What CIOs Think

IBM is a huge corporation. They manage their own information and help thousands of corporations manage theirs. They do periodic surveys of what CIOs of corporations are thinking about. At IBM, Jeanette A. Horan, Vice President and Chief Information Officer writes, “Another strategic goal is to radically simplify IBM. So there is a continual focus on eliminating, simplifying, standardizing and automating work that prohibits integration or adds complexity. By 2015, we plan to cut in half our number of enterprise applications. Other key objectives are to dramatically improve cycle times and reduce transaction costs across the company with leaner, more agile processes. And to manage it all, we use dashboards to manage for business outcomes by providing a real-time view of the status of the business, from finance to infrastructure”

I find it amazing that my tiny operations has the same issue with simplification. Complexity makes changing anything difficult and the whole system less reliable. Migrations from that other OS to GNU/Linux become increasingly difficult with every additional application. Many of my schools had few applications and migration was trivial. Munich had hundreds and it took years to migrate. I don’t need dashboards, except for this blog, a few virtual machines, and openSSH but they are great tools.

Top priorities for most CIOs?

  • Business Intelligence and Analytics,
  • Mobility solutions,
  • Virtualization, and, moving up quickly,
  • Cloud computing is in fourth place, tied with Business Process Management.

That’s cool. The big guys have real problems trying to keep track of everything but they are also aware that new technologies are important, very in tune with my own priorities.

While maintaining essential IT infrastructure is a huge part of being a CIO, many have four important additional roles:

  • Expand, refining the business processes and collaboration,
  • Leverage, increasing efficiency,
  • Transform relationships, and
  • Pioneer, innovate products, markets and business models.

That’s pretty esoteric, but I do try to use IT any way it is faster, cheaper and better to create, find, store and present information in education. This all works.

Some tidbits:

  • “There are now more than a billion transistors per human, and they are not only found in servers, PCs, smartphones, tablets and MP3 players, but also in appliances and automobiles, power grids, roadways, railways and waterways. RFID tags and sensors are tracking products in supply chains for everything from pharmaceuticals to livestock. Global digital content created will increase some 30 times over the next ten years—to 35 zettabytes (that’s a trillion gigabytes, or a 1 followed by 21 zeroes).”
  • “Profits are thin and hence, using technology for increasing efficiency in people and processes becomes ever-more important.”
    Vimal Goel, Chief Manager,
    IT, HPCL—Mittal Energy Ltd
  • “We have to enhance the horizontal communication and integrate
    data to remove the barriers across silos in my company.”
    Masahiko Kon, Director of Finance/IT/GA, Sumitomo 3M Limited
  • “Our function is moving from IT services provider to an essential part of the main business.”
    Bulychev Stanislav Yurievich, CIO, Glavstroy
  • Education is the most risk-averse industrial segment, right up there with aerospace.
  • For the public sector, “The biggest challenge remains delivering more services to citizens at a lower cost.”
  • “CIOs whose responses correlate with a Leverage mandate are continually reviewing their legacy environment, with an eye toward cost control. To keep costs in check, their top tools are aimed at rationalizing, renewing and consolidating application portfolios and hardware environments over the next three to ten years.”
  • “CIOs in top-performing Leverage mandate organizations approach several things quite differently than their lower performing peers. Nearly two-thirds more of these CIOs identified sharing more information with clients as a key customer relationship initiative. To do this, CIOs are providing tools that enhance internal communications, such as real-time message exchange, company blogs and other types of electronic and mobile collaboration.”
  • “when Brian Margolies was brought in as the organization’s first
    CIO in 2009, he immediately launched a 90-day review to find out what worked and what didn’t. This resulted in a three-year, fully aligned, strategic IT plan. With Board support, he’s realized nearly all his goals “on time and under budget” in only two years.” (RP: He used PHP instead of .NET to rationalize all the mission-critical business applications)
  • “Make sure that as we get bigger,we don’t get more complex, but
    scale efficiently.”
    John Murray, CIO, EMTS—Etisalat Nigeria
  • “We have an increasing focus on technology for value: Everyone doesn’t need the latest and greatest shiny toy.”
    Jeffrey Barbeau, Senior VP, M&T Bank Corporation
  • “A staggering 193 percent more of outperforming Pioneer mandate CIOs prioritize social network analysis than do underperformers.”
  • “Importantly, the role of CIO is not being looked on as ‘Chief IT Mechanic.’ It is recognized as a means to extract value from technology and gain insight from complex systems.”
    Mark Hale, Director of IS for Food Retail,
    The Co-operative Group
  • “I have no idea how many applications we have, thousands maybe, but we have to clean up this mess.”
  • “Establish a culture of refusing to let complexity be a burden. Be relentless in the pursuit of easier ways to get work done. Solicit and act upon ideas to eliminate bureaucracy and inefficiencies, both internally and across the value chain. “

Those are pearls of wisdom from some 3000 CIOs and some of them resonate what I have seen in many schools. Teachers and students recoil at complexity. They don’t want to deal with it but they want to create, find, store and present information instantly, reliably and cheaply. It’s all the same. Many of these experts use FLOSS tools to accomplish their goals. FLOSS helps a lot because there are fewer barriers to getting systems and people using those systems to work together. In education, I have used Wikis, e-mail and chat for collaboration across the organization, databases like MySQL to hold and organize vital information in a way that allows each member of the organization to add, find, change and present information, and search engines like Swish-e to allow raw information in files to be located from anywhere in the system. These tools maximize efficiency because they do exactly what needs to be done at the lowest cost and they perform well. Running it all on GNU/Linux, whether desktop or server helps control cost and complexity in a big way.

One of the things that has burdened IT everywhere is that Wintel has sold the idea that something “new and shiny” is worth money even when the features are not essential and add little to the mix except complexity. A big example is the libraries and development tools M$ supplies. They make developers lives easier to create software that only runs on M$’s system. That’s lock-in and unnecessary complexity that makes migration to FLOSS difficult. It’s interesting that many of these CIOs recognize that they have to reduce the number of applications they run so that they do recover the ability to change their IT systems more easily and to manage them more easily. Wintel has been selling complexity for more than a decade and business is waking up to the fact. It’s obvious when one sees technology like virtualization or thin clients that you cannot use simply because of some list of applications that doesn’t want to play. Whose business is it, anyway? Many of these CIOs make it a point to choose “partners” very carefully to avoid lock-in and restraint on creative and efficient use of IT. It’s about time. Too bad CIOs weren’t thinking that way 10-15 years ago. The monopoly never would have gained the strength it had if consumers of IT had insisted on choice.

To read the entire report click on The Essential CIO (registration required).

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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One Response to What CIOs Think

  1. gewg_ says:

    Don’t forget the ridiculous number of redundant apps that Munich found when it did its pre-conversion survey.
    …as well as the ridiculous number of Windoze versions.

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