What Practices Shape Your Best IT Decisions?

Elana Varon

Elana Varon

Independent Contributor
Elana Varon is an award-winning editor with more than 20 years of experience writing about IT and facilitiating conversations among CIOs. Her coverage of technology, IT-enabled business innovation and the CIO role have been recognized by American Business Media, the American Society of Business Publication Editors and Media Business. As executive editor of CIO magazine from 2006-2011, Elana led a team of writers, editors and designers to produce the industry-leading publication for business and technology executives. You can also find her on Twitter, LinkedIn and at her personal blog, Cochituate Media.

A study by the MIT Center for Information Systems Research concludes that the quality of a company’s IT portfolio (and in turn, it’s financial performance) is influenced heavily by two factors: 1) how well senior executives understand IT, and 2) the extent to which they are engaged with IT in an ongoing conversation about the contribution IT can make to achieving business goals. 

MIT calls the latter “demand shaping.” Researchers observe that more companies are engaging in demand shaping practices such as cost transparency, creating roadmaps for change, and using agile methodologies. What is one practice you’ve used to improve the quality of IT investment decisions? Why do you think it works?

Digitization at the Top of CIO Priority Lists

Vic Bhagat

Vic Bhagat

@VicBhagat Chief Information Officer at EMC Corporation
Vic Bhagat, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer, joined EMC in January 2013 to lead EMC’s Information Technology, Global Centers of Excellence, Global Business Services and Indirect Procurement organizations. Together, Bhagat and his global, unified team are responsible for evolving to a more elastic and contemporary IT organization; providing the services and support to enable EMC to optimize enterprise processes; and driving agility, growth, innovation, and revenue generation for EMC. Prior to joining EMC, Bhagat spent more than 20 years as CIO for multiple GE organizations including GE Aviation Services, GE Global Growth and Operations, CNBC, GE Corporate, and GE India and Southeast Asia. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Information Management and Marketing from the University of Louisville and a diploma in Physics and Mathematics from Agra University in India.

Over the last three decades in this industry, I’ve seen many impressively disruptive waves of technology, but I have never witnessed as many waves hitting simultaneously as we are seeing today.

While we can and will pursue many of these, as CIOs in a hypercompetitive global environment, we have to catch the wave that makes the biggest impact on enabling the business and accelerating our revenue and business growth.  In 2015, I predict the highest priority for CIOs is digitization.

As the digital economy pushes enterprises to analyze and solve problems faster, businesses are asking CIOs and IT professionals to help reduce complexities, improve synergies across organizations, and leverage existing information regardless of where it resides.  For instance, my team is extending our data lake architecture capabilities to enable multiple organizations to make data-driven decisions and accelerate the value for the business like never before. To do this, CIOs and IT professionals must:

  • Start at “home” by automating and digitizing critical IT processes and services. This is essential for IT-as-a-Service to be successful.
  • Partner even closer with our businesses units to truly understand their requirements and how we can help them.
  • Take advantage of the analytical and data science knowledge and activities that have been surfacing throughout the company, so we leverage existing best practices and prioritize projects rather than reinvent the wheel.
  • Explore how we can build capabilities and flexibility into our data lake solution to allow users to incorporate more publicly available data into their analyses.
  • Capture and share all the incredible data science knowledge we have in the company to train and help our users to go beyond analysis paralysis and get the most out of the wealth of data.
  • Build data-driven apps that simplify the experience for our users and allow them to have the information they need at their fingertips.

While we still love technology, CIOs are now strategists and business enablers.  In 2015 and beyond, we must strive to help our companies differentiate their products and services; reduce development and sales cycles; and optimize business processes and performance.  Digitization (and big data analytics) is essential.

Does Your Board Need a Cybersecurity Committee?

Elana Varon

Elana Varon

Independent Contributor
Elana Varon is an award-winning editor with more than 20 years of experience writing about IT and facilitiating conversations among CIOs. Her coverage of technology, IT-enabled business innovation and the CIO role have been recognized by American Business Media, the American Society of Business Publication Editors and Media Business. As executive editor of CIO magazine from 2006-2011, Elana led a team of writers, editors and designers to produce the industry-leading publication for business and technology executives. You can also find her on Twitter, LinkedIn and at her personal blog, Cochituate Media.

Entrepreneur and corporate director Betsy Atkins says cybersecurity risks have made information security oversight an important area of corporate governance, and therefore boards need cybersecurtiy committees to oversee company security policies and practices. Maybe you should even have some cybersecurity experts among your directors.

Does your board have a committee focused on cybersecuity, or are you creating one? What are some reasons to do it, or not? If you have one, what advice do you have for companies that want to get started?

Out With Old Technologies

Elana Varon

Elana Varon

Independent Contributor
Elana Varon is an award-winning editor with more than 20 years of experience writing about IT and facilitiating conversations among CIOs. Her coverage of technology, IT-enabled business innovation and the CIO role have been recognized by American Business Media, the American Society of Business Publication Editors and Media Business. As executive editor of CIO magazine from 2006-2011, Elana led a team of writers, editors and designers to produce the industry-leading publication for business and technology executives. You can also find her on Twitter, LinkedIn and at her personal blog, Cochituate Media.

Maybe the real evidence that new technologies have finally taken hold is when the old ones fall away. It looks as if traditional, landline voicemail is finally on its way out. Coca-Cola has eliminated voicemail at its headquarters–one of the biggest companies, according to Bloomberg, to do so.

Company leaders say this will make employees more productive. I’m guessing almost no one used it anyway. Coca-Cola workers who wanted to keep their voicemail had to demonstrate a “critical business need” (only 6 percent did). Which technologies or platforms are you planning to kill in the next year?

Are You An Innovative Leader?

Elana Varon

Elana Varon

Independent Contributor
Elana Varon is an award-winning editor with more than 20 years of experience writing about IT and facilitiating conversations among CIOs. Her coverage of technology, IT-enabled business innovation and the CIO role have been recognized by American Business Media, the American Society of Business Publication Editors and Media Business. As executive editor of CIO magazine from 2006-2011, Elana led a team of writers, editors and designers to produce the industry-leading publication for business and technology executives. You can also find her on Twitter, LinkedIn and at her personal blog, Cochituate Media.

Innovative leaders have excellent strategic vision, a strong customer focus and won’t throw their colleagues under the bus when something goes wrong. These are the most important traits uncovered in a study of 33 leaders at a telecommunications company by consultants at Zenger/Folkman. In an article for HBR.org, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman say they think their conclusions apply across industries and cross-culturally.

Though an ability to inspire the team makes their top 10, it’s last on the list. I suspect that’s because you need to demonstrate the other nine in order to inspire anyone. Three traits relate to communication: being receptive to ideas that come from the bottom up, persuasiveness, and honesty. The remaining three relate to setting goals and executing them.

The one that strikes me as hardest to practice ranks fourth: you’re not there to make your boss happy. Loyalty to the organization and customers should come first. Do you agree? How do you convey that idea to your team?

Competing for Cloud Computing Talent

Elana Varon

Elana Varon

Independent Contributor
Elana Varon is an award-winning editor with more than 20 years of experience writing about IT and facilitiating conversations among CIOs. Her coverage of technology, IT-enabled business innovation and the CIO role have been recognized by American Business Media, the American Society of Business Publication Editors and Media Business. As executive editor of CIO magazine from 2006-2011, Elana led a team of writers, editors and designers to produce the industry-leading publication for business and technology executives. You can also find her on Twitter, LinkedIn and at her personal blog, Cochituate Media.

A Forbes contributor crunched some numbers on cloud computing jobs, using data from Wanted Analytics, and identified 15 companies with the largest number of openings. Five are major IT software and services firms (with IBM, Oracle and Amazon at the top) and four (including the Army National Guard) are focused on national security. The remainder include health insurers, financial services firms and consultancies.

The numbers suggest intense competition in these industries. I’m wondering, though, whether that’s spilling over into other sectors. How important is industry-specific expertise? Does a need for industry knowledge narrow your options even further?

A Model for Deciding Who Owns Big Data?

Elana Varon

Elana Varon

Independent Contributor
Elana Varon is an award-winning editor with more than 20 years of experience writing about IT and facilitiating conversations among CIOs. Her coverage of technology, IT-enabled business innovation and the CIO role have been recognized by American Business Media, the American Society of Business Publication Editors and Media Business. As executive editor of CIO magazine from 2006-2011, Elana led a team of writers, editors and designers to produce the industry-leading publication for business and technology executives. You can also find her on Twitter, LinkedIn and at her personal blog, Cochituate Media.

Farmers and agriculture technology providers have worked out a set of principles for deciding who owns the data that farmers provide when they purchase advanced analytics services. At the heart of the agreement: farmers own their data. Service providers must be transparent about how that data is being used, and they can only use it as long as they have explicit permission to do so.

Tech Republic’s Michael Kassner summarizes the agreement here. A copy of the full list of principles, from American Farm Bureau is here. Could this be a model for other industries, or for agreements between companies and consumers?

Are Your IT Management Practices Outdated?

Elana Varon

Elana Varon

Independent Contributor
Elana Varon is an award-winning editor with more than 20 years of experience writing about IT and facilitiating conversations among CIOs. Her coverage of technology, IT-enabled business innovation and the CIO role have been recognized by American Business Media, the American Society of Business Publication Editors and Media Business. As executive editor of CIO magazine from 2006-2011, Elana led a team of writers, editors and designers to produce the industry-leading publication for business and technology executives. You can also find her on Twitter, LinkedIn and at her personal blog, Cochituate Media.

InformationWeek has a twist on the typical year-end “what’s hot, what’s not” list. Contributor Andi Mann offers a dozen IT management practices to abandon and suggests replacements. Some examples of practices that you should throw out: command and control, executive mandates and “feature complete” products. Instead, embrace network effects, collaboration and “good enough.” Are there processes or practices that you’ve decided are outdated? What are they, and how will the way you operate change?

You can read Andi Mann’s full article here: CIO Checklist: Ready For The Disrupted, Digital World?

How Do You Tell Business Users Their Projects Need More Time?

Elana Varon

Elana Varon

Independent Contributor
Elana Varon is an award-winning editor with more than 20 years of experience writing about IT and facilitiating conversations among CIOs. Her coverage of technology, IT-enabled business innovation and the CIO role have been recognized by American Business Media, the American Society of Business Publication Editors and Media Business. As executive editor of CIO magazine from 2006-2011, Elana led a team of writers, editors and designers to produce the industry-leading publication for business and technology executives. You can also find her on Twitter, LinkedIn and at her personal blog, Cochituate Media.

“You should never go live based on a deadline. You go live when the product is ready and the people are ready to use the product,” says John Halamka, CIO at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (among other roles), in an interview with ZDNet blogger Michael Krigsman. “If you go live too early no one will ever forget; if you go live late no one will ever remember.”

That seems like sound advice for avoiding failure–one topic of their conversation. But I doubt it means you can take your time when delivering new capabilities. How do you communicate with business users when deploying new technologies, so they understand when projects need extra care?

John Halamanka’s full article can be read here: Harvard Medical professor and CIO on Failure and Massive Transparency

How Do You Get IT and Marketing Really Working Together?

Elana Varon

Elana Varon

Independent Contributor
Elana Varon is an award-winning editor with more than 20 years of experience writing about IT and facilitiating conversations among CIOs. Her coverage of technology, IT-enabled business innovation and the CIO role have been recognized by American Business Media, the American Society of Business Publication Editors and Media Business. As executive editor of CIO magazine from 2006-2011, Elana led a team of writers, editors and designers to produce the industry-leading publication for business and technology executives. You can also find her on Twitter, LinkedIn and at her personal blog, Cochituate Media.

CIOs and CMOs know they need to work together, but they’re still not getting much done, Forrester Research reports. A new survey of 308 marketing and IT leaders found ” virtually no progress in solving the problems that CMOs and CIOs face in turning large amounts of data into actionable customer insights,” writes analyst Sheryl Pattek.

Among Pattek’s ideas to improve collaboration: define a joint vision, and get cracking on development of a data center of excellence. What steps did you take in your organization to get marketing and IT really working together? Are there lessons from your work with other business functions that apply?