December 1, 2008  5:43 PM

A top 10 list for how to be a successful CIO

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

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.

December 1, 2008  10:37 AM

CIO weekly wrap-up: MicroStrategy’s BI solution and giving IT thanks

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

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

  • 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.

Also, don’t miss our blog posts on Black Friday online shopping and SaaS integration. Feel free to share your experiences!

November 26, 2008  1:01 PM

Black Friday: Shopping (online?) ’til you drop

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

If you’re reading this on Friday, I’m going to assume you’ve just returned from a harrowing Black Friday shopping experience at your nearest department store or mall. But it’s possible those days of waking up while it’s still dark and dashing off to the closest Kohl’s at 4 a.m. (or earlier) could become a relic of the past.

Online retailers are kicking up their websites in order to promote Black Friday deals, anticipating more visitors who might “map out” their shopping plans. Then, there’s the newer phenomenon known as Cyber Monday, where shoppers might turn online for holiday gifts after shopping ’til they dropped amidst the crowds this weekend.

Online shopping during the holidays (or Black Friday) is nothing new: About 10 years ago, I remember writing a column for my local newspaper about what was then a burgeoning trend. But, now, type Black Friday into Google and you’ll get more than 22 million hits. Clearly, the Web is a new destination for Black Friday shoppers, and beyond – I know I plan to hit up and eBay this holiday season.

According to this article on retailers and Black Friday in the Baltimore Sun, the creator of says that his website traffic has doubled in the past year, and he expects 5 million unique visitors this week, more than double the 2 million he received a year ago. The reason? It’s the economy, stupid: purveys coupons and Black Friday ads, offering visitors a better shot at bagging an early-morning bargain.

Five million unique visitors in a week, for a site that probably does very little Web traffic the rest of the year? Sounds like somebody must have stepped up his server system in the past year. Check out this post on e-commerce site crashes at the CIO Symmetry blog. (And, for a related story, check out this item on Texas A&M’s Aggies NCAA basketball program, and how the school prepared to handle a spike in traffic when the team played a big game on ESPN.)

I don’t mean to imply that the traditional Black Friday shopping rush is magically going to vanish one of these years. But more and more people are turning to the Web to shop. Especially since it might be tougher for people to part with their hard-earned paychecks this holiday season compared with those past, online retailers must respond with user-friendly websites that make browsing and purchasing a breeze.

November 26, 2008  12:00 AM

SaaS integration easier said than done

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

Questions for you Software as a Service (SaaS) devotees about SaaS integration:

Did your vendor give you enough information up front about the potential difficulties of integrating the SaaS application with your existing applications? Were you able to find SaaS user groups to vet concerns before signing on the dotted line?

I am asking because I recently heard a panel of Boston-area IT and business executives talk about their companies’ experiences with SaaS implementations. One company had just gone live with customer relationship management (CRM ) software from Another talked about her firm’s implementation of a time-tracking and scheduling system from OpenAir Inc. The largest company there was weighing whether to go with or the CRM on-demand offering from Siebel. The company had just gone through a labor-intensive migration to an on-premise Siebel CRM solution! (I can’t name names: Press is tolerated at these seminars but only as flies on the wall — ugh, not a very appetizing metaphor on the eve of Thanksgiving, sorry.)

All three sounded like happy campers (the flexibility! No capital investment! No server room!) until the moderator probed about integration challenges. Whoa, Nelly! Out came the sob stories, snags and second-guessing. The guy whose company had recently gone live with Salesforce, for example, basically said his team grossly underestimated the technical conundrums that can occur when there is a “significant difference” between the technology of the in-house database and the “family” of apps and tools. He said that for all the attention they thought they had paid to integration, it wasn’t enough. In retrospect, they should have done a sample movement of data.

“We discovered, frankly too late in the project, that the original technology approach was just not going to work.” In fact, they had to switch integration tools midstream.

Asked if the snags were a matter of his company not asking the right questions or a vendor failure to understand the problems of clients, the guy politely acknowledged it was a “combination,” then pointedly added that the implementers “are very immersed in the Salesforce community and how you do integration within that community, but what we were doing was going outside that community.”

The kicker? On the question of how this SaaS integration compared with other software integrations he’d done — just as hard, or less so? “I think it is substantially harder just because of some of the unknowns in the process.”

The OpenAir gal? There were problems mapping billable and nonbillable expenses to her firm’s accounting system. Manual checks were still required to make sure the coding was right. But the biggest adjustment was having to modify the firm’s business processes to fit the software. As for the big company trying to decide between Salesforce and Siebel, he’s keeping a close eye on how the CRM on-demand solution will integrate with Business Objects reports that currently feed so nicely into his company’s on-premise solution.

All three panelists said that what was really needed was for the SaaS vendors to go public with the potential problems customers will confront if they are integrating outside the family of apps pushed by the vendor. User groups would help. And the user groups should not be for just existing customers, but for prospective customers before they sign the contract.

November 24, 2008  11:21 AM

CIO weekly wrap-up: DR, SharePoint, innovation and IT managed services

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

Happy Thanksgiving week! I don’t know about you, but I’m really looking forward to mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes … really, any type of potatoes this Thursday. But first, there’s work to be done. Check out the most recent stories from, and feel free to comment on any and all of them below!

November 21, 2008  11:53 AM

IT turkeys: Technology issues that we don’t give thanks for

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

The holidays are almost upon us, starting with Thanksgiving, the day we Americans reflect on the things we are thankful for in the past year. But what about things we aren’t thankful for? What about things we could have done without because, to be honest, they didn’t measure up to our expectations? What about – dare we say it? – the real turkeys we’ve encountered over the past year?

The following are 10 IT turkeys from 2008, culled from Feel free to chime in with your own!

  • CIOs kowtow to Wall Street, not users, study finds — Yeah, and look how well that whole bowing-down-to-Wall Street thing has gone for our country. I supported the bailout package, but I do have serious qualms about giving money to people who were apparently so far removed from Main Street. CIOs, don’t be sucked into the same cycle – first and foremost, cater to your users.
  • Resume right or wrong? Readers react – Having a poorly constructed resume — especially in this job market — is a major turkey move. Don’t miss out on job opportunities that could have been yours because you didn’t put enough time into your resume. This story offers feedback from recruiters, consultants and former IT execs.
  • CIOs must say no to generic IT – While a lot of IT folks understandably want to play it safe right now, generic IT continues to be a big turkey. Companies can use IT to create differences that make them stand out in the marketplace and to customers in tough economic times, but only if they’re willing to take some risks in order to reap the rewards.
  • Indian offshoring firms raise rates; costs often hidden – For a while, and in spite of inflationary pressure, Indian providers kept rates in line, knowing that cost remains the chief draw for going offshore. But that’s been changing, according to this piece. Hidden outsourcing costs? Definitely not something to be thankful for.
  • Outsourcing deals no good if contract is weak – A lot of companies have looked overseas to save labor costs, but you won’t be thankful for the savings if your poorly constructed contract lands you in unanticipated legal or financial troubles.
  • Angelina Jolie-inspired spam campaign signals disturbing network threats – Let’s be frank: Spam (the email variety) is never in vogue with 99% of the emailing population (I made up that stat, please don’t ask me to cite it). However, I hear Spam (the meat product) is making a comeback in these economic times – anybody planning a Spam turkey this Christmas?

  • CIOs must learn to brand themselves despite stereotypes – Stereotyping is never really an acceptable workplace practice, so I’m bestowing turkey titles upon both those CIOs who don’t properly brand themselves in the workplace, and those who would look to stereotype them in the first place.

Tired of my grousing? Check out the CIO Symmetry blog for associate editor Kristen Caretta’s list of technologies to be thankful for.

November 21, 2008  11:00 AM

Is IT innovation possible now?

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

Before the economy crashed and the word recession was officially applied to the economy, the buzzword of the IT conference circuit of 2008 was innovation. The trend, we were told, would be that as the more basal functions of IT move inexorably to service providers, the internal IT shops would focus more on strategic initiatives — those that differentiate the business and generate revenue.

This was not just idle chatter. Between 1994 and 2005, IT did indeed generate revenue. IT accounted amazingly for two-thirds of the all productivity gains in this country! And there is no doubt that since 2005, IT innovation has been, if anything, going on at an even faster pace, with technologies like virtualization and Software as a Service (SaaS) fundamentally transforming how IT is done.

But the signs are not good, at least for the immediate future.

In our TechTarget September 2008 survey of some 1,000 IT professionals, nearly three-quarters said the economy is now the single biggest factor in their decision making — and this was before the November market nosedive. Three-quarters of the respondents said their IT budgets would be further curtailed if things do not turn around in the first six months of the year.

So, what is on the chopping block if budgets shrink?

According to the TechTarget survey, what is still safe is compliance, followed by disaster recovery and business continuity, the network, security and custom apps. What’s not safe? Not surprisingly, people — job security always goes down in tough times. What’s also likely to be jettisoned are the newer technologies — SaaS, mobile enhancement, wide area network optimization/acceleration, SOA.

The fierce urgency of now means that technologies that save money, that provide transparency and allow companies to absorb change will be implemented before any newfangled innovation.

So is innovation in jeopardy? It depends on how you define innovation.

Two quick examples. One is from a government CIO I talked to recently. All of the new projects he was planning on for next year have been put on hold. The one new project he has been told to go full steam ahead on is automating a business process that was previously done by human beings, because, guess what? Those human beings are no longer there. Re-engineering a business process is not a new technology, but it’s new to him for next year.

Here’s one more, from a CIO of a large building services company. He’s building a social networking site – an au courant technology, to be sure. But it’s not just to show how cool the company is. It is to save his company money on consulting fees and leverage its workforce. The site is tapping a database of former, retired employees to act as consultants to his employees who still have their jobs.

Will the recession kill IT innovation at your shop? Let me know.

November 19, 2008  10:39 PM

Electronic-discovery worries may lead to BlackBerry blackout for Obama

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

See, maybe we all shouldn’t have been so down on John McCain for acknowledging that he didn’t know how to send an email – apparently, it’s something presidents don’t do, thanks to electronic-discovery concerns. According to, in taking his oath for office, President-elect Barack Obama is unlikely to carry his BlackBerry, and will probably not send an email for (at least) four years.

That’s because, according to the article, the president’s emails, whether personal or for business, are subject to a subpoena at any time and could be considered public records. Neither Bill Clinton nor George W. Bush emailed while they were in office, CNN reports.

“It’s all discoverable; it creates a trail that might end up in congressional investigators’ hands,” said Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry in the CNN article. If you want to delete White House email, you get a stern warning about archiving presidential records, he said.

Now, I’ll ignore the fact that CNN’s fact checker apparently missed a beat with this article (toward the bottom, there’s a psychology professor quoted from Keene State University, but it should be Keene State College – that’s my hometown). But I’m still kind of baffled and left at a loss with this whole issue. Naturally, the president wouldn’t want his private emails out there for the world to see. But am I the only one who thinks that there must be some better solution than the chief executive of the country living without email?

There’s a reason that email is so ubiquitous in the business world: It allows for communication across geography and time-zone differences. It can provide useful information more quickly and efficiently to a range of people, and certainly increases productivity, in my view. Shouldn’t the chief executive of a 300-million person “corporation” have access to the same tools on which other top executives rely, especially when he’s clearly already a “CrackBerry” addict?

Maybe the answer is to give Obama “read-only” access to his email. That way, he can feel in the loop without ever typing a sentence or hitting “send.” What would you suggest, given his current “BlackBerry blackout” predicament?

It’s up to Obama whether he keeps using email, of course – he’s the president, and I don’t think anybody can command him not to send an email. I’ll be curious to see which way he goes, and whether he feels more or less productive as a result.

November 18, 2008  1:55 PM

IBM survey: CIO leadership skills rank high, business clout lower

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

A new survey on CIO leadership from IBM finds that you’re pretty pleased with yourselves. Congrats.

According to the survey, taken in July, 91% of CIOs see themselves as leaders of their IT organizations, possessing a clear vision of how IT can drive the business forward. Ninety percent said they have the ability to influence others, even without formal authority. Eighty-seven percent enjoy “strong executive relationships.”  

It seems that CIOs also did their best to prime their people for the economic pain ahead. Eighty-five percent told IBM that they are leading initiatives to ensure their organizations are “flexible for change.” Even better? Eighty percent report that they are regarded by their colleagues as a leader of change and transformation within their companies.

The survey results are based on responses from 300 CIOs in 45 countries and 32 industries across the globe. 

The fly in the ointment for the technocrats of the executive suite?  The business doesn’t think quite as highly of you, as you do of yourselves.

Compared with the overwhelming majority who saw themselves as masters of their IT domain, “only 67% are active participants in developing business strategy,” according to the survey.

Sixty-seven percent doesn’t sound so bad to me, judging from the CIOs we hear from. But a perusal of the 2007 results from IBM’s inaugural CIO leadership survey suggests CIOs have lost a bit of ground on this front in the last 12 months. Last year, 69% of the CIOs surveyed said they had “significant involvement in strategic decision-making.”

There are other indications that CIOs still function as the Rodney Dangerfields of the enterprise. 

In contrast with the 90% who said they are leading and influencing across the organization, even when they lack formal authority, only 74% of the CIOs surveyed say that their business colleagues are aligned with their vision. In addition, only 80% say they are regarded as trusted advisors to their business colleagues.

Finally, many of the survey respondents also ‘fess up to falling short on the mantra du jour for the ambitious CIO:  IT-enabled business innovation. Less than two-thirds of those surveyed (63%) said they have successfully “secured resources for innovation by identifying technology-enabled business opportunities.”

You can access the detailed analysis of the survey results and learn more about the “opportunity gaps” for CIOs by registering at the IBM link above.

November 17, 2008  11:44 AM

CIO weekly wrap-up

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

Good morning! Here are the latest stories from

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