March 20, 2009  3:27 PM

Cost savings on IT contractors: How to get the best rates

Christina Torode Christina Torode Profile: Christina Torode

I was talking to IQNavigator the other day. They have software that helps companies manage what they spend on contingent workforces, such as IT contractors, and on vendor services, among other things.

Companies also outsource the management of things like invoicing and time cards to them.

What was interesting was how much money people were losing or overspending in these areas and didn’t even realize it.

For example, companies have a set rate for hiring contract laborers, but many hiring managers skirt this rate to get the best person for the job, or don’t track a contract worker once they’re hired, leading to contractors being with the company for five or more years. That opens a whole can of worms regarding whether they are full-time employees who deserve full-time benefits. Or, some vendors bypass the agreed-upon rate for their services by calling up departmental managers instead of the central procurement office.

When it comes to IT vendors and IT contractors, the CIO should take charge and enforce a consistent rate for services instead of letting your departments deal with suppliers on an individual basis. Put out an RFP and be clear on your rates. If you’re a big enough company, you should be able to reduce your number of suppliers and get them to agree to a set price.

If they don’t agree to it, then they shouldn’t be on the list of your providers, whether for labor or technology services, points out Kieran Brady, vice president of business solutions for IQNavigator.

Now while IQNavigator and other vendors offer services procurement software and spend management tools, in tough economic times such a system might not be realistic to install now (although if you really need to get your arms around spending, such an investment could pay for itself). What are your thoughts: Do you know how much you’re spending on IT contractors and services? Would software help you get your arms around it, or can you do it well enough through policy?

March 16, 2009  1:56 PM

CIO weekly wrap-up: BI strategy, sourcing contracts and IT governance

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

This past week, homed in on business intelligence strategy, IT transformation, cost reduction tips for your strategic sourcing contracts and IT governance in an economic recession. Read, learn and don’t forget to comment!

Business intelligence strategy success a matter of alignment – It sounds basic, but it isn’t always happening: IT must partner with the business for a successful BI strategy. Here’s where things go wrong.

As recession deepens, IT transformation best tackled in chunks – Transformative IT will enable companies to emerge from the recession ready to compete, gurus say. But big projects, it seems, are best taken in chunks these days.

Cost reduction tips for your strategic sourcing contracts — CIOs should revisit their strategic sourcing contracts and work closely with their suppliers to analyze current spending and achieve maximum cost reductions.

IT governance, corporate governance must align in economic recession – IT governance in an economic recession is more important than ever, as IT organizations must align with the business, justify costs and adapt to market conditions.

March 13, 2009  6:10 PM

Align your IT staff with corporate strategy or risk being outsourced

Christina Torode Christina Torode Profile: Christina Torode

At the Gartner BI Summit this week, Robert Kaplan, a professor with Harvard Business School and co-author of the Balanced Scorecard, shared a few interesting anecdotes on how CEOs motivate employees to stay in sync with the corporate strategy.

The Balanced Scorecard is a performance management methodology that helps executives develop and measure strategic corporate objectives and make sure that everyone in the company is aware of his role in making the corporate strategy a success.

A lot of that methodology involves setting objectives and measuring those objectives. For example, Southwest Airlines had an objective of faster ground turnaround times for its planes. Executives did not measure this by timing takeoffs alone, but by how many ground crew employees were stockholders. In other words, being a stockholder would motivate ground crew to get the planes off the ground faster. More importantly, executives measured the success of this objective based on how aware the ground crew was of this objective and how it related to the airline’s overall corporate strategy.

One CEO at a financial services company drove the message of corporate alignment home by walking up to random employees with a corporate strategy map in hand. A strategy map is a visual representation of a corporate strategy that charts out the objectives of an organization, such as to increase employee satisfaction, and shows the link between that objective and how it will be implemented and measured. The goal is to show the cause and effect that objective has across several perspectives: financial, customer, internal business processes and learning and growth. A measurement linked to the employee satisfaction improvement objective could be employee turnover rate, for example.

This CEO would place the map on the employee’s desk and ask:

Do you know what this is?

Can you explain to me what this is?

Can you explain what you were just doing on your laptop and how it applies to our strategy?

The point of this exercise was not to instill fear in employees, although it did; the point was that internal email traffic exploded after an employee received such a visit, with everyone saying, “You better be prepared to answer these three questions.”

The CEO accomplished his goal of making sure employees knew what the corporate strategy was and their roles in making it a success.

The CIO should be taking a similar tack, or the IT department may find itself outsourced, Kaplan warned. Your success is tied to the success of your customers, the business users. You must be aligned to their needs.

“You should know what your value proposition is in the overall strategy and link your strategy to that of the business users,” Kaplan said. “That’s how you can sustain your existence and not be replaced by an Infosys [outsourcing company].”

So are you prepared to answer those three questions?

March 9, 2009  4:12 PM

CIO weekly wrap-up: Cloud computing, IT financing tips, SaaS and SOA

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

For the latest from – including cloud computing tips, conference coverage, cost-cutting strategies for CIOs and our guide on Software as a Service (SaaS) and service-oriented architecture (SOA) – check out the stories below.

Cloud computing helps firm bring call center in-house, integrate apps — Cloud computing allows a firm to bring its call center in-house to improve customer service, plus integrate applications and provide executive dashboards. Here’s how.

Innovative financing strategies for IT bring big rewards for CIO — Leasing and two-for-one deals yield better IT equipment for less money — key for a CIO who must support new business with no capital budget and a 20% staff reduction.

SaaS, SOA and packaged apps: Optimizing your software investments – CIOs are optimizing their software investments in SaaS, SOA and packaged applications to be more cost effective, functional and customizable. Visit our latest CIO guide for more.

IT transformation is off the table in a recession, CIOs say — Can you really “do more with less” during a recession? Don’t miss Senior News Writer Linda Tucci’s take on the matter as attendees at the Fusion 2009 CEO-CIO Symposium weighed in — and feel free to weigh in yourself!

March 6, 2009  4:00 PM

Are Indian offshore companies sweating a few bounced checks?

Karen Guglielmo Karen Guglielmo Profile: Karen Guglielmo

Are Indian outsourcing firms turning down business out of fear of U.S. companies going bankrupt?

As a result of the current economy, there’s an uptick in U.S. companies sending work offshore to places like India. So you’d think Indian offshore companies would be happy about the potential new business opportunities and very aggressive about going after them. Think again.

Only a few Indian offshore companies are chasing these new deals, according to Partha Iyengar, vice president and regional research director at Gartner India. In a Reuters story published March 3, Iyengar went on to say that “Indian firms need to focus on revamping their sales models to help generate cost savings and add value to the client’s operations.” But not everyone agrees with this reason for not chasing potential new business.

In a follow-up comment to the story, one reader from India brought up the concern that U.S. clients could go bankrupt by the time payment is expected. He has a valid point. Although offshore outsourcing does provide some cost savings to U.S. businesses, it doesn’t guarantee they’ll come out of the recession in one piece.

Nonpayment isn’t a concern for Wipro Technologies, an IT solution and services provider in India. Wipro just follows good business sense and selects customers based on their ability to pay their bills, according to Theodore Forbath, chief strategist and practice leader in Wipro’s Boston office. “And in today’s market, it’s not a secret to see which companies are struggling and which are doing well,” he added.

Dean Lane, former CIO and current principal of The Office of the CIO, completely disagreed with the notion that Indian outsourcing companies are not aggressively going after new business. “In this market, anyone who can get business will take it,” Lane said. He also added that he knows of a number of second-tier (based on company size) Indian companies that are always looking for business. The payment issue is not affecting them at all.

It seems like Indian outsourcing businesses still want our business — they’re just being overly cautious about which companies they go into business with. And do you blame them?

Maybe CIOs can learn a lesson here from these Indian businesses. Even if the offshore market gets tighter and it’s harder to find a partner who wants your business, don’t give up your right to be selective. Make sure the partner is economically viable and has the services and reputation you need. You can be slow and steady. Hopefully it still means you’ll win the race — or in this case, survive the recession.

March 5, 2009  2:34 PM

IT transformation is off the table in a recession, CIOs say

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

How much pressure are CIOs feeling to deliver the proverbial more with less? At a lunch yesterday of IT and business executives in Madison, Wis., the strain was palpable. So was a creeping weariness with the do-more-with-less strategy that’s been the boast of every hotshot CIO since IT’s own economic Armageddon of 2001-2003. It’s one thing, it seems, to do more with less when there’s money in the banks, or drive IT transformation when business goals aren’t a moving target.

“Why are people at my door asking for more work, when I have less dollars to do it?” asked David Cagigal, CIO for Alliant Energy Corp. “Some of the customers just don’t get it.”

The lunch was an invitation-only precursor to the Fusion 2009 CEO-CIO Symposium put on by the Wisconsin Technology Network. Cagigal was responding to the lunchtime talk given by Ajei Gopal, executive VP for CA Inc.’s products and technology group. Gopal gave a progress report on his company’s reorganization since the scandal-ridden days before former chairman and CEO Sanjay Kumar went to jail for improprieties related to his job, and to deliver the message that now is the time for bold action. While it may be seductive to stop spending, CIOs should be investing in long-term strategies that break down information technology silos and weave IT into every aspect of the business so that CIOs see what they need to see and respond appropriately to provide the business with (ready for the next proverbial?) end-to-end IT services.

In CA’s case, the internal strategy is not so much on gee-whiz technology, he said, but in tying technology together in innovative and novel ways to serve the customer. Moreover, Gopal predicted that in the vendor world, the integrators — not the point-solution companies — will prevail when the upturn comes because customers, too, will be looking for end-to-end solutions. (Unless, Gopal, they don’t work.)

The spiel was met with some pushback. Alliant’s Cagigal pointed out that CA was ahead of the curve, fortunate to have reinvested in its technology strategy before the crash. How do you convey the need to optimize the business now?

Another CIO observed that IT transformation is a good deal easier at a company whose business is technology than at an organization such as hers — the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. “The challenge I have as a CIO is to try to help translate the investment of IT to the mission of the agency,” she said, to bosses who don’t understand IT well enough to appreciate the argument. If money becomes available, the agency’s instinct is to hire more social workers rather than sort through how IT could make the current workforce more efficient. (And when the need is urgent, who’s to blame them, as IT transformation doesn’t happen overnight.)

Frank Ace, CIO of the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ), echoed that sentiment. For the DOJ, getting more law enforcement on the street will always be more important than adding another MB. Frank said that IT may be a victim of its own brag: The industry does promote IT as the tool that can help organizations to do more with less. And now CIOs may be caught in a trap of their own making. The cost of IT has slipped down the list of priorities for many organizations.

If you follow the trend of doing more with less, eventually you’ll do everything with nothing. IT’s a slippery slope, Gopal agreed.

“The positioning of the value of an incremental dollar spend in IT versus on something that might be seen as the first line of defense, whether it is cops on the street or social workers, is difficult.”

But it is a case that has to be made on value, Gopal said. “That is the conversion you have to make. You can’t talk about a Unix administrator, but the outcome of having that Unix administrator.”

And what happens when the recession basically turns business goals upside down? One audience member wanted to know what happens to IT shops that, like CA, forged a long-term strategy to meet business goals, when those goals no longer exist? The market trend upon which the IT investment is predicated is no longer viable.

The question was met with a kind of grim silence from Gopal and the audience — a reminder of how cataclysmic this recession has already been for some companies.

This being the Midwest, the hand-wringing did not go on too long without a rejoinder. An IT executive with Kohler Co. admonished the audience not to whine. CIOs are working themselves into a lather about cost reductions, but everybody across the company is feeling the pain. And the worst thing IT could do now is single itself out as a victim. “You will generate a lot of resentment among other staff,” he said.

March 2, 2009  5:16 PM

CIO weekly wrap-up: Data protection, log management tools and SaaS CRM

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

If you’re located anywhere on the East Coast, then I probably don’t need to tell you that we’re covered in several inches of snow, with more to come. Seriously, when will this winter end?

In the meantime, distract yourself with our latest content on data protection, log management tools, SaaS CRM and VoIP’s role in IT disaster recovery.

Data protection quiz for enterprise CIOs – Do you know how to protect your organization’s sensitive data? Take this quiz and find out.

Log management tool, SIM boxes combine to form security architecture – A new chief information security officer builds an information security architecture to analyze log files and create metrics for business discussions on compliance and security.

Using SaaS CRM for application integration gives users single sign-on – Learn how a financial services firm modernized system functionality by integrating Software as a Service CRM with 10 back-end systems in a $250k project. The result: time savings, new clients and big ROI.

When IT disaster recovery plan is put to the test, VoIP becomes savior – As floods test a utility’s IT disaster recovery plan, a Voice over Internet Protocol installation rescues business continuity efforts and shows the importance of DR planning for offices other than your headquarters.

February 27, 2009  5:25 PM

IT disaster recovery plans that work (with a bit of improvising)

EditorAnne Anne McCrory Profile: EditorAnne

It’s always refreshing to hear about a company that had to put its IT disaster recovery plan into action and comes out the other side having faced unexpected challenges with valor – and just enough battle scars to improve the plan for next time.

That was the case at Alliant Energy, as our Linda Tucci writes this week. The Midwest utility now has a 10-page document of lessons learned following the Iowa flooding last summer, when its Cedar Rapids, Iowa, high-rise was evacuated and IT had to RTTO (rise to the occasion).

One issue: The company’s IT disaster recovery plan focused on headquarters in Madison, Wis., and so didn’t contain contingency plans for things like the Cedar Rapids building (home to a redundant data center) shutting down. Luckily, the local leadership secured space around town and expanded a VoIP deployment then in process to get operations up and running much more quickly than they would have otherwise.

What’s in the rest of the 10 pages? Stay tuned; you’ll find more DR lessons learned in our disaster recovery and business continuity coverage to come.

February 19, 2009  9:39 PM

Qualities of a good leader in a recession: Your view?

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

A story on this week about eight qualities of a good leader during a recession included a lot of leadership advice for IT professionals. While I was doing the interviews for this piece, a nugget from leadership expert Jason Jennings, about being a “fish out of water” leader, really stood out to me:

Jennings identifies several traits that set conventional leaders apart from great leaders, who he terms “fish out of water.” Conventional leaders cast themselves as larger than life and sure in their stances. They are secretive and avoid signs of weakness. A fish-out-of-water leader, meanwhile, is humble and expresses self-doubt when appropriate. He is honest and admits fault when necessary.

Unfortunately, many “conventional” business executives have made news in the past several months as corporate scandals and mammoth bailouts have grabbed headlines, Jennings said. And that’s why leaders should aim for something different.

“‘Fish out of water’ is a good way to describe people who buck conventional wisdom and don’t just go along,” Jennings said.

I couldn’t agree more strongly with Jennings on this. Clearly, the leadership model that has defined much of the past decade is not working out the way anybody hoped. A confident leader is one thing; a deluded manager with the attitude, “I’m sure I’m right and this is how it’s going to be done and I’m not interested in anybody else’s opinions on this” is not.

Sure, that might seem obvious to some, but I’m surprised how many workplace “leaders” I’ve encountered who don’t seem to understand that humility and honesty will get them further with their staff – and even their superiors – than blatant posturing.

Do you agree with the traits listed in our leadership qualities article? What leadership qualities do you view as crucial during tough times? Feel free to share your comments below.

Also, I’m thinking of writing a companion piece about the qualities of a good IT employee during a recession. If you’re a CIO or IT leader who would like to talk to me about what you look for in employees during rough times, please e-mail me.

February 16, 2009  3:08 PM

CIO weekly wrap-up: IT budgets in 2009, more NAC, data protection tips

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

Happy Presidents Day! If you’re in the office today (or even if you’re not), check out the latest stories from

Economic downturn hits IT budgets — Our comprehensive survey of IT spending plans for 2009 shows that the recession is taking a bite out of IT budgets, particularly for hardware purchases. Security and compliance spending is up, and the focus on business intelligence continues. Does this mesh with your organization’s spending patterns in 2009? Add your comments below!

Network access control case studies show varied options — Network access control is controversial but needed, experts say. Read our collection of case studies — including our latest story on why one architect chose Microsoft NAP — to learn how three universities have put the technology to work.

Seven tips to improving enterprise data protection — CIOs should take a holistic approach to enterprise data protection. Security expert Mark Egan offers seven tips for enhancing your data protection policy.

IT support costs trimmed via workforce realignment, remote access tool — The Salvation Army helps those in need, but sometimes it needs a bit of help, too. The organization is turning to workforce realignment and clientless remote access tools to stave off layoffs, cut costs and increase efficiencies during this recession.

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