InformationWeek, September 18, 2000.
The Big Picture:
(Almost) Everything Old Is New
What keeps CIOs up at night these days? A lot of the same things that have always given them insomnia.
By Leon A. Kappelmanhad the good fortune of spending a recent morning facilitating a roundtable discussion with several dozen CIOs. It was almost as good as being a fly on the wall with these seasoned, successful IT veterans from almost every industry and segment of the economy. The purpose of the session was to explore common interests and concerns, share solutions and stresses, get to know each other, and discuss pressing issues. The ground rules were few and dealt with protecting anonymity, complying with the law, and avoiding gossip.
To stimulate things, a list of topics was circulated in advance. These were then posted around the room, each on its own flip chart. Among the topics were E-commerce and E-business; HR and personnel issues; standardization; mergers and divestitures; legal, ethical, and public-policy issues; the development "methodology" of the future; finding viable business models; and metrics.
After reading the ground rules and pointing out the flip-charted topics, we began with "What's keeping you up at night?" It wasn't technology or any of the buzzwords du jour. Although the CIOs recognized the voluminous and profound changes that have taken place during their varied decades in IT, the message was that "the basics don't change (much)."
CIO insomnia was connected to things such as the expanding role of CIOs and IT management, resource constraints in times of increasing IT budgets, rising user expectations, and the increased priority of IT in the enterprise. Vendor hype and the negative-quality implications of the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act ("Killer Apps And Dead Bodies," 6/26/00) were concerns, too, as were privacy, credibility, accountability, and staff retention.
As I sit in my office surrounded by the flip charts, I notice how certain repeated concepts seem to describe the times we live in--change, blurring boundaries, time, speed, and productivity among them ("Working In The Global Village," 3/20/00). I also see solution words and concepts appearing several times in different contexts--metrics, quality, the business, learning, balance, management, expectations, and relationships stand out.
A few subjects received more attention than others--people issues, for one. On the one hand, personnel concerns such as retention and career paths were big, but the solution was focused on things such as workplace quality and providing a sense of community and belonging for employees. The blurring boundary between home and work, combined with our ever-increasing connectedness and pace, seem to be at the root of something significant taking place--and not just among IT workers. The learning organization, one that learns from its mistakes yet stays on the path of continuous improvement, seems to be emerging as a preferred workplace in the new century. The notion of finding balance was a standout, too. Not just in terms of that balance most all of us seek between our work and lives, but also the balance between the old and the new, as well as between IT and the business. Another dimension of this is the trade-off between speed and quality, especially in the context of system development. Metrics are related to seeking balance--to help tie IT to the business, to facilitate risk and quality management, to improve project and productivity management, as well as IT investment decision-making, and to foster better expectations management.
Our time was about to run out, so we turned to exploring the critical success factors for CIOs in the new century--the things they must do right if they're going to succeed. Some were things we've seen in various forms before, but some were new:
(Please Note: This article first appeared in InformationWeek, September 18, 2000.)
Copyright ® 2000 CMP Media Inc.