October 6, 2008  9:41 AM

CIO weekly wrap-up

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

Happy Monday! For those who missed it, here’s what we produced on last week:

  • Microsoft: Spatial computing the future — Microsoft’s Craig Mundie says the next era of computing will ride on multi-core processing and spatial computing, but it will be defined — as previous computing eras — by killer apps.

October 3, 2008  11:32 AM

Bailout for economy, a boon for R&D?

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

If you’re looking for another reason to pay attention to whether the $700 billion bailout bill gets passed by the House today, you might want to look at this call for action from the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA).

The bailout bill aimed at steadying the financial markets would also reinstate the Research and Development Tax Credit, which was allowed to lapse last December. According to the ITAA, the lapsed credit  has already cost more than $14 billion in lost revenue and 10,000 jobs.

The ITAA has estimated R&D credit would have created and sustained a total of 141,753 jobs in 2008, not far from the number of jobs cut last month, according to the federal jobs report out today. The majority of the new R&D jobs projected for 2008 would have been required by law to be based in the United States.

Here’s ITAA’s president and CEO Phil Bond making the case:

“Congress’ inaction has left our most innovative companies in limbo, is undermining tens of thousands of R&D-related jobs, and placing billions of dollars at risk. How many more jobs must be threatened before Washington will act?” Bond said.

October 2, 2008  4:30 PM

Three men arraigned in alleged IT kickback scheme

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

Three Boston-area men have been arraigned in connection with allegedly setting up kickbacks from a vendor in exchange for securing computer software and service contracts for Partners Healthcare.

According to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, investigators discovered that between July 2003 and October 2007, Brian Colpak, owner of enterprise technology reseller Future Technologies, allegedly paid two men thousands of dollars for their help in obtaining contracts to provide IT systems and service for Partners and its entities, which include the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Before vendors can do business with Partners, they must complete a vendor application, and the winning bid is selected and must be approved by the department’s supervisor. The guidelines stipulate that the vendor cannot provide any members of Partners with rewards, gratuities or gifts.

Co-defendant John Dimille was a group leader in the production division of the information systems department at Partners, and had a great deal of control as to who was awarded the contract for the acquisition, installation and maintenance of these particular systems. As master engineer in Dimille’s division, co-defendent John Cleary played a major role in reviewing the contracts for these systems.

Authorities allege that Dimille and Cleary often would not solicit competing bids for contracts, or failed to engage other interested parties, before awarding Colpak the winning bid.

Colpak pleaded innocent in Suffolk Superior Court to four counts of commercial bribery and one count of conspiracy to commit commercial bribery. Dimille pleaded innocent to commercial bribery and conspiracy to commit commercial bribery. Cleary was charged with two counts of commercial bribery.

According to Future Technologies’ website, the company helped move Dana Farber to a large-scale data center based on two large Sun servers. The company claimed the cancer center saved $1 million a year.

Also, interesting to note: try Googling “John Dimille” and then click on the Future Technologies “Testimonials” page (for me, it’s the fifth result). Compare the cached version with the current version of the page — notice anybody missing?

Thanks to Universal Hub for the heads up.

October 1, 2008  4:20 PM

Women as CIOs and branding in the workplace

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

My colleague Linda Tucci’s story this past week on how women in IT should brand themselves (and, by the way, most of the advice applies to our male readers, too) really struck a chord with me. As I embarked into the working world several years ago, a friend bought me a copy of Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, and I took many of its tips to heart – among them, that I probably shouldn’t decorate my cube like my living room, let people waste my time because I feel bad interrupting or apologize for having a strong opinion. I’ve had varying success sticking to these tenets over time, especially when some of them conflict with my natural tendencies.

But I’m a journalist, not a CIO, and I recognize that female CIOs trying to make headway in a business that has traditionally been dominated by male managers is probably a much tougher proposition than I’ve faced.

Atefeh Riazi, CIO at New York-based ad agency Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide Inc., touched on these points in her presentation at last week’s EmTech 2008 conference at MIT. She noted that she now says, “I believe,” rather than “I feel” after a boss admonished her for it. She doesn’t communicate when she’s upset because she is “perceived the wrong way.” And she’s learned not to apologize for being bold, wearing red lipstick or requesting more money or staff.

Already, we’ve received feedback from readers who saw some of their own experiences in Riazi’s talk. I’d love to get a dialogue going on that. If you’re a female IT manager, have you faced the sort of challenges in the workplace that Riazi discusses and, if so, what are your strategies for overcoming them?

September 29, 2008  10:49 AM

CIO weekly wrap-up

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

Don’t miss the following stories we posted this past week on Feel free to chime in on any of them below!

September 26, 2008  1:01 PM

EmTech08 and the Black Swan: A lesson in jargon

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

I sneaked away from my desk this week to attend a few sessions at the Emerging Technologies conference on the MIT campus. Even in small doses, the event can overwhelm with its rush of ideas, opinions and latest updates from people working on the cutting edge of technology. I want to mention one term I had not heard before that was intriguing and romantic: black swans.

Black swans are important events, either good or bad, that are highly improbable but happen nonetheless. The idea of using black swans as a metaphor for weird events has its origins in the 1600s when the discovery of the first non-white swan was made in Australia. Asteroids hitting the earth and wiping out dinosaurs or Apple making the iPod might be considered black swans.

I probably should have known about the term black swans, as it was popularized in The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, a book published last year by mathematics professor and trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb about why it is hard to predict the future. For those of us reporters and CIOs who prize our ability to be in control of what we are doing, black swans offer particular challenges, as by definition they fall outside the status quo. Taleb contends that human nature being what it is, we base our reactions on what we experience and often overemphasize these black swans, believing erroneously that they will repeat. We see someone win the lottery and think maybe it’s a good idea to try it for ourselves-foolish, but we can’t help thinking this way.

At EmTech08, the expression was used by Sun founder-turned-venture capitalist Vinod Khosla to explain his investing approach and as prelude to a lengthy promotion of the renewable energy companies backed by Khosla Ventures.

Market predictions for renewable energy wield little clout in Khosla’s investment decisions. The truth about many forecasts is that they turn out to be false, Khosla said, pointing to long-term price predictions for oil and for the U.S. market for cell phones, to name two forecasts that were very wrong, exponentially so in the case of cell phones. Khosla would rather not have a forecast and instead “be prepared for everything.” Forecasters, “mostly economists,” he dissed, use yesterday’s technology to predict the future.

The failure of the market to accurately predict the market offers an important lesson for non-economists like him and fellow technocrats in the audience, Khosla said. Rather than worry about predictions for the future-invent it. Indeed, technology is a classic black swan-generating activity, he said.

Black swans aside, Khosla employs some pretty familiar tangibles to measure whether a renewable energy technology is worth his dough. What matters is cost (it had better be cheaper than fossil fuels), scalability, low adoption risk. So, in his view electric cars are irrelevant unless new battery technology comes to fruition, biodiesel fuel is no good unless algae technology is perfected, food ethanol takes too much land to produce, wind and photovoltaics are useless unless we figure out a way to store that energy … and so on. You can read about Khosla’s companies and more about his investing philosophy at

September 25, 2008  4:46 PM

Work email: When it just can’t wait until morning

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

With the growing popularity of smartphones and business VPNs, it’s getting tougher and tougher to let an email just sit in your inbox unread for any period of time – even in what are technically your off-hours.

According to a study published Wednesday by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, of the 2,144 adults surveyed this spring, 96% used email, the Internet or cell phones, and 80% believed that the technologies have improved their ability to do their jobs.

But the flipside is 46% said these devices increased the demands that they work more hours, and 49% said the technologies make it harder to disconnect from work even in their off-hours. Half of the respondents who were employed and use email said they check their work email on weekends, and 22% said they check “often” on the weekends.

Now, whether or not this qualifies as an invasion on one’s downtime depends, I think, on what people’s motivations are for doing so. I tend to check my work email at least once every evening after I’ve left the office, and at least once during the weekend. I’ve never been told I’m required to do so, but I do it anyway, probably because I don’t see it as making more work for myself – quite the opposite, in fact.

I find that reviewing and replying to emails from home (or from my phone) in a timely manner makes my mornings a lot more bearable. I come into the office feeling like I’ve gotten a good running start on my morning’s activities and can focus on those, rather than on the constant cycle of reviewing, replying and deleting.

Have I ever stressed myself out in my off-hours due to my email checking? Sure, it’s happened, and I’ve cursed myself for not being able to fully unplug from the office. And I guess the extra email time does technically translate to “working more hours” on top of my normal office hours. But doing so makes those office hours a lot more productive and enjoyable.

Your take?

September 25, 2008  1:59 PM

A CIO by way of Jack Welch

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

I recently interviewed Carole Cotter, CIO of Lifespan Corp., a health care system affiliated with Brown Medical School in Providence. R.I. Cotter talked about how her IT department balances the need to know with patient privacy mandates. The cornerstone? Clear policies, clearly (and relentlessly) communicated. You can check out the interview here.

Whenever I meet with IT executives, I always ask about their career trajectories. In Cotter’s case, like so many other CIOs I meet, she did not set out to be the chief executive for IT. A love of math led her into programming, and from there she discovered a talent for not only IT but also management — and an aptitude for finance under one of business’s toughest bosses.

You can read Cotter’s recounting of how she earned her CIO stripes after the jump. And be sure to check out her perspective on security and privacy on

Continued »

September 19, 2008  4:58 PM

CIO weekly wrap-up

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

It’s been a busy week on, both on the news side and on the blog. Check out what we’ve been working on, and please let us know if you have any comments!

BPM newest SaaS deliverable — A growing number of SaaS providers are using BPM system platforms to make changes to their products more efficiently. CIOs can take advantage of this to get more configurable apps.

Identity management begins with the roles people play — Roles-based access control starts with the business, but some new technology that automates and audits it helps, too.

Energy credits offered as part of IBM’s green initiative — IBM’s green push includes tapping utilities to educate CIOs and other IT managers and encourage them to lower energy costs.

September 19, 2008  10:37 AM

Lehman and IT and Bear Stearns, oh my!

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

When I saw the pictures of Lehman Brothers employees leaving the New York headquarters with cardboard boxes of belongings and dressed down in weekend wear, I wondered if there were IT people among them. Was the guy in the Bermuda shorts a trader or a database administrator? Everybody looks the same carrying a cardboard box.

The layoffs in the wake of the Wall Street quake will top 100,000, according to news reports: Lehman, more than 20,000 people; Bear Stearns, 7,000; thousands at Merrill Lynch after its sale to Bank of America. At some point, the damage has to hit IT, no?

I called a couple of analysts to get a sense of what the big research houses think will be the fallout for IT, on the employment numbers, which have proved so resilient, and IT budgets.

Ken McGee, who does the big-picture IT spending stuff for Gartner Inc., sounded a bit exasperated when asked about the meltdown’s impact on tech spending. “You see not-cool heads prevailing, with people believing the doom and gloom,” McGee said. Yes, IT budgets will be lower next year than the growth rates of this year or the year before.

“But you should also know that we are going to advise clients to have a growth budget prepared and that they keep it in their hip pocket, because these periods tend not to last that long, and part of 2009 could be a return-to-growth period. So we want our clients to be prepared when that happens,” he said.

What about this crisis being categorically different from other downturns? A once-in-a-century event, as former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said?

Hype, McGee said. Take a listen:

“I think there is great danger when you have the center of the financial world reside within the same center as the media world. If you go back and back and searched enough I think you’d find that similar notions were presented in 2000 and 2001. … The fact remains that we have a smaller contingent of people working in the former Bear, the former Merrill, the former Lehman, but they have not entirely gone away. They have not entirely evaporated. So, these statements of terrific downturns in IT do not seem to be supported by the facts. And the point should be made that as horrible as this year has been – business-wise and economic-wise, the fact remains that IT spending did grow this year,” McGee said. “A withdrawing tide does not lower all boats at the same rate.”

Gartner has the clientele to prove it.

“We haven’t found one client, not one, who has cancelled all their IT projects for this year,” he said. “So, clearly the spending is down, but the IT vendors continue to do well. And if anything they have a common mantra, ‘Thank God for the developing world.'”

Ellen Carney, who covers banking and insurance IT spending for Forrester Research Inc., also doesn’t see the latest events on Wall Street as having a big impact yet on tech spending numbers, pointing to –wow! – IT’s fiscal discipline. It seems that while the traders and lenders were playing fast and loose, CIOs were minding their stores.

“The interesting thing, especially with the investment banks, is that they have really strong vendor management organizations. Even in the good times, they aggressively manage their vendors, the rates, the concessions they extract from them,” Carney said.

She said CIOs at financial service companies have been aggressively cutting spending all year, reminding me of the Forrester research published earlier this month showing that 49% of IT shops in the financial services sector cut their budgets this year. That was the highest percentage of all the sectors responding to the poll. A lot of IT money has gone to improving productivity in banking, she said, and the employment rolls show that. “The banks have been shedding heads for a while now, quietly and now not-so quietly.”

And while overall IT budgets in financial services might be down next year, CIOs can expect plenty of money allocated to compliance as more regulations come barreling down the pike.  The current compliance environment for financial services, pretty onerous compared with other industries, is going to look like a walk in the park compared with what’s coming, Carney warned.

As for IT people who have lost their jobs in the past few weeks, she doesn’t expect to see them waiting in long unemployment lines.

“All these really smart IT people gone from Lehman Brothers — it’s a great opportunity to pick up some talented people,” she said, but … “I don’t think we’ve seen the other shoe drop in the banking sector.”

Gartner’s McGee was unwilling to pronounce the layoffs a silver lining for other businesses, but he said he expects the current situation will be nothing like that in 2000 and 2001, “where IT workers were pretty much savaged.”

Let’s hope they’re right. Maybe the optimists have a point. This morning, Oracle reported profits up 28% in the first quarter, on an 18% jump in revenue. Somebody’s spending.

Give us the 411: We’d love to hear directly from IT people at Bear Stearns, Merrill, Lehman, AIG, Washington Mutual … about how they’re faring. Email me at

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