July 13, 2012  9:04 PM

Scary-good tech innovations

Karen Goulart Karen Goulart Profile: Karen Goulart

Why is it that Friday the 13th only seems scary when it falls in October? Didn’t those unfortunate teens meet their demise at a summer camp? At any rate, in honor of this allegedly spooky/unlucky day, we’ve stocked up the roundup with scary-good tech innovations, a howling CEO and a reminder of how frighteningly bad our photos used to be before everyone had a digital camera and easy-to-use editing tools. At least back then we were spared the horrors of tagging.

  • Apparently, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer‘s desire to out-innovate Apple really bubbled to the, um, Surface, this week in the form of his trademark Howard Dean-esque shoutiness.
  • And while we’re sure the tech innovation under the Surface is swell, pardon us if we are a little more wowed at present by the kids who made these gloves that translate sign language into speech.
  • The first photo uploaded on the Web (not to be confused with the Internet) will have its 20th anniversary this coming week. Believe it or not, it was totally “safe for work” — albeit not so much for fans of halfway decent Photoshop skills.
  • Hey, Google and Apple — can your maps do this? Recce is an interactive map, a real-time information provider (think train schedules and bite-by-bite restaurant reviews) and, oh yeah, a gaming platform. Rumors that it’s also a floor cleaner and a dessert topping have not been verified.
  • The list you’ve compiled while sitting alone in the far corner of your office may be longer, but here are four reasons your company needs a collaboration upgrade.
  • Finally, in case you missed it, check out this week’s CIO Matters column on the agony and (potential) ecstasy of mobile device virtualization.

July 10, 2012  9:09 PM

Why you don’t want to Excel at virtualization capacity management

Karen Goulart Karen Goulart Profile: Karen Goulart

Let me be honest here: I would be thoroughly impressed with myself if I could successfully compile a grocery list on Excel. I offer this as a disclaimer. But even though funnels befuddle me and I’ve managed to merge information straight into the ether, there is one thing I do know about Excel — it’s the wrong tool for virtualization capacity management. And yet, some folks still use it because that’s how they’ve tracked their physical environment.

I learned this at the outset of reporting on today’s featured story about capacity management. I took this information with me as I went on to talk to IT leaders about how they approach capacity management in their virtual environments. Talking with them made it clear that trying to keep tabs with a spreadsheet is like doing your long-form tax return with an abacus. Sure, TurboTax might cost more, but the money you save in mistakes will be worth it in the long run.

This isn’t a plug for any particular vendor or any specific tools. It’s just a helpful tip/warning of things to come. If you are joining the ranks of virtualization nation, you need to pack the right tools. As Gartner analyst and virtualization go-to guy Chris Wolf told me, some of the things that make virtualization great — the small footprint, the ease of provisioning — also make it dangerous. Because of the mobility and the abstraction provided by virtualization, you can’t assume something is in the same place anymore, Wolf pointed out. On top of that, virtualization makes it easy to provision new servers, and if you’re not careful — especially with the capricious capacity demands of the business — it becomes very easy to over-provision, resulting in availability failure. And that’s one trend you certainly don’t want to be a part of.

July 7, 2012  3:18 AM

Pondering BPM applications and summer reading lists

Karen Goulart Karen Goulart Profile: Karen Goulart

Is this the official holiday weekend or was that last weekend? Mid-week holidays are so confusing. One thing we do know for sure is that summer is now in full swing. To celebrate, we’ve got a compendium of fun things to do outdoors. They include reading, daydreaming (about BPM applications!) and, um, setting up your data center. It’s true, TotalCIO readers — thanks to AOL engineers, a barbeque grill is no longer the coolest thing you can toss on a concrete slab out back. To the roundup:

  • We seem to remember lugging a single CPU about this size into our college dorm room. Is AOL about to literally change the IT landscape with its micro data center?
  • In case you run into him on the beach and need to make conversation, check out Bill Gates’ summer reading list. It could happen, and if it does, you’ll thank us.
  • You know you’ve been pondering BPM applications far too much if you can answer this question as readily as these folks.
  • Finally, innovation takes many, many forms – even this one.

July 3, 2012  8:50 PM

Today’s girls who code, tomorrow’s women in computer science

Karen Goulart Karen Goulart Profile: Karen Goulart

Some things just bear repeating.

As part of our most recent roundup post — in roundups, we gather interesting items you may have missed from the week that was — we highlighted a new initiative created to promote young women in computer science.

Girls Who Code was founded by former New York City deputy public advocate Reshma Saujani. She plans to kick off the program in New York this summer with hopes of bringing it to other cities in 2013. The group announced last week they now have the support of such tech heavyweights as Twitter, General Electric, Google and eBay.

According to Twitter engineer Sara Haider, Girls Who Code will start with an eight-week intensive program that will teach basic principles of computer science and coding, as well as design, research and entrepreneurship, to girls aged 13 to 17. “Each participant will be matched with a female mentor from a tech company, and she and her mentor will work closely throughout the program and afterwards.”

These companies and others are giving support in the form of money, and perhaps more importantly — time. This, I think, is key.  If the program does what it has set out to do, it will give these young women a chance not only to learn incredibly valuable skills, but also to see and get to know women in computer science and engineering who have succeeded. How often does a teen girl have an opportunity like that?  She’s not going to see it in the media; and if somehow a teenage girl stumbled into a tech show, she might be inclined to believe her only possible future in tech is limited to booth babe.

This is a shame for these girls and their potential future employers, especially when you consider some of the numbers on which Girls Who Code is basing its mission. For example: Technology companies with more women on their management teams have a 34% higher ROI; having women on technical teams increases teams’ problem-solving ability and creativity. By 2018 there will be 1.4 million computer-science-related job openings, yet U.S. universities are expected to produce enough computer science graduates to fill just 29% of these jobs. And while 57% of bachelor’s degrees are obtained by women, less than 14% of those degrees are in computer science.

Look, I’m a writer, and I’m pretty sure this is what I’m “meant to be.” I did the necessary math and science to get through high school and enough so-called math to get a degree in English, and probably went on to get a master’s degree in journalism just because it didn’t involve any math. OK, not really, but — as I’ve written about before in this space — with the right encouragement at the right time, I might be one of those women in computer science mentoring today.  I’m not saying a tech career would be better than (or preclude) a writing career, or that I would have excelled in computer science, I’m just saying it would’ve been fun to find out.

June 29, 2012  9:54 PM

A revolutionary idea to promote women in computer science

Karen Goulart Karen Goulart Profile: Karen Goulart

Who went and put a holiday in the middle of the week? Well, if you’re not getting a long weekend out of it, at least the Fourth will break up your week — goodness knows summer weeks are always longer when you’re not the person in your office on vacation. Whatever your holiday plans, you can use your extra free time to read up on some of the interesting tech happenings of the week. Conversation lagging at the BBQ? Wow your friends with the ins and outs (mostly ins) of the new Google Nexus Q!  Better yet, since it’s Independence Day, rile them up for the revolution of women in computer science — it doesn’t involve muskets or flags, but there’s a whole lot of coding!

  • If, upon seeing Google’s new Nexus Q streaming media device, your first reaction was “I wanna crack it open and see what’s inside!” this is the story for you. Geek.
  • Problematic moniker aside, we love the idea of Girls Who Code, a collaborative effort among tech companies including IBM, GE and Twitter aimed at opening opportunities for young women in computer science.
  • IBM engineers analyze data related to Boston traffic and come up with software solution. Oh please, in the name of all the dashboard saints, get the app for that, Beantown.
  • Did everyone change their darn LinkedIn passwords? Good. Now read these pro tips on protecting data .
  • Nothing lasts forever – except everything you do online. Here’s the bazillionth “shining” example, courtesy of Forbes contributor Deanna Zandt.
  • Did we say nothing lasts forever? We hope this nerd love does.  At  least we know the site will go on, even if their hearts don’t.

June 26, 2012  6:57 PM

Is Microsoft’s Yammer acquisition a problem solved for CIOs or a trap?

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

Microsoft’s acquisition of what just might be the most sweetly disruptive, cloud-based social networking company out there has much to say to CIOs — right? The software giant’s purchase of Yammer for $1.2 billion, it almost goes without saying, puts a king-sized imprimatur on the value of social networking platforms in enterprise computing. The union might not rise to the level of the hype about social networking platforms being like the ERP of the millennium’s first decade. But it should put to rest any CIO doubts about getting behind social business, as we call it now. Giving employees access to information anytime from anywhere on any device — and doing all that with a built-in social layer — is a CIO mandate.

For those CIOs who have puzzled over how to layer social networking into business applications and to connect social platforms with back-end systems, Microsoft would seem to have solved a big problem. The route between a vision for a socially enabled workforce and the integration required to actually do that is paved with hard decisions. And now here comes Redmond — with SharePoint, Office, Project, Office 365 in tow — ready to take on the integration riddles. And with Microsoft at the controls, Yammer’s recent decision to build a connector to SAP systems could shift into super high gear.

But as I was reminded this morning by Rob Koplowitz, the Forrester Research analyst who covers social platforms, Yammer’s strategy with regard to other vendors has been agnostic, not orthodox. Yammer has provided connections on the back end to competitors like, and on the front end, it has met the user on the user’s device of choice. And so the question for CIOs was, and still is, where to make their bets to make social business a reality. Is Microsoft solving a big problem or laying a trap for IT? In a user-first, bring-your-own-device era, will IT be seen as advocating for monopoly over monopsony?

“Microsoft has a pattern of liking Microsoft devices first and best,” Koplowitz said. CIOs need to watch whether Microsoft adopts Yammer’s agnostic approach to endpoints, mobile in particular. Last week we were abuzz with news about the Microsoft tablet, he said. Now comes their social news. “I hope they don’t connect the dots.”

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.”

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