August 29, 2008  2:23 PM

CIO weekly wrap-up

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

I’m heading down to New York City for the long Labor Day weekend…I hope everybody else has relaxing and fun plans as well! To take you into the weekend, check out this week’s stories on

August 29, 2008  10:58 AM

“IT should not just be subservient to the business”

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

The Society for Information Management unveiled its survey of top CIO concerns this week. What’s on the headache list? IT and business alignment, the No. 1 issue for four of the past 5 years, reclaimed the top spot after dropping to No. 2 last year. The IT talent issues that dominated year ago — attracting IT professionals and retaining IT professionals, both ranked No 1 last year– slipped: retaining IT pros fell to the No. 8 spot, attracting talent to No. 4.

The survey of 291 companies — 350 company executives — was done in June, and it would be natural to conclude that economic realities have intruded on the profession. In anxious times, people are more likely to stay put, grateful for a job. IT strategic planning, No. 8 a year ago, is up in the No. 3  spot this year, suggesting that hard times call for better planning.

But SIM’s Jerry Luftman, author of the survey, cautioned against reading too much into the changes, noting that in the broad survey  (to be released in November at SIM’s annual meeting) “there is no sense the sky is falling.”

“We do ask other questions vis-à-vis how they allocate their budgets — do they see their budgets going up and down, the picture on hiring, and so on. Knowing what those responses are, it is clear to me that even though the economy is on their minds, things seem to be OK,” said Luftman, whose day job is professor of IS programs at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.  “We are not panicking.”

Luftman, under orders not to spill the beans on all the findings, said  IS executives indicate they are working closer with their business partners, in order to ward off the “slicing and dicing and panic.”

“Without giving you too much, people seem to be still having opportunities to hire, budgets seem to be staying the same or going up, even with the concerns,” he said.

That actually jibes with what we heard from CIOs in our survey last month and recent prognostications from Gartner and Forrester on IT spending and jobs.

When asked why IT and business alignment persists as a top concern, after all these years, Luftman gets a little hot under collar.

“First, it is that people in academia and people in consulting especially are playing a semantics game. Everybody says there is not an alignment problem-it’s ‘linkage’ or it’s ‘integration’ or it’s ‘convergence.’ All of these different words!” said Luftman. “What we need to do is stop debating what we call it, and focus more on how to address the problem. That is probably the No.1 problem with why this is it is taking so long.”

But here’s the outrage: “We are still focusing too much on how IT is aligned with the business, as opposed as to how IT and the business are aligned with each other. It’s an equal partnership; it’s a two-way, it is not a one-way thing. IT should not just be subservient to the business.”

Funny, I’ve been known to feel the same way.

The Scoop: Server virtualization yes, but CIO heads are NOT in the Cloud

Top 10 management concerns really don’t budge much year over year in the SIM surevy unlike the top technologies, which tend to be more dynamic. And?

After a bit of prodding, he revealed that the although two top technologies — virus technology and business intelligence — again occupy the top two spots on the survey list, the remaining three are all different: business process management (BPM) and continuity planning/disaster recovery are tied for No. 2, and server virtualization makes the top 5 for the first time. Given the case study after case study we’ve been seeing this year about server virtualization, that did not seem too surprising.

“No, but I thought I would have seen a lot more of the cloud computing, SOA and stuff like that,” Luftman said.

So CIOs don’t have their heads in the cloud? “It’s way way down on the list.”

August 28, 2008  9:28 PM

Trimming the fat off “bloatware”

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

I hadn’t heard the term “bloatware” before, but it apparently refers to software that comes pre-installed on computers – Quicken, AOL, Yahoo – per agreements between the PC maker and the software provider. According to this article in the New York Times, such agreements can often make or break a profit margin for the computer manufacturer, who can earn $30 or more for each computer by reinstalling software.

But $30 is apparently a key number when it comes to “bloatware”: for that same price, consumers can have professionals, such as Best Buy’s “Geek Squad,” remove the pre-installed programs for them.

“You’d be surprised how often consumers tell us to get rid of it,” said Robert Stephens, the head of Geek Squad, the technical support division of Best Buy that removes the software. He declined to say how many people were paying for the service, but said that “it’s going to increase in popularity.”

Maybe I’m not the minimalist that some computer users are, but, come on, spend $30 so that somebody else will remove these pre-installed programs? Is it really that annoying to have them on their desktop? Or to follow some online instructions and remove them on their own?

My questions are these: Do corporate IT leaders consider “bloatware” in purchasing and deploying computers to their staff? Would you ever consider paying a service like Geek Squad to remove those programs to save your staff the time and effort of doing so? Have you seen any advantages to purchasing PCs with these pre-loaded programs?

August 27, 2008  4:21 PM

Dude, the world is getting a Dell

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

The slowing U.S. economy has apparently encouraged Dell to reexamine its international growth model. Today, the computer giant unveiled four low-cost computer models for China, India and other emerging economies.

The two notebook and two desktop PCs are the first Dell models designed especially for emerging markets, according to Steve Felice, the U.S. computer maker’s president for the Asia-Pacific. They are meant for small-business users and are to be sold in 20 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America, according to the AP.  Prices for the new Vestro notebooks will start at 3,299 yuan ($475) and for the desktop PCs at 2,999 yuan ($440).

Now, I know the readers aren’t “small-business users,” but this statistic struck me: Dell’s first-quarter sales in China India, Russia and Brazil grew by 50%, about 10 times the U.S. rate! No wonder Dell is one of many companies turning to foreign markets!

I’m trying to find out if these are available for purchase to American companies with foreign outposts. In the meantime, read the full article and let us know what you think of Dell’s strategy. I know has some international readers, and it would be great to hear from you, too.

August 22, 2008  3:05 PM

CIO weekly wrap-up

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

Thanks to all of you who have made the TotalCIO blog so lively of late! Here’s a round-up of this week’s stories on — feel free to weigh in below on any of these topics.

  • ERM: Unearthing the potential paybacks – We delved into the guts of ERM (it’s not as gross as it sounds), discussing challenges and potential paybacks, and providing some best practices for making it work.

August 21, 2008  5:23 PM

All Ears: “Bigger than the role,” how big companies hire top talent

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

I’ve been talking to a number of CIO headhunters recently for a story about using recruiters to land your next job. The standard line, as you might expect, is if you’re good, they’ll find you. But it turns out there are things you should–and shouldn’t do–to get on a recruiter’s radar. Visibility is important, and the story gives pointers on how to boost your public profile. Becoming a reliable source for a busy headhunter can also pay dividends. Stretching the truth–a big no, no.

To a person, the recruiters I interviewed said they remain busy, albeit listening for the proverbial shoe to drop on IT’s continued resilience amid some pretty awful economic indicators. Companies need good leadership in a strong economy, they said,  and in bad times, well, one could argue they need even better leadership. At any rate, the (mostly) large companies that hire these executive search firms are still looking for CIOs.

It must be OK out there in CIO land. In our annual survey of enterprise CIOs, we were surprised to learn that 67% of you are either mostly confident (44%) or very confident (23%) about your job security. And frankly, we were flabbergasted that 43% of you said you are more likely to leave your job this year than last year for a higher-paying job! Not so the headhunters, who pointed out that the CIO role is regarded as pivotal now at companies and good IT executives should be feeling secure.

“The CIO role in general has moved to the forefront…the requirements, the performance measures and the tolerance for anything but execution and results is zero, and the expectations are high,” said Chris Patrick, a technology consultant at the Dallas offices of search firm, Egon Zehnder International.

“The good ones should be confident because frankly they are probably very solid in their role and probably being approached by a bunch of  people like me and companies saying, “Hey I’ve seen what you can do; come do it for me,'” Patrick said.

Here’s Chris on the perils of not hanging around long enough to do something solid, and his inside scoop on how some of the biggest companies hire top executive talent: 


Be sure to check out our recruiting story, complete with pointers, on at

August 21, 2008  2:29 PM

“The most geeked-out shopping experience in America”

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

And here I thought I was ahead of the game having mastered grocery store self-checkout. But check out how far Stop & Shop‘s in-store technology has come in this “Groceries & Gadgets” report from the Boston Globe.

The Scan It personal scanner, which has been deployed in about 90 of the chain’s grocery stores, allows you to walk down the aisles, pick an item, scan the barcode, press a button and – voila! – it’s added to your total. For items that aren’t scanner-friendly, such as deli meats, you can use a touch-screen computer to place orders, and Scan It will send you a message when your turn is up.

“Scan It is also a subtle but persistent salesman,” the article reads. “Scanning the loyalty card links the device to a history of your previous purchases. Stop & Shop’s system uses this data to come up with special offers for products you might fancy. The offers are relayed to Scan It, which gently pings you about discounts. You’ll be glad to know that personal data, like names or credit card numbers, don’t travel over the wireless network – just a numerical code that identifies you as a sucker for pasta.”

It will be interesting to learn more about the technology behind what appears to be Stop & Shop’s latest success story. Has anybody else experimented with these in-store scanners? Do they live up to the hype and speed up your shopping experience?

August 19, 2008  1:49 PM

Do you telecommute?

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

I noticed that our story on telecommuting appears to be generating a lot of visits to, so I thought I’d throw a few questions out here on the blog:

  •  Does your company have any formal policies on telecommuting? If so, what are they?
  • What are your personal telecommuting habits?
  • Has staff reporting to you broached the topic of telecommuting? What are their stated reasons for asking about it?

I’ll go first. Although my commute to the office is a not-so-bad 20 minutes, I usually telecommute on Friday. I enjoy it because I save gas and consider it a somewhat relaxing end to the workweek. I stay in touch with my colleagues through instant messenger, e-mail and cell phone when necessary. Perhaps most importantly, when I work from home, I often find myself working through lunch and later into the evening without even realizing I’m doing it. So my employer is benefiting, too.

Your experiences?

August 16, 2008  10:21 AM

CIO weekly wrap-up

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

Heading into the weekend, here are some tidbits from to tide you over:

Have a good weekend!

August 15, 2008  7:11 AM

Will an alphabet stew of BI, EPM and GRC hit the spot?

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

When SAP’s Business Objects announced this week that it was adding a dash of enterprise performance management to its business intelligence platform, my ears perked up.

We don’t often cover product releases from the Big 4, leaving that to our knowledgeable colleagues at sites like, and But I recently had an exchange with my editor about EPM that begged for enlightenment.

Actually the question at hand was what did I know about BPM? Well, I knew I had written about it ad nauseum a few months ago. Did she not remember the packet of stories on business process management from the Gartner conference in Vegas? No, no, not that BPM, silly prolific reporter. What did I know about BPM, as in business performance management? Ummmm, was BPM like BI? Nope, not according to the vendor/expert breathing down my editor’s neck that day. BPM, we learned, was also known as CPM, corporate performance management, or EPM or PM, for short (shortest?) and it had to do with monitoring financial data. Well, then was it akin to BAM, business activity monitoring? Or CEP, complex event processing? Or BLAH, blah blah? The alphabet soup was making me queasy. Let’s just say, we were none the wiser that day for reciting the IT alphabet.

So! when the team from SAP’s recently acquired Business Objects sent over their big  news this week –“Company Welcomes New  Era of Convergence Between Enterprise Performance Management, Business Intelligence, and Governance, Risk and Compliance Solutions” — I happily signed on for a briefing. You can read the press release yourself for details on all this New Age convergence stuff, but the point is… I was right. BI and EPM and (bonus!) GRC are related. No less than world’s largest business software company said so:

“Traditionally distinct disciplines, the combination of EPM, GRC and BI enables deeper visibility into unified information, greater context for collaborative decision making and better organizational alignment. For example, without a foundation of trustworthy and accurate business data, companies cannot effectively manage EPM processes such as financial consolidation. Similarly, the combination of GRC and EPM is critical to helping customers clearly understand potential risks to their business strategy.”

Moreover, Business Objects, the company bragged, was the only vendor to “offer both the vision and the products to unite EPM,  GRC and BI.”

Proud as I was to have any thoughts in common with those incredibly smart computer engineers at SAP/Business Objects, I wisely  took the opportunity to be schooled on EPM by Sanjay Poonen, general manager for performance optimization applications for Business Objects.

EPM, he patiently explained, is a market term used to describe a collection of technologies that help people strategize about business. EPM helps people plan and execute and understand their businesses overall. And it traditionally is used by finance departments. “It contains a set of products that allows CFOs, for instance, to start with a balanced scorecard, get a view of all their different businesses and then to do anything from budgeting and planning to consolidation  and analyzing their profitability at a fairly sophisticated level,” Poonen said.

SAP’s Business Objects likes to use the term enterprise performance management, as opposed to CPM  or BPM because “a big part of our vision is to move beyond a line of business, such as finance, and make this an enterprise wide offering,” Poonan said. Indeed, the new “spend analytics” component of the EPM suite provides visibility into purchasing-automatically aggregating, cleansing and analyzing procurement data from across the corporate systems, as well as from third part vendors.

The good news for the CIO, who is perpetually balancing the desire of  business for the best of the best-of-breed applications with the economies of standardizing around a single vendor, is that the EPM products from Business Objects now go well beyond finance, Poonan reminded, to include supply chain, procurement and now also governance, risk and compliance-all from one vendor!

Now, just to be clear about the difference between EPM and BI, I was told by Poonen to think of BI as the infrastructure tools (dashboards, Crystal Reports, master data management) to build a good house of data for the business. A financial performance management suite of products — an EPM solution– will have these BI tools embedded in it and a complete suite of applications targeted to the financial organization. “So it is not just the tools and pieces to build the house, but the fully built house itself.” So there you have it, from acronym soup to nuts to the five-star restaurant.

Let me know how you think of BI – and what this set of technologies says about the relation between IT and the business.

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