Tag Archives: Silicon

Cloud security: Problems may lie closer to home

Lock-in, data security, compliance and lack of control all feature on CIOs’ lists of cloud issues, but this feature by me for silicon.com shows how bigger problems may be sitting on the IT leader’s doorstep:

The biggest inhibitors to the cloud are well known and usually include issues such as data security, regulatory compliance and vendor lock-in. These barriers usually involve external factors, including the stability of suppliers and the influence of regulatory bodies.

Such concerns are crucial, but is there too much focus on external factors at the expense of internal processes? Are CIOs worrying too much about on-demand factors beyond their control and not paying enough attention to the last mile of the network?

IT leaders can spend time and money establishing strong partnerships with suppliers that meet tight demands on information security and data access. But any agreement with external partners, and the potential to use technology on demand, is only as valuable as the supporting internal structure.

To read the rest of the feature, click here.

Time smart CIOs moved beyond the confines of IT?

With the rise of the cloud and stronger procurement functions, some organisations may ask whether they really need an IT function. The following feature by me for silicon.com explains why many CIOs think it’s vital they move beyond technology implementation and operation:

“CIOs now have a better opportunity than ever before to move beyond the confines of IT,” says Catherine Doran, director of corporate development for infrastructure specialist Network Rail.

She should know. Doran has followed 30 years’ experience in business technology, and CIO roles at BT and CapitalOne, with what is often seen as the apotheosis for IT leaders: a senior executive position around the boardroom table at a blue-chip organisation.

In Doran’s case, the old adage that CIO really stands for ‘career is over’ is redundant. She has used the CIO position as a means to demonstrate her broader business abilities. The result is that Doran is judged on her capability to lead transformation across the organisation and not just in the IT department. So, how has she managed to make the transition?

To read the rest of the feature, click here.

Millennials: Can CIOs win the generation game?

And here’s another piece from mid-January for silicon.com, this time about a new set of customer-focused challenges for CIOs. Faced with a new wave of people and technology, how are IT leaders preparing the business for the next generation of customers and workers?

Young people are different. They live like cyborgs, collaborating and connecting online with multiple contacts across various forms of social technology. How they use IT will completely disrupt how your business engages with its employees and customers.

That, at least, is the popular myth. But generalisations are unhelpful, as was wonderfully exposed in a recent first-person account of millennials on silicon.com. Yes, millennials are enthusiastic, technology-literate multitaskers. They are also far from the clichéd media depiction of tech-savvy anarchists set to destroy established corporate hierarchies.

It is a viewpoint that resonates strongly with Keith Collins, CTO at technology specialist SAS and a business leader with 25 years’ experience of how IT is used and consumed. “Generation Y has grown up with technology but it’s rubbish to suggest that such individuals will only want to be independent and not have strong relationships with the company,” he says.

To read the rest of the feature, click here.

CIO priorities: What must we do better in 2011?

Here’s another update – this time, it’s an article that was written by me and published in early January by silicon.com. Analysts are always telling CIOs what the priorities should be for the next 12 months. But what do CIOs themselves see as the main areas of focus?

The return to the office after the New Year holiday brings its own customs: the misery of the commute, a heaving inbox and a desire to do things better in 2011.

Such aims are accompanied by another tradition, one where analysts and consultants rush to tell you about the key technologies the business must purchase and implement during 2011.

But are these technology projects the real focus for CIOs? Here, IT leaders discuss their priorities for 2011. These discussions are grouped around five key themes. What seems apparent from such themes is that business leadership, not simply IT implementation, will be top of the CIO’s priority list for 2011.

To read the rest of the feature, click here.

Why it’s good for CIOs to talk

OK, catch-up time. I’ve had a few more articles published on silicon.com and it’s time to update my personal database (in other words, my web site). I’ll spread the joy, rather than publishing the pieces in a long list.

The first was published before Christmas and includes comment from a series of CIOs who suggest why it is crucial to communicate the benefits of IT in terms the business can understand:

CIOs know that you are going to get left behind if you are simply an IT director who’s good with technology. Technology chiefs who make a real and lasting contribution at the executive level are able to communicate the benefits of IT in terms the business can understand. The successful CIO is now, more than ever before, the communicative CIO.

“I network with a lot of CIOs and I see that the successful IT leaders are socially adept and communicative,” says John Adey, chief operating officer and CIO at Star Technology Services.

“The best IT leaders have business influence because of their soft skills – if you can influence people, your technical skills won’t matter. A lot of IT people come up through a technical background but the successful CIOs are business-savvy; they talk about benefits not technology.”

To read the rest of the feature, click here.

Can mobile working set new standards of security?

Some CIOs curse mobile working because of the security implications, but could flexible working actually be a route to better, rather than slacker, security? Here’s my latest feature for silicon.com:

“CIOs simply must get the business used to working remotely because employees increasingly live and work in a mobile environment,” says Vodafone CTO Jeni Mundy, an IT leader who speaks as someone who has created and implemented strategies to increase flexibility.

It’s a call to action that reflects the mobile nature of modern business – but is it realistic, especially given the continued security concerns that surround flexible working? After all, as many as 38 per cent of CIOs still view improved security as a business priority for 2010, according to research by Opinion Matters on behalf of Vodafone.

And while improved workflow, employee engagement and staff retention are identified by the research as the major benefits of flexible working, potential improvements to security do not figure in the list of top achievements.

To read the rest of the feature, click here.

Is the CTO the new CIO?

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.

For the full feature, click here.

Dark side of the cloud

A quick update to my article list for silicon.com – an article explaining why the shift to cloud computing may take longer than CIOs think. Along with the familiar barriers to cloud adoption, such as security and vendor lock-in, there are a number of less obvious challenges giving some CIOs pause for thought:

Listen to the vendors and on-demand computing is presented as an unstoppable force that is set to change technology provision quickly and irrevocably.

Check the research and that representation certainly appears credible, with analyst house IDC estimating that companies spend £10.7bn a year on cloud IT services worldwide and that the market will be worth £27bn by 2013. But while the numbers might sound impressive, IT leaders wishing to transfer services to the cloud face significant challenges.

Executives rapidly discover a dark side to the cloud, where concepts of on-demand technology are confused, trust is constrained and understanding is limited. “I find the whole debate about cloud as interesting as the debate about service-oriented architecture,” says Stuart Curley, chief technology architect at the Royal Mail. “It doesn’t keep me awake at night but it does send me to sleep.”

For the rest of the feature, click here.

What CEOs expect to get from a top-performing CIO

What type of skills does the CEO want from his or her CIO? My latest feature for silicon.com draws on the experiences of a group of senior executives to discuss the leadership traits that will make a CIO stand out from their peers:

The starting point, says Jardine Lloyd Thompson CIO Ian Cohen, is to understand your personal attributes or strengths and those of your team. Rather than worrying about potential weaknesses, an outstanding leader will focus on their strengths – and those within their teams – and look to exploit them.

“We spend way too much time trying to turn people into something they are not and fix their weaknesses,” he says. “It’s complete nonsense to think that fixing something bad will create something great. If you take ‘bad’ and just invert it – you get ‘not bad’, which is light years away from ‘great’. Find the activities that strengthen you personally, and the people you lead, and look to do those activities more often.”

When it comes to personal capabilities, Cohen is well aware of his own strengths. He says he happens to be good at technology because of the chronology of his career and an employment path that has included senior IT positions at media giants Associated Newspapers and the Financial Times.

To read the full article, please click here.

CISOs: Does your firm need a security tsar?

Here’s another piece I’ve recently had published on silicon.com, this time about the importance of data security and the potential requirement for a chief information security officer:

Mike Newman is an IT leader who is one step ahead of some of his executive peers. The CIO of Towergate, Europe’s largest independently-owned insurance intermediary, appointed a full-time head of IT security 18 months ago as part of a higher-level strategy to prioritise the integrity of information.

“Data security simply has to be fundamental,” says Newman of the decision to hire a head of information security. “As a services-based organisation, the key asset is your customer – you have a real duty to look after your assets. We need smart security guys to stop the potential exposure of data and to make sure that the corporate use of information follows best practice.”

The good news is that, for the most part, technology workers recognise the importance of employing a dedicated security leader. As many as 62 per cent of IT professionals believe the most valuable governance measure an organisation can undertake with regards to data security is the appointment of a chief information security officer (CISO) or other high-level security leader, according to research from the Ponemon Institute.

To read the full article, please click here.