Reflections from Palm Springs

Complete coverage: Computerworld P100

James Dallas, the closing speaker at Computerworld's Premier 100 IT Leaders conference this week, said CIOs need to take time out for reflection. So, heeding this advice, I used my time sitting in the Palm Springs, Calif., airport to do just that. Here I offer my personal reflections, my takeaways -- the things stuck in my head -- after the conference. It's an eclectic collection.

Private clouds are real. Revlon has one. Kaiser Permanente has one. Intel has one.

Avnet is really, really good at merger integration.

IT shops can produce revenue (not just indirectly but directly). Boeing does it by selling useful information about its planes to commercial and military airlines. It requires some very creative & entrepreneurial thinking. Not something every IT shop can do.

The old joke is that IT can deliver it fast, cheap or high-quality -- pick two. But now the business wants it all. CIOs have to provide operational excellence AND IT-led innovation. Scale AND flexibility. Cost savings AND quality services. As Guy Peri, director of BI at Procter & Gamble, put it: "We have to deliver the AND."

The elite IT shops "get it" when it comes to "extreme convergence" of business and IT. But it's important to remember that most IT organizations aren't that far along yet.

Those same elite IT shops are also big on having IT folks embedded in business operations, e.g., going on sales calls, dealing with customer service. It can be an eye-opening experience that yields new insights about how IT can help the business achieve its goals. Boeing, Intel and FedEx do it.

"Tech suppliers are better at marketing to end users than internal IT groups are." -- James Dallas of Medtronic. (This is a recipe for "rogue IT.")

CIOs report that business folks -- and especially the digital natives entering the workforce -- expect 100% uptime. The perception is that "it should just work. The tolerance for IT not working is zero," said Diane Bryant, CIO of Intel. This is a big challenge for CIOs, in terms of delivering that uptime and managing expectations.

CIOs are recognizing that employees -- especially the aforementioned digital natives -- expect applications to be incredibly easy to use, intuitive and require little or no training. Guy Peri, for example, said BI and visualization applications have to be "Apple-simple. If you need training, it isn't simple enough." (Apple-simple. A fascinating term. Dare I say a paradigm shift?) This is one under-reported aspect of the consumerization of IT.

There's tension between between the enterprise architects -- who see themselves as the enforcers of standards & security and generally say "no" to exceptions -- and the increasingly flexible IT leaders who are trying to accommodate the influx of consumer technologies and are trying to say "yes" to business requests.

CIOs have to "know when to be a dictator and when to be a diplomat." -- James Dallas

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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