June 23, 2012  3:49 PM

Summer brings the heat and cool tech innovation

Karen Goulart Karen Goulart Profile: Karen Goulart

Don’t know about you, but we here in the Boston area have had just about enough heat in the first two days of summer to last all season. They say it helps to think cool thoughts — it doesn’t. Nonetheless, we’ve stacked this week’s roundup with cool tech innovations and acknowledge the man who pretty much made all of them possible. Switch on the A/C, grab a slushie and enjoy.  

  • If not for Alan Turing we wouldn’t be writing this, you wouldn’t be reading it, we’d all have other jobs and the world would be a very different place. Give him his by props by checking out this piece on the centenary celebration of his birth.
  • Look, Ma, no engine! That’s a neat feat in tech innovation and all, but the coolest thing about Tesla’s new electric five-passenger electric car has to be the 89 mpg.
  • From the cool yet kind of creepy file: Facebook this week paid a reported $55-60 million for, a facial recognition technology software company. The technology is pretty amazing, and it’s expected Facebook will use it for mobile photo tagging, which is sure to make users happy. Call us old-fashioned, but we’ve found thinking about it too much just conjures Orwellian imagery. 
  • Hot on the heels of the announcement of the admittedly cool-looking Surface tablet come rumors that a Microsoft phone may not be far behind.
  •  Larry Ellison seeks to answer the question how cool it would be to own a tropical island. We suspect the ensuing onslaught of one-liners is the real cause of The Great Twitter Crash of ’12 . We liked the one about becoming a coffee farmer so he can finally make money off java. Ba-dum-ching!

June 19, 2012  9:09 AM

Buddying up to HR to solve your tech hiring headache

Karen Goulart Karen Goulart Profile: Karen Goulart

The future is now — and it’s wreaking havoc on tech hiring.  

Here’s an example of what we mean. Back in 2010, the Corporate Executive Board Co. (CEB) pulled out its crystal ball to summon a five-year forecast (it was the big crystal ball) for corporate IT. What it saw for 2015 was that IT organizations would be radically different from those at the dawn of the decade. Good for CEB: Those predictions were pretty right-on. Bad for those involved in tech hiring: They’re already coming to pass, whether you’re ready or not.  Here’s what CEB identified as “radical” shifts in IT way back then:

  • Information over process: Information management skills will rise in importance as competitive advantage from IT shifts from process automation to customer experience, data analytics and knowledge worker enablement.
  • IT embedded in business services: Centrally provided applications and infrastructure will be embedded in business services and delivered by a multifunctional shared services organization.
  • Externalized service delivery: Delivery will be predominantly externalized as vendors expand service provision and internal resources become brokers instead of providers.
  • Greater business partner responsibility: Business unit leaders and end users will play a greater role in obtaining and managing technology for themselves in areas where differentiation has more value than standardization.
  • Unbundled IT: Some IT roles will be embedded in business services, evolve into business roles or be externalized. Remaining IT roles will be housed in a business shared services group, and IT staffing needs will change significantly.

With all this flux, it’s no wonder that, as CEB research director Shalini Das puts it, tech hiring “is like chasing a moving target.” IT is facing rising demand for business intelligence, mobility, and restructuring to deliver end-to-end services for higher speed and efficiency. And it must partner with increasingly tech-savvy business users willing to self-manage IT projects, she said.

So what to do? Leaving it up to HR doesn’t work; you have to do the opposite. As many of the experts we spoke with for our latest piece on help with tech hiring agreed, the CIO who wants the best people — the right people — must partner up with HR.

“CIOs must clarify and communicate new or changing definitions and skills requirements to hiring managers and recruiters so they can update job descriptions, résumé screening filters and interview questions as needed,” Das said. “In addition, they must work with their HR peers to correspondingly update staff competency models, training and development programs.”

June 16, 2012  1:44 PM

What the Queen of Soul can teach about social CRM

Karen Goulart Karen Goulart Profile: Karen Goulart

It’s Father’s Day weekend and what does this week’s roundup have for all the dads? Potpourri! Yeah, we know, that sounds even worse than another tie. But we mean it more like the Jeopardy! category — a blend of disparate pieces of information that are simply interesting to know (and are much cooler than fragrant flower buds and woodchips.) For example:

 This company turned heads this week by making some of its own e-books available to other retailers. 

 Give employees a little of this — à la Aretha Franklin — if you you want them to excel at social CRM.

 Read on for the correct questions to these answers and more. Enjoy!

  • It’s no big management secret that employees do better when they feel respected, but what you may not have considered how important this is to social CRM.
  • The e-book you want you might not be able to get, depending on your e-reader. Or maybe you can get it, but you can’t get the print version if you go to certain stores. Advantage: library.
  • Kids these days! A dad who is also a storage pro talks about why he wants big data and cloud to get off his lawn. You’ll read this if you know what’s good for you.
  • It may be a little more Maxwell Smart than James Bond cool, but kudos to the latest innovation in pen-related tech.
  • And finally, love makes the world go round — so it makes sense that Google wants to control it. Oh Google, we kid because we love.

June 12, 2012  9:55 PM

Taking a risk on relocated or remote workers may be worth reward

Karen Goulart Karen Goulart Profile: Karen Goulart

If it feels like the IT talent pool is drying up, maybe it’s because you keep fishing from the same pond.

Think globally and acti locally is a fine mantra for the green set, but it simply doesn’t carry over when it comes to hiring the best people for your IT organization.  And yet, that’s what many CIOs are doing: trying to compete in a global market while limiting their search for new employees to the region in which their company resides.

The reason? Well, to twist a phrase: It’s the stupid economy. At least that’s what Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO at CompTIA (Computing Technology Industry Association), has come to believe after talking with IT leaders around the country in recent weeks. After hearing these folks bemoan the total dearth of job candidates with soft skills, project management experience and so forth, he asked how many of them kept their searches regional. The hands flew up. This, Thibodeaux said, is consistent with data around the country, which shows that companies are scared or unprepared to widen their nets because it might cost more money.

By and large, Thibodeaux noted, companies aren’t taking the time to reevaluate positions to identify jobs that could be done remotely — perhaps because they don’t have the infrastructure to support remote workers. Or, with many folks underwater on their mortgages, paying for a potential employee’s relocation becomes a scary prospect. But by avoiding the financial risks, these companies are missing out on great employees who could improve productivity and introduce skills that could wind up enhancing the company’s financial position.

“What we have right now are surpluses of skilled people in some parts of the country and deficits of skilled people in other parts of the country,” Thibodeaux said. “The thing for people to do is look nationally for talent, and if you find someone really good, either take the risk and relocate them or take the risk and let them work remotely; I’m not sure you have a tremendous amount to lose.”

June 7, 2012  6:52 PM

Access is necessary but not sufficient for mobile IT

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

We’ve been pretty diligent here at about covering the advent of mobile IT in the enterprise, particularly in the iPhone era. That’s when consumer technology launched its full-fledged assault on traditional IT. We reported on early iPad deployments, on mobility strategy tips, and on the difficulty of forming a mobile strategy.

What came through loud and clear from the many CIOs we’ve talked mobility with over the past two years is their determination not to be left behind. Stung by their failure to lend support to iPhones, CIOs were not going to let the iPad get away from them. They would lead the charge on providing access to the Apple tablet. (As for bring your own device (BYOD), IT organizations have been so eager to accommodate mobile devices that industry experts are pushing a new term to rein these programs in — BYOAD: Bring your own authorized device.) It sometimes seems that providing mobile access has become CIOs’ highest virtue.

As my CIO Matters column this week suggests, however, access is necessary but might not be sufficient to bring mobile IT to maturity. Read why, and please let me know what you think.

June 5, 2012  3:41 PM

CIO skills in most demand: The ability to ‘helicopter’

Christina Torode Christina Torode Profile: Christina Torode

I’ve been collecting chief information officer jobs ads for the past month (yes, an exercise that smacks of not having a life) to find out which CIO skills are in demand in the here and now. What’s telling about the skill sets in high demand is not so much the long lists of qualifications and expected experience, but the words used time and again in all the ads.The most used one? Timely. As in (my italics):

  • “Maintain direct and timely communications with senior and middle management.”
  • “Contributing to the definition of the organizational risk profile, and ensuring that all IT risks are highlighted and agreed actions addressed in a timely manner.”
  • “Proven experience developing and maintaining a qualified, diverse ITS staff through appropriate hiring, staff development and training, and effective, timely performance.”
  • “Build strategic partnerships with vendors to maximize investment and provide timely delivery of initiatives.”
  • “The executive is also responsible for ensuring reliable, timely, cost-effective, efficient and secure delivery of information technology to all areas.”

Another common denominator? Very rarely did an ad call for CIO skills that were timely but not cost-effective as well.

There were also a few job descriptions that screamed Landmine ahead. For example:

  • “The ability to defuse conflict.”
  • “Develop greater confidence throughout the organization and with physicians in the ability of information systems to meet the needs of individuals and the entire organization.”
  • “Reports unusual events appropriately.”
  • “Motivate subordinates.”

My favorite description was from a publically traded energy company (but then, I have a soft spot for CIOs): “The impact of this position on company performance is very high.”

We will be running down the top CIO skills in a future article, but just to share one more tidbit: This one skill was posted by a religious institution: “The ability to ‘helicopter’ from big picture, strategic issues to more granular levels of detail as needed.” Whee!

I just found a new way to say multitask.

Let us know what you think about this blog post; email: Christina Torode, News Director

June 2, 2012  7:30 AM

Social media tips and other helpful lists

Karen Goulart Karen Goulart Profile: Karen Goulart

The Late Show Top 10, Billboard’s Hot 100 — everybody loves a good list. (Except, perhaps, those of the “to-do” variety.) To help satisfy that hankering for digestible order, this week’s roundup includes three lists, each offering tips on a different topic: data integration, social media tips for the novice Tweeter and the admittedly hyperbolic sounding, “6 Most Important Bits of Advice for CIOs.” We’ll let you be the judges on that last one. Drum roll, please.

  • This top 10 list on best practices for data integration is pretty lacking in the joke department, and there’s no celebrity/politician reading it to you, but we bet Letterman never taught you a thing about data management discipline.
  • We’re not sure these are the “6 most important bits of advice for CIOs,” but they do make a nice refresher checklist.
  • A little bird told us you’re not so good with the Twitter. Before everyone else finds out and assigns you embarrassing hash tags, check out these four tips on becoming a 140-character-thought leader.
  • Think all that Twitter and social media stuff is silly? Bayer’s MaterialScience CIO Kurt De Ruwe would beg to differ.
  • And finally, an insightful take from the trenches on how the antivirus industry failed in the face of Flame and Stuxnet.

May 31, 2012  9:22 PM

The talent to fill soft skills gap may be closer than you think

Karen Goulart Karen Goulart Profile: Karen Goulart

Did you know there may be unicorns in your IT organization? Let me explain.

Earlier this week, I wrote a piece about how IT leaders are looking to fill soft skills gaps. It was based on a combination of conversations with CIOs and other IT execs and a recent study issued by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). The soft skills in absentia included things like innovative thinking, analytical skills, teamwork and project management abilities.

The story generated more responses from readers than I anticipated, and interestingly they seemed to share a general theme: filling that soft skills gap shouldn’t be that difficult. As one reader, Tony S., colorfully put it, in response to Modell’s COO Dan Sheehan’s search for good project managers, “You make it sound like Dan Sheehan is looking for the mythical unicorn.” Tony S’s contention? These skill sets are out there, but those who possess them are being weeded out of hiring processes because they tend to be older workers. The wisdom of experience is being eschewed for next-gen talents.

An anonymous reader, who self-identified as a software engineer, made a similar argument. “What’s interesting to me, in my experience, is that it took many years AFTER being a SW engineer to develop the rest of the skills in the article. Now with all the rest of the skills well in hand, I’d be pretty stretch[ed] to write code.”

There was also Tony B., a program manager consultant with 20 years of experience, who suggested the unicorns may be hiding in plain sight. His point: the talent is often there in the IT organization but it’s rarely cultivated. He maintains that the majority of executives, despite their best intentions on filling soft skills gaps, give little more than lip service to such goals because of the corporate environment in which they work. “The constraints are that they are measured in a way — short term cost-saving delivery targets in economically constrained markets — which is in conflict with their positive intentions on soft skills.” IT executives have the ability to unlock potential but lack the support to do so. Just get it done trumps innovation, analytical skills, teamwork, etc. every time.

I’d like to know more about your experiences. Are you part of an IT organization in which you yearn to show off your soft skills, but no one’s asking? Are you an IT leader who wants to champion the potential of your team members but are shackled by short-term pressures?

Or maybe you’re like outsourcing casualty Tony G. (yes, another Tony and my most avid reader) — a 40-year IT vet with a CV full of project management success stories who feels like those four decades of experience may now be working against him. After he read the piece, he asked somewhat jokingly, but with a wisp of hope, “Do you think that Dan Sheehan guy is taking resumes?”

May 31, 2012  6:44 PM

Why IT spend as a percentage of revenue doesn’t work

Christina Torode Christina Torode Profile: Christina Torode

Using IT spend as a percentage of revenue to figure out how to divvy up IT investments doesn’t work in many large companies. For one, most enterprises have varied business units and goals. One business unit might be in fast-growth mode and require more tech spending; another might be mature and held to a lower IT spend; and yet another might be going through a transformation project that requires a different spend. So picking a standard IT spend as a percentage of revenue for all of those units isn’t going to cut it.

And this pigeonhole of a metric certainly doesn’t reflect the ever-evolving and growing importance of IT investments in relation to a company’s ability to grow and compete. The run, grow, transform (RGT) model may be a better approach.

Read my CIO Matters column to see why Richard Hunter, vice president and Gartner fellow, recommends using a RGT model (and other more forward-looking metrics) for allocating IT spend, and learn about the real-life challenges CIOs encounter when using said RGT model.

May 26, 2012  4:31 PM

Tell your CEO to get a social media life (s/he will thank you!)

Karen Goulart Karen Goulart Profile: Karen Goulart

At long last, we’ve successfully traversed the drudgeries of late winter and early spring and are poised to embrace those most rejuvenating unofficial first days of summer, otherwise known as Memorial Day weekend. Can you tell we’ve been looking forward to this?

As you reflect and relax with family and friends this weekend, we hope you’ll spend a little time with this week’s roundup. We kick it off with bits from the social media realm, including why your CEO is hurting the company if he/she isn’t living a rich social media life; a few reasons why Facebook had a thumbs-down kind of week; and why social media and silos don’t mix. Finally, we hope you’ll take a few moments to help out with important research at The CIO Leadership Institute by taking their survey on social media.

  • Funny, he seems so bubbly at the company meeting. Forbes looks into a recent IBM study that claims a CEO’s lack of a social media life may be to the detriment of the company.
  • Unless you count the release of its rather Instagram-y camera app, Facebook had a pretty crummy week. Blogger Nigel Cameron offers up three simple reasons no one seems to want to be in a relationship with FB since its IPO.
  • It’s called social media for a reason – keeping it siloed is against its nature (oh, and a waste of money).
  • What happened in Utah could happen anywhere, a simple little mistake cost millions of dollars, scores of data and a CIO’s job — so what can we learn from the little big breach?
  • Still on the fence about bring-your-own-device, or BYOD? Ugh, just do it all ready, says Mashable, rolling its eyes and handing you these five easy steps to BYOD transformation.
  • It’s a long weekend, so we know you have the time to take this survey from The CIO Leadership Institute — you can use the hand not holding the hot dog to tap the screen or click the mouse. Thank you!

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