April 12, 2010  4:08 PM

CIO weekly wrap-up: Tweetie app acquired, iPad clones and cloud news

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

Twitter exploded over the weekend with reports that the microblogging platform had acquired Atebits, the maker of the Tweetie app for the iPhone and Mac, leading other Twitter app developers to freak out over the implications. Meanwhile, word on the streets is that Google is looking to build an iPad clone – another clash of the titans that will continue to entertain long after the film leaves theaters.

At, we’re welcoming a new features writer, Laura Smith, into the fold, and we’re so lucky to have her! Check out her pieces on cloud computing interoperability and security, as well as Senior News Writer Linda Tucci’s piece on the CIO role in an M&A:

Cloud interoperability standards aim for vendor independence — Standards groups are developing cloud interoperability, portability and security standards in an attempt to ease the switch from one cloud provider to another.

Cloud security best practices foster rapid deployments — CIOs are developing their own cloud security best practices, such as auditing, risk assessment and contractual obligations, while the cloud industry plays catch-up.

Role of CIO in mergers and acquisitions in focus as M&A activity rises — With mergers and acquisitions expected to rise in 2010, the role of the CIO is increasingly important. In M&A activity, what separates successful from unsuccessful CIOs?

April 9, 2010  2:36 PM

Computer hardware upgrades and iPhone OS 4: When software spurs buying

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

As an iPhone 3G owner, I was very excited to hear about the Apple iPhone’s newest operating system, the iPhone OS 4 software upgrade, planned for deployment this summer. Actually, I’ve never felt that my iPhone was lacking because I couldn’t run simultaneous applications, but I must admit I’ve been impressed by friends’ smartphones that provide sports scores, let users write e-mails and cook a five-course brunch — all at once.

My anticipation quickly dissipated when I learned that many iPhone OS 4 features — including, most notably, multitasking — wouldn’t filter down to the 3G (nor to the original iPhone and iPod Touch versions that preceded it). Yes, I might still have access to application folders (so I won’t need five full screens of apps) and the upgraded e-mail functions, but no multitasking for me. I immediately started to consider whether the software update would make it worth my while to trade up to a snazzy new iPhone this summer, 3GS or otherwise. TBD. Let’s see if my tax refund materializes.

It dawned on me that this is what enterprise CIOs must debate when it comes to computer hardware upgrades, and I expect the issue to be particularly pertinent in 2010. A recent Morgan Stanley survey of 150 CIOs found that technology budgets will be up 3.2% in 2010, a 1.5% increase from January, when the same survey was done. Computer hardware upgrades lead the spending spike, with a planned 4.1% increase, followed by a 3.7% increase in software spending.

I suspect a lot of this jump represents delayed demand. Many enterprises held off on computer hardware upgrades last year, when the recession was in its deepest doldrums, as they hunkered down and did more with less. Why buy new desktops when the old ones would do?

But while hunkering down and holding the line might have worked in 2009, it likely won’t fly in 2010, when companies are under increasing pressure to not only survive, but to show increasing revenues as well. So, what happens if a new software or delivery model is the key to building your revenue, but you don’t have the hardware to support it?

I’m guessing a simple tax refund won’t be enough to buy all those new desktops or laptops in your organization. What’s your strategy for computer hardware upgrades in 2010?

April 7, 2010  8:23 PM

CIO weekly wrap-up: Cloud computing, IT innovation, CIO role and DR/BC

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

I’m a bit late with this post this week, but you can still catch up’s latest news on cloud computing, IT transformation, the evolving CIO role and IT business continuity and disaster recovery:

CIOs answer Vivek Kundra’s cloud computing services call to arms — Public-sector CIOs are adopting cloud computing services as a means to deliver better services, cut costs and even share resources with other agencies.

Innovation in IT helps CIOs transform IT and the business — Innovation in IT hinges not on big budgets and large staffs, but on enterprising CIOs who can transform IT processes through creativity and strategic planning.

The inside dope on what CEOs are looking for in the CIO role — Whether you have a plum CIO job or are out looking, knowing what CEOs want in a CIO is critical to your career. Headhunters dish on the good, the bad and lost causes in CIO job hunts.

IT business continuity, disaster recovery strategy guide for CIOs — IT business continuity planning and disaster recovery strategies remain big on enterprise CIO agendas this year. In this guide, learn about BC planning and DR technology solutions.

April 7, 2010  7:27 PM

Five steps to playing a bigger part in your company’s M&A

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

I spoke with Gartner analyst Dave Aron for my story today about the CIO role in a merger and acquisition. The topic seemed timely: A variety of reports suggest that corporate M&A activity is heating up, with the cash-rich players eager to buy the talent and products they need to compete effectively as the economy rebounds.

Aron is in the midst of updating a two-year-old study on the CIO’s role in a merger and acquistion, in particular, what distinguishes the successful  from the unsuccessful CIOs in these high-stress situations. Of course, every deal is different, but Aron has discovered that many successful IT integrations follow  predictable patterns. Here is the Gartner breakdown:

  • 1. Hypothesis-driven planning phase:  CIOs who play a meaningful role in M&As tend to form an early hypothesis about how the integration of the companies should go. Why? People are hungering for certainty in these situations. A CIO who can size up the acquisition and put forth a vision of what kind of integration would work best is a valuable resource.
  • 2. Welcoming and signaling phase: This happens just after the deal is done “to wake everybody up to the new reality.” It might be that everybody gets their integrated phone numbers or badges or email accounts, Aron said. In this phase, IT moves quickly to let the acquired and the acquirers know that a new day has dawned.
  • 3. Identifying early benefits from M&A: Just as it implies, this is when the IT department goes after the quick wins — be it presenting a single face to the customer, finding the cost savings in sourcing contracts or rationalizing regulatory compliance controls.
  •  4. Main integration: One of the persistent myths of M&As is that IT integration has to be done quickly. Not necessarily so. It may be that it makes more financial sense to leave systems be (for a while). Rick Roy, CIO of CUNA Mutual, backed this advice up: “The first question if you are buying is always, are you going to integrate? Maybe not. In our world, we will eventually, but I will not touch infrastructure until well down the path of earn-out on the deal.”
  •  5. Longer-term benefits: There are continuing benefits CIOs can help their companies wring from the deal, and it is the IT department’s job to find them.

An interesting coda: Positive uncertainty

The mantra that an M&A integration has to be done quickly may be outdated, but according to Gartner, that other mantra — make the tough decisions early — still holds true. Gartner found a lot of evidence that any kind of uncertainty, even “positive uncertainty ”  (a situation where nothing bad is happening and there is a promise of good news) can really destabilize IT people.

I need to run that observation by an IT shrink.

April 7, 2010  4:57 PM

A move to cloud computing services — back in 1999

Christina Torode Christina Torode Profile: Christina Torode

Back in 1999, the beta for Amazon EC2 was seven years away; Google Apps, was well, a gleam in Google’s eye; and Erik Dubovik was moving business processes into the cloud.

It wasn’t called cloud computing services or Software as a Service (SaaS), but the concept was the same: Dubovik wanted to house resource, staffing and project management business process applications on someone else’s infrastructure. The in-house infrastructure for those processes was a mismatch of off-the-shelf and open source platforms, and he didn’t want to invest in a new infrastructure.

The real selling point for him back when he was the vice president of IT strategy for Digitas, an advertising agency that was acquired for $1.3 billion in 2006 by Paris-based Publicis Groupe, was not the ability to rent infrastructure and applications, however.

“[The service provider] truly became a partner — we could leverage their expertise, which was based on best practices gathered from their network of customers, and use them to improve our business processes,” he said.

The company that Dubovik outsourced his business process applications to was OpenAir, then known as a Web-based professional services automation platform. OpenAir was acquired by NetSuite for $26 million in 2008.

Dubovik is no longer with Digitas. He’s now the vice president of information technology for Boston-based private equity firm Audax Group. And he is no longer quite as enamored by what are now called cloud computing services.

“What we were buying back then [from OpenAir] was not just the technology, but resources we could use to solve a business problem. I don’t know if I can say that holds true for all the SaaS plays now,” he said.

I have heard IT executives describe as a player that solves business problems, and even creates new business, but I’d like to hear about other, not-so-famous SaaS, cloud or whatever you want to call them, players that you consider more than a place to rent space.


March 30, 2010  8:09 PM

BI strategy: What Holy Grail are you seeking?

Christina Torode Christina Torode Profile: Christina Torode

Gartner’s BI Summit is just around the corner, and I’m eager to see how attendees’ business intelligence strategies and priorities have changed.

When I went to the show last year, a big topic of conversation was the disconnect between IT and the business, and an overall lack of governance over the business intelligence strategy.

Attendees were trying to figure out how and if they should consolidate business intelligence software, how to get the business side to stop using Excel — or keep Excel as a front end and tack it onto a central BI platform.

Later in the year, I attended BI software vendor Information Builders Inc.’s user show, in which attendees had a very different set of BI strategy priorities: real-time data analysis and predictive analysis.

I think all of those topics will still be areas that CIOs are tackling, but if the Gartner BI Summit agenda is any indication, BI strategies are shifting yet again.

One session, “Turning BI from a cost center into a revenue generator,” is somewhat of a Holy Grail of BI for the business and IT. How Gartner advises getting there will be interesting to hear.

Then again, one speaker planned for the Gartner show, Rita Salam, research director at Gartner, is pointing to collaborative decision making as the Holy Grail of BI.

Another topic sure to gain attention, as it did at last year’s show, is Gartner’s take on where the big BI vendors need to improve and where they excel. Check out what Gartner analysts had to say about the major BI players last year in “Business Intelligence vendor comparison: Gartner analyzes the big four.”

I’ll be sure to lay out the big BI vendors’ pros and cons as Gartner sees it this time around, and go on a search of my own for what attendees believe is the Holy Grail of BI.

March 29, 2010  3:44 PM

CIO weekly wrap-up: iPad release date, Google Fiber, IT in 2010

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

It’s another soggy Monday in the Northeast. Stay inside and catch up on the latest tech chatter and most recent stories from!

Apple devotees are anxiously awaiting the iPad release date April 3, but they’re also still debating the importance of Flash video to the overall user experience.

My colleague, Kristen Caretta, reported on this on the CIO Symmetry blog last Friday, but the race for Google Fiber is really heating up. According to BusinessWeek, 600 communities are competing for the honor of being Google’s broadband test subject.

And, from

IT in 2010: Keeping up with the latest IT management trends — Running IT in 2010 requires CIOs to consider IT Service Management methodologies, vendor contract renegotiations and investments in new technologies. Have you kept up with IT management trends? Also, check out our CIO self-assessment guide for this and other IT management trend quizzes.

Enterprise desktop virtualization design and testing best practices — Getting the design and user-testing stage right is critical to developing an enterprise desktop virtualization strategy.

A CIO’s tough-love approach to IT transformation — For Boston Scientific’s CIO, the first step in IT transformation and making IT into a business partner was to tell his managers they weren’t as good as they thought they were.

March 26, 2010  2:37 PM

Small IT innovations — even savvy font management! — can cut costs

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

How’s this for IT innovations that make cost-cutting a breeze? Wisconsin Public Radio is reporting that the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has switched the default font on its email system from Arial to Century Gothic.

Doesn’t sound like a big deal as far as IT innovations go, does it? But the school’s director of computing, Diane Blohowiak, says it will save money on ink when students print emails. How much money? The new font uses 30% less ink than the previous one — which really adds up when you consider that the printer ink the school uses costs about $10,000 per gallon, she said (which sounds high, but I’m not in the ink-purchasing business — wow).

Who would have thought a minor change could save so much dough? I repeat: Who would have thought a minor change could save so much dough?

And there you go. I hope you can see on your screen that the second font is skinnier than the first, yet you can still read it, as I’m sure University of Wisconsin students can when they print out their emails — and as I’m sure millions of office workers could, if their IT departments were to make such a switch.

We’ve been running a series of stories on IT innovations on, and they carry some excellent advice — whether it’s transportation leader Amtrak’s approach to different types of transformation or oil giant Chevron Corp.’s “innovation zone” designed to get creative juices flowing. And of course, in this recession we have written a lot — a LOT — about cost-cutting strategies. In those stories, CIOs have made it clear that cost-cutting is always a balancing act and they try to make the tradeoffs as painless as possible.

The Great Font Switcheroo of 2010 serves as an excellent reminder that IT innovations can — and should — go beyond zeroing in on the highest cost centers. Sometimes, it’s as easy as slimming down in barely perceptible areas.

Have you made a small but effective switch like this in your IT organization? Please brag about your IT innovations below!

March 25, 2010  1:39 PM

The importance of communication in IT innovation

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

I recently was asked to participate in a panel discussion about the importance of communication in IT innovation at the Olin Innovation Lab, an annual event at the Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Mass. Innovation means something new. There is probably more change — more “new-ification,” if you will — going on in information management and IT than in any other part of the business. In fact, I realized that for most CIOs, IT innovation is not a eureka moment but more like a standard operating procedure. Because IT is always changing, IT innovation is actually a pretty mundane part of the job for CIOs. You deal with it every day.

In preparing for the panel, I also realized that in the five years I have been covering CIOs, my own idea of innovation has changed. A word that I used to think had to do with some brilliant moment of artistic revelation or scientific revelation, now for me means something that is really part of a process. In fact, many companies I have talked to recently have begun to divide innovation into categories. Chevron is an example. It has occurred to me that each category calls for a different set of communication skills.

Selling IT innovation, listening and talking at cross-purposes

These innovation levels, of course, differ from company to company. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but here’s a sketch of three levels of innovation and the three types of communication each requires:

1. The first level of innovation is what I have dubbed “new for you,” or innovation by replacement. Here, the innovation is new for your company — for example, switching to a different email system to take advantage of a technical advancement or cost savings — but not new to the world or indeed to many other companies. Selling the value of the change is the critical communication skill here. (If you don’t, expect a lot of grousing.)

2. The next level up — and a more difficult type — is innovation that transforms the way work is done at your company: e.g., putting a process that involved humans, computers and perhaps off-site systems onto a digital “conveyor belt” so that this digital media can be accessed from multiple computers in multiple places. (Amtrak CIO Ed Trainor calls this IT transformation with a “big T.”) You have to understand the existing process well enough to change it, and that requires talking to a lot of people. So, while you also have to sell the value of change, the critical precursor to selling is listening.

3. The third type of innovations are those eureka — new to the world — inventions that change the way everybody works. Email was that. Smartphones. If you were lucky enough to be involved in one of these super-transformative innovations, you knew things that people in your industry didn’t ordinarily know. That kind of inventing requires hearing about many ideas: listening to people you wouldn’t ordinarily talk to, maybe even talking at cross-purposes. It requires a willingness to communicate outside your comfort zone.

Has your company developed a process for innovation? Also, if you’ve come upon a new way of doing things by connecting the unconnected, I would love to hear about it.

March 23, 2010  7:06 PM

IT management frameworks: What’s missing?

Christina Torode Christina Torode Profile: Christina Torode

A while back, I wrote a story about a new IT management framework under development called the IT Capability Maturity Framework. The goal of this framework is to give CIOs a one-stop shop for measuring all IT processes, while at the same time proving the value of IT to the business.

The framework involves measuring a company’s capabilities across 36 processes that fall under four management categories:

  • Managing IT like a business by evaluating such processes as IT governance and business process management.
  • Managing the IT budget by rating processes such as portfolio planning and budget oversight.
  • Managing the IT capability across process areas like enterprise architecture and research and development.
  • Managing IT for business value in such process areas as total cost of ownership and investment analysis and performance.

What one reader quickly pointed out was that even this framework, meant to fill in the gaps in other IT management frameworks such as ITIL and COBIT– as explained by those who developed and are using IT-CMF — had an obvious gap of its own: None of the 36 processes addressed security.

I’ve heard that each framework lacks something. One IT management framework may be well suited for risk management but not IT governance or IT operations management, or strategic planning.

The bigger question, I guess, is not what’s missing, but how can CIOs fill in the gaps? Are they finding that they have to use several IT management frameworks? Are they picking and choosing aspects of several frameworks that suit their organization, and does this type of approach work?

One expert advises choosing individual processes within a given framework such as ITIL, rather than taking on the entire framework, to realize the most bang for your buck and buy-in from the business. After all, putting any type of framework in place is no easy task from a cost, time or cultural perspective, so perhaps a selective approach makes sense.

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