Long gone are the days when an IT leader could forge a career by simply keeping enterprise systems up and running. As my article for Computer Weekly this week demonstrates, CIOs must move beyond the safe confines of the technology department and work with senior executives across all lines of business:
The piece includes comment from Jaeger CIO Cathy McCabe, who I profiled just before Christmas. McCabe has made it her number one priority to create an IT-led business transformation. As proof of her abilities, she was promoted to the board six months after moving into the CIO role. Yet McCabe also recognises digital awareness is not her only capability:
I’ve also had a piece published by ZDNet this week on best practice tips for moving to the cloud. The piece centres on the transformative work of Chris Hewertson, CTO at hotel group glh, who has pushed a cloud-led business transformation in his organisation. The firm does not run any in-house servers and 95 per cent of IT services are delivered through the cloud:
I’ll be writing about cloud again during the next few weeks. I’m also working on copywriting projects for clients. If you’d like me to give you a hand on white papers, research or corporate copy, let me know. When it comes to editorial, I’m always keen to hear from CIOs, c-suite executives or independent experts who have something interesting to say about any form of business technology. So drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. It would be lovely to hear from you.
How do you get the best from outsourcing contracts without them getting the better of you? VocaLink COO Ian Guasden, who has worked on both sides of the outsourcing divide, offered me his key tips for a TechRepublic article:
CIOs face an expanding list of business objectives, which they have to meet by implementing a cost-effective and efficient tech strategy. Some IT leaders concentrate on inhouse development, but a lot of technology money is still spent outside the organisation.
With the pressure still on costs, analyst firm Gartner expects worldwide spending on IT outsourcing services to reach $251.7bn in 2012, a 2.1 per cent year-on-year increase from 2011.
Ian Gausden, chief operating officer at VocaLink, has overall responsibility for technology at the payments specialist. Here he provides his five top tips for CIOs looking to make the most from outsourcing contracts.
To read the rest of the feature, please click here.
Getting creative in troubled economic times can be tough. So, how can CIOs prove the value of innovation? My feature for silicon.com investigates:
In the present climate, it can be hard for CIOs to shape the type of opportunities that will provide new benefits to the business. So silicon.com has canvassed the views of a group of IT experts for their suggestions. They have come up with five key ways that CIOs can continue to create new opportunities for the business.
Idea 1. Develop new partnerships and ideas - Asos.com director of IT Dan West says CIOs need to carve out opportunities to start innovating. West is leading the transformation of his IT team, so the skills of the department are designed to meet wider business objectives and to help develop creative ideas.
“That might include partnerships with universities and start-ups, or through the creation of internal events that are developed to inspire innovation,” he says. One such example is the Hackathon, a trial event created by West and his IT team to generate new business ideas.
Here’s another article I’ve produced for silicon.com – this time it’s about whether an entirely new type of leader is starting to emerge. With all the emphasis on understanding the business, is there a danger that IT leaders are losing their focus on technology itself?
Much is made of the suggestion that IT leaders must understand the needs of the business. It’s a reasonable suggestion – any technology chief knows success is dependent on engagement with the demands of senior executives. But in this push to comprehend the requirements of the business, have we started to ignore the importance of technology?
It’s a pertinent question, given that most commentators recognise that IT is now the key building block for organisational success. From on-demand computing to social media and mobile technology, IT chiefs will be expected to give quick answers to crucial investment questions.
While such answers will depend on the requirements of the business, the board will first call on an IT chief for their understanding of technology rather than other operational considerations.
Summer’s recently released CIO Connect magazine featured a profile interview with Deloitte UK partner and CIO Mary Hensher, a people person with a passion for the potential of IT to change business. The feature covered the following areas:
Deloitte UK CIO Mary Hensher is only too aware of the fact that she remains a scarcity amongst the rarefied air of UK business leadership; a woman with a responsibility for technology at a leading firm.
There is hope that the balance will once again shift towards women, and that hope comes in the form of social media: “Technology used to be anti-social; now it’s social,” says Hensher, referring to the increasing prevalence of collaborative technology.
“You need pioneers to prove that new models of working are possible,” says Hensher. “Part-time employment will not work in every job but IT should be more accommodating. Employees need to be as flexible as they can. A good working relationship can make new models work.”
Information is everything. It is crucial that a central core of IT experts are retained in-house to ensure that client data is secure: “We can’t afford ignorance and managing secure data is essential,” says Hensher.
Hensher says issues of security and mobility come together and create concerns around connectivity: “The challenge is to connect your people effectively,” she says.
CIOs say a principal part of their role is developing strong partnerships with external suppliers and internal colleagues. But what makes a good relationship and how do you maximise its effectiveness? My latest feature for silicon.com investigates:
Read the marketing bumf from most technology vendors and you would be forgiven for thinking that just about any technology system is a potential cure-all for the business’s ills.
Words such as ‘solution’ are allied to terms like ‘leverage’ to suggest a meaningful – but actually, meaningless – route to IT-enabled operations. If only IT could deliver everything that supplier’s promise. In most cases, it simply cannot.
“The industry’s not as bad as it was but there’s still an issue of over-promising,” says Neil Pamment, a technology veteran and IT director at legal firm Denton Wilde Sapte. With previous experience of working with vendors across various sectors, including manufacturing and healthcare, Pamment says over-zealous marketing assertions can create issues for CIOs.
IT leaders value the opinions of executive and IT team peers when it comes to cost cutting, according to CIO Connect research.
Cost savings continue to be a major priority for IT leaders. Recent research from CIO Connect suggests that cost remains a key business priority for 2010, despite the increased importance of strategies for growth.
And an additional poll from CIO Connect shows that most IT leaders are likely to consider the views of executive and departmental peers when calculating potential cost savings. In both cases, as much as 50% of CIOs suggest the views of either the executive board, or the IT team, are most important.
We’re putting the feelers out for some new research at CIO Connect. The research addresses the relationship between the finance director and CIO – if you’re an IT leader, we’d love to hear from you. Here’s the blurb:
Do you sometimes feel like you’re playing Oliver to your FD’s Mr Bumble? Or have the tough economic conditions provided an opportunity for you to work closely together on IT-driven efficiencies to help cut operational fat?
CIOs expecting budget increase in 2010 are among the lucky few. Only one third are anticipating a bigger slice of the pie, according to a recent survey by analyst group Ovum, and even then expectations are slim – an increase of between just 1% and 5%. Meanwhile, CIOs taking part in a Gartner survey at the beginning of the year said they are planning on IT budgets in 2010 mirroring 2005 levels.
The recession has left its scar and many FDs are wary the economy could bite again in the face of high unemployment and the UK debt burden. Understandably, they are reluctant to dish out more from the organisational pot. With FDs under pressure to keep finances tight, and CIOs hit with greater demands to do more with less, how does this challenging dynamic impact your working relationship?
I’ve been getting a bunch of emails from PRs that are pitching for what they believe to be forthcoming features in CIO Connect. The pitches are always welcome – but many of the suggested features have already been written and are about to be published.
Take the corporate social responsiblity (CSR) feature, which has received a lot of attention in the last week-or-so. Some nice ideas, too. The problem is that the feature is due to come out in July’s spring edition and was finished a long time in advance. I’m actually now working on content for the autumn edition, which goes to bed mid-summer.
One PR told me she’d got the details for forthcoming features from ‘Features Exec’. It’s a regularly repeated story – don’t believe everything you read on a database; better to get it from the horse’s mouth (in this case, me). Here’s what I’m currently working on for the autumn edition:
Hyperconnectivity – How can collaborative technologies help CIOs to boost connectivity? Potential areas include mobile devices, next-generation web and the future office.
Information management – How can CIOs control information management? Potential areas include content management, security, next-generation search and retrieval.
Executive partnership – How can IT leaders create effective partnerships with other executives? The feature will draw on the significance of senior team relationships.
Finally – and as ever – I’m also looking for interesting business people with an interesting story to tell. So, that might be CIOs, it might also be other c-suite executives, business gurus, leadership experts and futurologists.
There’s also the back page slot, which gives technology chiefs the chance to talk about out-of-work interests (we’ve recently had mountain climbing, round-the-world sailing and marathon running). Ta.
CIOs talk a lot about innovation. Actually, it’s often all they talk about – along with a bunch of related concepts, such as value, efficiency, globalisation, leadership and partnership. But what is innovation?
It’s a question that’s being analysed in a number of ways by CIO Connect and I’m putting together a special feature, speaking to CIOs and senior researchers at blue-chip businesses. Early conclusions? CIOs – and other business executives, more generally – often wrongly focus on the ‘blue sky’ element of innovation.
‘Blue sky thinking’, as well as being a bloody awful phrase, is only one tenet of innovation. It covers the research and development part, the creativity. But there’s another area of innovation that is probably more important, especially in the current economic climate.
Innovation is not just about developing something ‘new’, it is also about the re-use of existing assets in different and exciting combinations. Basically, it’s about regeneration and making good with something bad – ‘brown-field site thinking’, if you will (to borrow and manipulate the phrasing of geography).
Now, which is better – ‘blue sky thinking’ or ‘brown-field site thinking’?