Is the CIO the person to take IT forward?

Are companies well served by their CIOs? In many cases senior executives and boards are sceptical, at best, as to what is being delivered off the back of significant investment in Information Technology.  Is the CIO part of the problem or part of the solution?

Where businesses have a strategy – against which they are executing – chances are the IT has a role to play.  Perhaps there are opportunities in the supply chain or ways to better serve customers or ways to solve design problems more efficiently or in different ways?  Perhaps greater collaboration is required – internally, with partners, with customers?

But does business need a CIO to achieve this?

A CEO or divisional head may need to be aware of some new possibilities in the areas of collaboration or quality control or data analysis.  But does she need a CIO to make this happen? Perhaps she needs better informed executives – with better support within their divisions/ functions/ business units  – to drive these initiatives forward.  More importantly she needs support at Board level to support the required upfront investment (including any required interruptions) or additional monthly payments.

Does the CIO really belong to an era of building internal IT departments with significant inhouse technical capability?

And where there is a CIO we end up with the inevitable handoff from the business to the CIO – and potentially the CIO never succeeds in obtaining the required focus/ support from the business which uis actually seeking the solution in the first instance.

Good CIOs have not stood still.  They understand their own environments, they are familiar with the emerging technologies and they are seeking to involve themselves more closely in the management of the companies in which they work. In some cases they are ruffling feathers by asking some tough questions of business leaders.

Companies still need to understand IT costs, project complexity, requirements/ benefits of integration, data security – where does all of this end up if there is no CIO? And who has the expertise to manage/ broker a number of providers of managed services?

If we accept that there is a challenge (evidenced by recent flatlining/ reductions in IT budgets) then looking to see how more effective leadership can be provided has to be part of the analysis.  Businesses (who have effective strategies) need everything available to them to enable them to execute.  And that includes the best of IT.  Businesses lacking effective strategies will waste money on IT and many other expenses headings.

 

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Impact of YouTube – is it only beginning?

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...
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Read a great piece reviewing history and recent developments in YouTube: Streaming Dreams.

We are all very familiar with YouTube – home video, music videos, links published in emails and on Facebook pages.  However John Seabrook paints a picture of the ambition of Google for YouTube – in competing with mainstream television for your time and the dollars of the advertisers.

Will be very interesting to watch the development of commercially produced content (lots of channels referenced in the article) including programmes developed specifically for distribution via YouTube.

We’ve seen the developments which have led to so many people struggling to read books, watch longer movies and television documentaries.  YouTube in many ways has been part of this – watch three minutes not 60 minutes.  However now we seem to be witnessing YouTube partly trying to morph to the longer format.  Three minutes is a good format for getting you to watch when you’re not supposed to be watching e.g. in work; but to sell lots of advertising (in the current environment) want you to stay for more than three minutes.

I just wonder of YouTube is missing a trick.  I think the big challenge for all of us is getting quality from all the distractions.  Yes – distract me, challenge me, stimulate me.  But I only have so many waking hours in the day.  I need environments such as YouTube to satisfy me – have I really been satisfied having spent x minutes in this environment?  If I have then surely I will look to spend more time there.

 

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Does the end user device matter?

Why not let the end user slect the preferred device in the corporate environment?

Interesting to read of Google’s launch of the ChromeBook.

As corporates migrate their applications to the Cloud can they move away from providing corporate desktops or laptops to the end user?  Provision of these devices and their support is a major corporate expense.  Could we move to a position whereby ‘the expectation is that if you want to work for us you need to manage your own connectivity to the Internet‘?

This position has to major attractions:

  • end users can use whatever device they want to use
  • corporates avoid the cost of supply and maintenance of a fleet of end user devices
  • the end of the ens user support desk as we know it

Many end users are completely frustrated by corporate guidlenes restricting how they can use their device, which applications they can download and install, the fact that their work PC is way below the spec of their home PC fleet.  In many cases we operate Lowest Common Denomionator type thinking – the advanced user is restricted to that the LCD can use.

Corporates struggle to manage end users and struggle to meet their expectations.  And there is a vast range of devices: PCs, laptops, notebooks, phones.

Much of the technology is there to enable this move.  Many of the corporate apps (or the apps required to do your job) can be provided via the cloud.  There are many relevant and effective security solutions.

Who would support end users in this scenario? A combination of the end user, the cloud providers and, to some limited extent, the corporate. It requires a mind set change – it becomes the end user’s responsibility to be able to connect to various applications (whatever device she/he chooses to use).  This drives a different experience for the end users, the corporate and the cloud provider.  But in the long run it will result in corporates investing more time in delivering solutions and less time in providing ‘free’ support.  If you require a car to do your job it is your responsibility to have a car, maintain the car and use it safely for work.  Why not the same with end user computing?  Fleets of company cars are the not the only model.

 

 

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rethinking corporate education

Need to look at collaborative education across enterprises

Have been reading Macrowikinomics, Rebooting Business and the World – by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams.  They include an excellent chapter: Rethinking the University: collaborative learning.  I also recently watched Ken Robinson’s excellent animation: RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms.

Both the chapter and the book have left me thinking about how we deliver education/ training in the corporate or enterprise environment.  Tapscott & Williams and Robinson are arguing for new approaches in education.  These changes are being seen, to different degrees, in different educational institutes.

Web 2.0 and social networking platforms have presented wonderful opportunities for business’s to engage in collaborative processes – within their own organisations and, perhaps more importantly, with people and entities outside the enterprise.  However is would seem to me that enterprises should now be looking to change their own approaches to education – to increase the collaborative content of corporate education.  This would apply both in the case of internally delivered education/ training and training delivered by professional institutes of education.

Do you know of good examples of collaborative education being employed in industry?

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Learning from the young – to make social networking work

Put new intake at the centre of your social networking and collaboration rollout plans – they have lived this way and get it.

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Great piece from Tom Peters highlighting the strengths of Mickey Drexler, CEO of J. Crew.  Peters  picks out so many things that appeal to him in Drexler’s approach – clearly a man who walks the walk and talks the talk.  But what I am drawn to in particular is his respect for younger or more junior people in the organisation:

  • Listens attentively regardless of age/seniority
  • Obvious in his transparent respect for young employees

As we begin to embrace social networking and the associated collaborative approach a key step for enterprise management  is to embrace the new generation – sometimes referred to as the F generation (in reference to facebook).  These are the people who know and understand these solutions.  Bring them on board  – put them at the centre of the required change.  Have them mentor senior, more experienced managers – mentoring is a tow way process.

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Paperless billing

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This seems to have become a hot topic in Ireland – prompted by the move to electronic billing by mobile phone companies.  We have a number of objectors: the regulator because people had a right to a paper bill, some consumers who want a paper bill and, it seems, An Post who stand to lose out on lots of revenue.  Finally there is the debate about the sharing of the benefits – will all the benefits be retained by the corporations or will they be shared (in part or in whole) with the customers?

Useful catch up on the subject in yesterday’s Irish Times.

Surely this is a ‘non-brainer’ at a basic level?  We must use technology to make things more efficient.  But as in all such projects we must manage the change.   There are benefits in this for the corporations (in terms of cost savings) and there are benefits for customers who are open to receiving electronic bills (or accessing their account information on a portal).  Without doubt there are a group of people who will struggle to deal with an electronic document e.g. those with no internet access or familiarity.  This is a group which is diminishing in relative size – but nonetheless must be accommodated – and it would seem to me should not be disadvantaged over their current position.  This should be the core focus of the change agenda.

Online travel booking seems to have gained widespread acceptance – and it has resulted in major changes for those who previously facilitated the booking process.  Mr O’Leary of Ryanair pushed through the agenda but the Aer Lingus experience is the same.  And we have seen losts of benefits in online travel e.g. the various sites offering best deals across a range of providers – be it flights, cars, hotels, insurance, etc.

Over the last number of months I have availed of the new service from Irish start-up  GetItKeepIt which enables me to receive and a range of electronic bills from various suppliers.  For me this application addresses the specific point made by CAI Chairman James Doorley ‘people were “more likely to check their bills if they get them in the post”’.  I am now more inclined to review bills when gathered in one portal.

Ultimately we will complete a period of transformation – and the electronic bill will be the only option.  And this will be the de facto situation across the board.  And this will be a good thing.  We do not want to continue to have people doing things which have no value add – cutting down trees to create unnecessary paper, printing bills and putting them in envelopes, criss-crossing the country to deliver paper bills which can be sent electronically (or, more correctly, accessed electronically).  As for the benefits – they will be absorbed into the operating budgets of the service providers.

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Social networking in the corporation

Embrace social networking in the workplace

Great piece in today’s Irish Times – interview with Lucian Tarnowski.

I’ve been committed to the social networking paradigm for the last three years – because I do not believe I can stay in touch with the innovators and the new thinkers in any other effective way. Social networking is part of the way we work – in particular how generation Y works.

Tarnowski has demonstrated a clear understanding of the paradigm and has now developed a business around this. He’s one of many.

I would strongly recommend to corporates who are not embracing the technology to get on board – if you want to be relevant for new recruits. Why should people use products like facebook and twitter to organise their own lives and then come to work to be locked down in a traditional ERP solution? It’s not the fault of the ERP solutions or vendors – there are plenty of ways to integrate. But I would suggest that many of those in middle on senior management now need to get involved in a two way process – learning from the new joiners may be every bit as important as what they learn from the veterans. Challenging but the way forward.

Is your Doctor (GP) using information technology?

Is your doctor still writing up manual cards to track your checkup visits?  Is your doctor writing out prescriptions for you to take to the local pharmacy?  When you attend a clinic for XRays, MRIs etc how are the records forwarded to you/ your GP?

Huge investments being approved in the US to drive ePateint records/ ePrescribing – with targets for cost saving, improved patient care, etc.

Interesting discussion in recent BusinessWeek article re adoption of these solutions – and major costs involved for individual doctors or small clinics (e.g. 3 doctors).   Also covered in a Reuters story re ePrescribing  last month.

Given all of the challenges facing us in the Irish economy will be interesting to see how we can implement these types of solutions in the Irish market place – to drive quality of service and greater efficiency (and cost savings).

Book List: Books read recently

Books read recently

  • Richard Susskind: THE END OF LAWYERS? – Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services

    Discussed future of legal profession – challenges from clients, opportunities/threats arising through development in technology

  • Misha Glenny: The Fall of Yugoslavia

    Describes events in and around breakup of yugoslavia in 1991.

  • Richard Suskind: The Price of Loyalty

    Deals with Paul O'Neill's two years as Treasury Secretary in George W Bush's first term as President. Understandably written from one perspective. Paul O'Neill not a happy camper.

  • Alice Shroeder: The Snowball

    Warren Buffet and the Business of Life