywhere, it will dwarf TV viewing).
The OV explosion rests on three pillars of technology, says McQuivey: IP video delivery, mega storage and cheap display screens. But the reason OV will take over the world is because… “The brain is built for video … We are alive today because millennia ago, our species adapted to rapidly integrate complex visual stimuli.” Make no mistake, the aim of the report is not scientific but mercantile. Proclaims McQuivey:
“All video product strategists – whether at the TV networks, cable networks, TV service providers, over-the-top TV providers, or video device manufacturers – must take note: OmniVideo is about to explode, driving up total video viewing time from 4 hours per day to 5 hours by 2013, increasing your and your competitors’ market potential.”
McQuivey, a former communications professor at Boston University’s College of Communication, predicts that the 25% growth will be accompanied by a shift in how we view OV: By 2013, video viewed on demand will account for 45%, up from 20% today; video delivered over IP will jump from 10% to 35% of all viewing; video consumed on a mobile device, from 8% to 15%, and personal video consumption (cell phone cameras, social networking sites), from 2% to 10%.
How many of you (or your organizations) have Facebook profiles? I do, so the following might come off sounding kind of hypocritical, but I’m uncomfortable with a lot of the Facebook culture.
You know what I’m talking about: the once-private planning between two people that now takes place via Facebook’s “wall” feature so that everybody knows about that dinner tonight at the Olive Garden at 8, or the way people use “status updates” to share their latest triumphs and tragedies with 500 of their closest “friends.”
Facebook is one of the leaders in this Web 2.0 revolution, and it’s obviously not going anywhere: I just Googled Facebook and got 4.36 million results and, according to this story, it’s adding a quarter-million users per day.
I’m fairly tech savvy and enjoy scrolling through photos and updates in my friends’ profiles, so I’m not exactly sure why this bothers me like it does. Facebook really is a great way to keep tabs on old friends without having to personally email or call each and every one of them. And some organizations are creating networks and profiles for current and potential employees to join, creating a unity across companies that maybe didn’t exist before.
But I guess, to me, Facebook also seems like an extension of the paparazzi culture that has made stars out of people like Paris Hilton and the cast of The Hills. It’s not enough for people to just live their lives and let the people who matter to them know if they’re attending a particular party or whether they resemble Sawyer more than any other Lost character. No, even the most mundane details and updates are sent out over a “news feed.”
I am actually really glad that Facebook’s not going anywhere. I just hope that people – especially those who have never known a non-Facebook world – understand the difference between a “friend” and a “Facebook friend.” And I hope organizations can continue to find new ways to leverage Facebook to boost their business advantage, as LinkedIn has done so well.