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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Built for the cloud or moving to the cloud

Exciting times for CIOs and business executives – real options from both Microsoft and Google to support their information workers.

For those brought up on Microsoft, with what seems like unlimited (if somewhat daunting) functionality in the Office suite, it always seems that the Google Apps suite is ‘dumbed down’ – you are required to give up some functionality.   On the other hand it may seem like nearly everything you actually  need to do can be done in Google Apps – and there’s less to learn.

The cloud seems to have caught fire.  Microsoft has been pushing aggressively on its BPOS offering and the pricing has become a lot sharper.  Meanwhile Google has been busily beefing up its sales and support resources around Google Apps.

Either way both offerings have many attractions for the CIO – in terms of taking away headaches around upgrades, storage, support, etc.

And both offer lots of functionality in the collaboration type space – wikis, blogs, etc.

Side by side with this there are all the other players e.g. zoho with a very comprehensive offering for the information worker – also priced on a subscription basis.  And for project management basecamp seems to be getting a great deal of traction.  And one goes back to the previous thought – are some of these simpler, built for the cloud, product offerings easier to use, if somewhat ‘dumbed down’?

Interesting piece in Forbes re Google, ‘When Google runs your life’.  Seems to me that no more than Microsoft pushing wall-to-wall MS, Google is inevitably pushing google wall-to-wall.  Apologies for unfortunate use of outdated imagery – probably should be cloud-2-cloud.

I think much of the elegance of the web 2.0 applications has been their simplicity and ease of use.  That has driven initial uptake. Products such as googlewave, in trying to deliver a very rich solution, risk contradicting some of this.  There are similar risks in any vendor looking to achieve cloud-2-cloud dominance.

Seems to me that what the internet and the cloud  should be offering – as they evolve – are  easier and more effective ways to access resources (people, knowledge) – both inside and outside the organisation in which you work/ study/ volunteer.  Cloud based computing is part of this.  I think as such the winning solutions may be ones built from scratch for the cloud, expecting to coexist in the cloud, not expecting to dominate.