CIO Symmetry

April 20, 2012  2:43 PM

CEOs disregard CIOs when it comes to strategic changes

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Unless you work for a very special CEO, chances are fairly good that yours doesn’t think you’re up to snuff when it comes to the CEO position. Five months ago our resident expert, CEO John Weathington, asked whether the CEO position is impossible for CIOs. He said:

If you’re like most CIOs, your chances of ascending to the CEO position are very slim. When the board is looking for a new captain, in most cases, you’ll see people who hold another senior management position — like chief operating officer or possibly CFO — as the prime candidates. The CIO is rarely included.

Weathington’s analysis matches the findings of a recent Gartner Inc. survey of 229 CEOs on the role of the CIO: Most CEOs believed their CIO doesn’t have what it takes to ascend to the boardroom. Gartner reported that CEOs (45%) see their CIO moving to a CIO role in another company. Only one in 229 of the CEOs polled felt their CIO was primed to be their successor.

This might be a disappointment to ambitious CIOs, but there’s still hope. Gartner’s survey revealed that CEOs are taking financial cues from their strategic changes. When asked to “select two roles that are usually most closely involved with supporting the chief executive in a strategic change to [the] business,” CEOs overwhelmingly selected the CFO (33.2% chose that role first, and 26.6% chose it second). The chief operating officer/head of operations was a close second (19.7% first choice, and 22.3% second choice) while the CIO and IT director roles barely garnered a nod in helping guide the business’ strategic changes (2.6% first choice, and 2.6% second choice). Even in this tough economy, CEOs need their trusted advisers to show them the money.

Gartner analysts commented that while they were not surprised the CIO wasn’t on the top of the list, “we thought that the CIO role might be more relevant.” Gartner analysts also noted that HR directors were seen as more important than CIOs, despite the realities of our technological world having a real impact on a business’ performance.

The takeaway here is clear: If they want to be considered credible innovation leaders and partners in their company’s strategic changes, it’s vital that CIOs look for ways to make sure that information and technology are playing a part in their board’s vision and driving their company’s fiscal growth.

April 16, 2012  6:13 PM

Don’t let reduction of compliance regulations short-change governance

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

The newly signed Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act will, among many things, reduce the number of compliance regulations with which companies will have to contend.

While this may reduce some paperwork and reduce costs, it wouldn’t be prudent to abandon compliance exercises merely because they are no longer law.

As we have seen in the past 10 years since the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) was passed, companies have been able to rationalize compliance efforts to help streamline their businesses. In one case, Wal-Mart’s “rightsizing” efforts with SOX enabled more control, better governance and greater efficiencies.

According to Chris McClean, a senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc., the JOBS act will “reduce the regulatory burden for smaller companies that were planning to establish full SOX programs.”

Reduction of regulation overhead is always a good thing, but don’t let JOBS become an excuse for avoiding or reducing corporate governance policies that add value to the business.

April 13, 2012  3:16 PM

Hotel wireless Internet comes with more than you think

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Those of us who travel a lot already know that free hotel Internet service is a little sketchy most of the time, but at the Times Square Marriott, the online service provider makes even crappy free hotel Internet service look good. Justin Watts had noticed something a little hinky when he loaded his own personal website while staying at the Courtyard Marriott in Times Square earlier this month. After a little investigation, he realized the hotel’s online service provider was injecting a JavaScript into every website he visited. The purpose? To inject ads and create a revenue stream for Marriott. What’s worse, Watts was being charged about $17 per day to use the hotel’s wireless Internet.

As a customer, you might be a little upset. After all, as Watts pointed out, “Imagine the hotel delivered complimentary issues of The New York Times to every room — except in this case, all the ads had been cut out … and on every single page, there’s a new ad that’s been stuck on top. How would you react? How do you think The New York Times would react?” More importantly, since the hotel’s ad injector didn’t play nice with YouTube’s interface, Watts could no longer access a huge portion of the Internet content he needed.

Marriott has responded to the claims, stating: “Preliminary findings revealed that, unbeknownst to the hotel, the Internet service provider (ISP) was utilizing functionality that allowed advertising to be pushed to the end user.” It also assured us it has pulled the plug on the ad injections. It’s important to note here that if the hotel were owned by a franchise group, its general manager would be responsible for contracting the networking services. So, it’s very likely that Marriott truly was not aware of this practice. I have to wonder whether Bruce Hoffmeister, Global CIO at Marriot International, hasn’t revised the corporate Internet usage policy already.

On the one hand, I can recognize the effort to drive business value through a potentially innocuous ad injection. On a moral level, however, some might consider the Javascript ad injection by the online service provider to be theft of ad revenue from every website visited by Marriott customers. The CIO serves an important role in guiding the delivery of services to a company’s internal and external customers. But how far do you go?

What do you think? Was the ad injection by the online service provider immoral? Or is this a case of competitive revenue-building through the customers’ use of the hotel’s wireless Internet? Is this any different from offering pay-per-view movies in the hotel rooms? The comments are waiting to debate this question of business propriety.

April 12, 2012  3:02 PM

The CIO’s best business transformation teacher? Another CIO

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

As CIOs struggle to innovate around business transformation, they are finding that other CIOs are the best friend they can have.

We have written much in the past two years about how the CIO must make friends throughout the enterprise — with the CFO, the CEO, the chief marketing officer and even the facilities manager.

Yet despite their real efforts on taking the lead on business transformation and innovation, CIOs today still won’t find their best friend inside the corporation. That’s because the CIO’s real BFF is another CIO.

After enjoying our third SearchCIO 360 dinner this week in New York, I am convinced that CIOs will always learn more and become more effective in their own jobs — not to mention with business transformation — by listening to the experiences of their peers. Only in this way will they start to feel that they aren’t alone against the sea of troubles IT presents on a daily basis.

Need more evidence? None other than the CIO of IBM, Jeanette Horan, who oversees hundreds of thousands of users and millions of database reports a day, and says she needs the comfort of peer networking to help understand things — and to help others understand.

“People are very interested to hear how we eat our own cooking,” she said during a recent interview. “And the other thing is IBM’s business results; we have to say we’ve been doing very well over the past few years, and so there are a lot of people who want to know, how did you do that? And obviously, the whole kind of role that the CIO organization plays has been instrumental in helping that with respect to the productivity gains to the business.”

“CIOs like networking,” she said. “The topics I most often get questions on are BYOD, governance — not “IT,” as in how do you manage your data center, but governance, as in how do you stay aligned with your business. And the other topics that are hot right now are analytics and cloud. The reason is, they are new, and everybody is trying to figure out what’s the real use case and what’s the real value proposition; and they [CIOs] are really hungry for examples — that’s what they want.”

April 6, 2012  2:56 PM

Will vendor relations be strained after Dell acquisitions?

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

It’s been a busy week for Dell, not to mention for managing CIO vendor relations. This past Tuesday, Dell announced its impending acquisition of Wyse Technology Inc., a cloud software and hardware company (and the source of one of our favorite iPad thin-client computing apps). Then, on Wednesday, it dropped the news that it had acquired Clerity Solutions Inc., another move for more cloud technology. Then, on Thursday, it went for an acquisition hat trick and announced that it would acquire Make Technologies Inc., which produces application modernization software. And this week isn’t an anomaly: In February, Dell bought another cloud player, AppAssure Software; last month, it also grabbed SonicWall Inc., a security hardware and software company.

As Dell rushes to plant flags in the IT services market, CIOs who have a relationship with SonicWall, Clerity, Wyse, Make Technology or AppAssure might be hesitating. After all, Dell undoubtedly will guarantee that those companies’ engineers have a 365-day lock-in period; but there is certainly a risk of brain drain if those engineers take flight as soon as they’re legally able to jump Dell’s corporate ship. The funny thing about people who work for smaller IT shops and startups is that they tend to treasure their indie street cred and might roll their eyes when handed a Dell polo shirt at a massive company picnic.

The good news for Dell is that the mergers are absolutely a good thing for Dell clients. They get access to a broader spectrum of technologies and the vendor is standing strong against the unceasing tide of Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Cisco techno-diversity. However, CIOs who are focused on preserving customer and vendor relations might find themselves considering a move to a different provider. For instance, when Dell scooped up SonicWall, so many of SonicWall’s customers and partners switched customer and vendor relations to other data protection providers that Dell pleaded with those groups to give Dell a chance.

What do you think? Does the rush of Dell acquisitions concern you as a current Dell customer or perhaps a customer of one of the companies Dell has acquired? Should current customers be concerned about their existing and future vendor relations? Sound out in the comments, and let’s discuss the pros and cons of the Dell acquisitions sweeps week.

April 3, 2012  7:44 PM

Geek Squad move is a peek into the future of IT for SMBs

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Consumer electronics retailer Best Buy announced recently that it is extending its Geek Squad computer help services to small businesses and other partners. In its own way, this move says a lot about the future of IT and IT’s role in the enterprise.

The Best Buy move follows news of less than optimistic financials and of the imminent close of 50 of its so-called big-box stores. The company is feeling more and more pressure from online retailers, and at the same time it’s struggling to improve its customer service at brick-and-mortar outlets.

Best Buy’s Geek Squad organization makes up more than 10% of its employees and is part of its long-term growth strategy. The Geek Squad partner program for SMBs will allow some companies to outsource many basic functions of their IT operations while enabling remaining IT staff to focus on core business issues. This is a very small segment of the industry now, but it will be growing over the next few years.

And this is a small picture of what large companies will confront, if they have not already. The functions of IT are being commoditized on the one hand and becoming strategic on the other. Increasingly, a big part of the role of the CIO is managing that transition without stalling innovation and growth.

April 2, 2012  5:04 PM

Where are the successful women in business leadership?

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Each week, we scour the Web looking for the choicest cuts of the blogosphere. This week, we’re taking a look at the illusive Millennial-generation traits that lead to a quest for more “me time” while the generation’s women are experiencing job burnout. Richard Branson asks why there aren’t more successful women in business leadership. And once again, hackers have tapped into 1.5 million wallets with a major Visa and MasterCard breach. All that and more in our weekly Web roundup!

Should CIOs care about their Klout score? Dorrie Clark thinks so.

The hackers are at it again: This time, as many as 1.5 million MasterCard and Visa numbers were breached on Friday.

Those Millennial-generation traits continue to bewilder baby boomers and Generation X leaders. Almost 90% of Millennial workers feel it’s important to be constantly learning at their jobs, and 70% feel they need “me time” at work, versus 39% of baby boomers.

Why aren’t more women in leadership positions? Mega-billionaire and Virgin mastermind Richard Branson thinks companies should be forced to have more females on their board of directors.

You want big data? You can’t handle the big data. IBM and ASTRON (an astronomy organization based in the Netherlands) plan to collaborate to explore the origins of the universe with a Square Kilometer Array. The telescope can scan an area roughly the span of the continental U.S. at once.

With the death of Steve Jobs, the tech world eagerly awaits the next great visionary to emerge. Despite what Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg would like you to believe, it seems that great leaders are in short supply.

Are Millennial-generation traits leading to more young women suffering major burnout at work?

March 30, 2012  2:02 PM

What CIOs can learn from the Swiffer innovation inspiration

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

The funny thing about innovation inspiration is that it sometimes needs to be teased out by your team. Take the Swiffer, for instance. At one time, Swiffer’s parent company, Proctor & Gamble, employed the most PhD holders in the country. As a company, it lives on innovating consumer packaged goods. It invents things we had no idea that we couldn’t live without.

Over a decade ago, the company was looking at improving upon a common household chore: mopping. It studied how people mopped their floors by going into homes and watching them mop. Of course — just as I clean before our cleaning people arrive — their studied homeowners were pre-cleaning their floors before the P&G folks ever got there. Makes it kind of tough to study dirt when you’re cleaning a clean floor, right? The researchers had to get sneakier. They started arriving with dirty shoes and surreptitiously spilling dust as they showed up. At one home, a practical grandmother walked over to her roll of paper towels, wetted it under the tap and then spot-cleaned the dust off the floor. And in that moment, the Swiffer was born.

When the Swiffer came out in 1999, I was working at a big data company, helping Wall Street analysts understand the impact of the new products on stock share. We watched as the P&G shares hiked 130% in Swiffer’s first year. By 2008, P&G stock was trading at 37 times what it was before Swiffer’s debut.

When I heard the story of Swiffer’s innovation inspiration — the wet paper towel — the first thing I thought was, “My grandmother did that all the time.” It’s true: throughout the 70’s and 80’s, whenever we tracked in mud or dirt, she’d chase after us with a wet towel, erasing our footprints as we walked. Incidentally, my grandfather had worked in the P&G paper mills for his whole life, making that very same paper towel.

Just think: that innovation inspiration was right there at P&G’s fingertips back in the early 70’s. If only they had engaged a dialogue with their own employees about how they were using the products in real life. Think of the impact on their fiscal health if those gains had been realized 20 years sooner.

Chances are that your next great IT innovation has already been discovered by the people you see every morning when you get your coffee in the cafeteria. Your employees are already doing things, right now, that might change the face of your business tomorrow. It’s up to the CIO to tease that innovation inspiration out and into something that can benefit your bottom line.

March 27, 2012  4:51 PM

What’s the right data for your analytics project?

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

Like the zombies of “The Walking Dead,” data growth is threatening to overrun us. Managers worry about the right data that can be captured and used effectively, but what about the right data that is missed? That data can be costly — and in the case of zombies, deadly.

As in the show, there is great debate about what’s right, only in this case, the debate is about what’s the right data for an analytics project and what isn’t. Senior News Writer Linda Tucci writes that today’s data quality theories pit clean data against big data. She tells the story of Greg Taffet, CIO at Miami-based U.S. Gas & Electric, whose team spends many hours making sure the data they’re using is the right data.

The other theory holds that there can never be enough data, and that the data many companies purge from their systems actually is hiding important knowledge all its own. This is the camp of big data gurus such as IBM’s Jeff Jonas.

Jonas has a proven track record of working with dirty data to answer difficult questions — such as ‘”Who is stealing from my casino?” — but big data solutions should not be for all companies. To really make big data work for you, you have to have lots of data, and plenty of system and software sophistication, to make big number-crunching cost-effective.

March 22, 2012  2:49 PM

Midmarket CIOs drive innovation through excellent leadership

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

There have been a lot of exciting things afoot at recently. We’re dedicated to engaging midmarket CIOs on a one-on-one level, and finding out what amazing things you’re doing to innovate and drive your companies through excellent leadership in IT.

This month, Features Writer Karen Goulart and I traveled to Madison, Wis., to sit down and interview several CIOs during the annual Fusion CEO-CIO conference. You’ll meet William Caraher, CIO at the von Briesen & Roper law firm, who is doing exciting things with open source intranet systems. We’ll also talk to Igor Steinberg, CIO at Madison Area Technical College, and Phil Shelley, CIO at Sears Holdings, about what big data and Hadoop mean for midmarket CIOs.  And that’s just a taste of the excellent leadership videos and stories in the coming weeks.

We’ve also been working since November on the 2012 IT Leadership Awards. You might remember seeing a call for nominations last year. Since then, we’ve vetted and reviewed almost 500 nominations from IT professionals around the globe. We also gave those nominees an opportunity to review, refine and add to their nominations. Back in January, our distinguished panel of CIOs and former CIOs began the painstaking process of scoring and ranking those nominations based on five areas of IT leadership — cultural innovation, green IT, technological advancement, business harmonization and customer experience — as well as searching for those qualities of leadership that make for one exemplary IT leader who will be named IT Leader of the Year.

After calculating the judges’ scores, we are happy to name 16 finalists for the IT Leadership awards. Over the coming weeks, you’ll get to know the finalists and read about their excellent IT leadership in action. There are many fine examples to inspire you, from Kevin Soohoo’s theory that “every little bit helps” when it comes to green computing, to Nicole Bradberry’s dedication to improving patient satisfaction through IT. And any CIO who has ever inherited a legacy nightmare will be able to relate to Jamie Gianna’s stalled electronic health records project. You’ll get to peek into Clay Stidham’s success with BYOD adoption. You’ll also meet Mauricio Vicente, who spearheaded a Video Remote Interpreting platform to assist with foreign language and American Sign Language interpretation. This project has earned him a spot as a finalist in not one, not two, but four of our six awards.

It’s an exciting time to be a leader in midmarket companies, no doubt about that. We now live in the future, as many CIOs at Fusion CEO-CIO said. I’m absolutely inspired by these examples of excellent leadership, and I’m confident you will find a few ideas to adopt in your own CIO career.

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