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5 Tools CIOs Must Embrace in 2010

handshakewebAs a Chief Information Officer (CIO) and advisor to business and jurisdictional leadership I am quite familiar with the “go slow” approach CIOs take with rapidly changing technologies. There are numerous reasons for this chosen pace. CIOs do not want to be seen as chasing the next hyped technology and therefore become out of alignment with the business unit. CIOs prefer to have others dull the bleeding edge of new technology adoption preferring to wait and see that bugs are remediated and the hardware or software are more aggressively and broadly tested and deployed. CIOs are continually managing down the portfolio of applications, hardware and connections as more is simply more points of failure. The challenge is that all this caution can produce a great deal of drag on the organization, and time or technology waits for no one. To meet these challenges, I outline five tools CIOs must not only become comfortable with, but truly embrace in 2010.

 

Smart Phones
Once considered executive toys with games, music, browsing and other traditional leisure time applications smart phones are now delivering significant business productivity. The business leadership has been asking for and in fact utilizing smart phones generally without integration with the enterprise information technology infrastructure for some time. The concern has been securing yet another device in the portfolio and worst yet another mobile device. Blackberry has been the leader in the mobile smart phone architecture, but they are being challenged by many players including Apple and Google. Developers are cranking out business valued applications daily. Email and cell phone utilities are table stakes, in other word the cost to enter the field. CIOs must now be able to evaluate which device is best for their organization or better yet, have an infrastructure that supports multiple phones.
CIOs should have in place a well documented and communicated technical corridor and a process to expand or contract this corridor as needed by the business unit. Far too often the enterprise is forced to include too many device platforms because they have not defined what is acceptable. The key is developing your technical corridor with your business unit not in a vacuum.

 

Online Social Networks – Web 2.0 and Beyond
Again, once considered a waste of time and negatively affecting productivity, organizations are now leveraging Web 2.0 by developing new markets, strengthening customer bases, building affinity groups, and much more. CIO and business leaders alike are concerned that employees would waste time updating their Facebook page or browsing YouTube over real work. True some social networking can be addictive. Recent studies suggest our children are spending on average eight hours a day using social networking tools. A generation of young adults is exiting higher education expecting to see these tools available in the workplace and will struggle with how to be effective without utilizing these tools.
CIOs must work with the leadership body, especially human resources and legal department heads to define workable, auditable and enforceable policies for Web 2.0. CIOs will be expected to create new ways to use Web 2.0 tools that have a positive return on investment.

 

Ubiquity
CIOs as part of their job descriptions are ultimately responsible for the security and smooth running of the enterprise information technology environment. Today individuals and organizations expect the technology to work and have no patience for downtime. What if that portfolio included every brand of machine available, every node on the worldwide web and every application ever written? Now you understand some of the ubiquity challenges and demands on CIOs. In the past, individuals with an information technology education were the only installers of hardware and software, but now end users are the installers. Most often the end user does not have the same appreciation for the risks and threats that challenge the information technology eco-system. Applications and appliances may have gotten to the point of being overly friendly from and implementation standpoint, thereby threatening the portfolio of applications, since some do not play well together, resulting in breakage and or security breaches.
CIOs need to get over it and create an environment with common protocols to ensure maximum flexibility and security. The end user does not want and should not have to be concerned with operating systems, the desktop brand, connection protocols or the physical location of the application or a whole host of any other variables. The end users must be educated to the risks of the many permutations of options so they can be enlisted to actively manage the environment. A process must be put in place to evaluate technologies and to adjust the enterprise environment accordingly.

 

Cloud Computing
Possession is said to be nine tenths of the law. CIOs feel most comfortable when they can walk into the data center and touch a piece of computing equipment that is delivering business value, but two challenges exist with this belief. First, infrastructure and its maintenance are expensive and second, the perception of security with possession is a fallacy. Add the increased pressures to optimize the environment, the underutilization of most computing equipment and the productivity gained with ubiquity it is easy to see why cloud computing is quickly growing in popularity.
CIOs must be able to identify the strongest partner that may or may not be a brand name vendor, establish security connections for transacting business and monitoring data as if it were actually located in your data center. The organizational risk tolerance will help determine whether or not to pair with a relative start up or with an old standby. Security will always be a concern no matter where your data resides. Where several programs have fallen short is in the aspect of monitoring. The CIO cannot outsource this responsibility, and refunds for missed service levels are no consolation for poor performance. When done correctly cloud computing has had a favorable return on investment.

 

Governance
Depending on several factors like size, complexity, and product of the organization you will find a range of information technology leadership styles. Some CIOs are simple order takers and ensure the lights are on, while other CIOs are innovators searching for new ways to add value to the enterprise. Both have a place, but what you find is that as the individual moves from the order taker to innovator the business moves through a bit of pain as roles and expectations become redefined. Where the information technology shop was toward the back it is now toward the front and the authority of the CIO will become an issue. This is where the rubber meets the road. The CIO may be asked to move the maverick organization, where anything goes, to a more structured organization. Governance is that structure.
Procedures, processes, policies, metrics, continuous improvement and active monitoring are signs of healthy governance structures. Each of these components must be executed correctly. Poorly communicated or loosely adhered to procedures, processes and policies harm the organization. Metrics should be in place along the continuum of the effort. The organization must measure the right things as to avoid over focus on the wrong activities. The CIO must constantly evaluate operational weaknesses for opportunities for improvement.

 

It is a New Day
Like it or not information technology operations and leadership has a new paradigm. The change was already in play but may have been hastened by the state of our economy. The Chief Information Officers must quickly adapt to this new level of doing more with less, the new pace of change, and the new level of end user experience and expectations. By quickly becoming comfortable with and embracing these five technologies the CIO will be positioning the IT organization to meet and exceed the expectations of the entire enterprise.

Contact us immediately for help embracing and integrating these critical tools for success.

 

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