Business users everywhere these days seem to be losing their collective minds and going rogue. Not in the inimitable style of a certain former governor of Alaska, but in the combative style of impatient teenagers who want what they want when they want it. (That would be now.)
Stories by Maryfran Johnson
"I'm so done with alignment," declared the CIO pacing across the stage at our CIO Perspectives New York event a few weeks ago. "It's not even part of the conversation anymore. IT and the business are in this together. Period."
Debates about how CIOs can earn a "seat at the table" have been going on for so long now that the phrase itself has become a tiresome cliche.
What used to be the sweetest deal on the planet for ERP vendors has left a bitter aftertaste in the mouths of many CIOs. With maintenance and support costs running upwards of 20 percent annually, these legacy systems are costly, complicated and customized to the max.
Let's take the glamorous title of "Global CIO" and break it down into some of the job realities. What do multinational CIOs have to do that their domestic counterparts don't?
Now here's a real classic on the comeback trail: developing your own applications. Sounds so retro, doesn't it? The kind of thing startups do when the CEO doubles as the chief product engineer and surrounds himself with a cabal of graduates writing code. So what's going on when large pharmaceutical companies, insurers, hotel chains, health care providers and online powerhouses like travel firm Orbitz are found, in this day and age, productively rolling their own?
I was chatting up the CIO of a large manufacturing company recently, and we got on the subject of who really runs his IT organization. He singled out two key IT executives, one in charge of the infrastructure side -- all the hardware, networking and moving parts -- and one in charge of the software side, where the data management, enterprise applications and business logic live.
The phone rang one Saturday afternoon, and over the line came the kindly voice of a woman from MasterCard's fraud-detection unit. Was I aware that my card was currently making the rounds? "What kind of charges?" I asked, listening as she read off the itinerary of my credit card as it visited an overpriced hair salon, a pharmacy, a shoe store and a restaurant.
As any enterprise customer who's spent time with Sanjay Kumar will confirm, the former CEO of Computer Associates International is a genuinely nice man, a talented business leader and a well-respected figure in the industry. In every regard, Kumar is viewed as a vast improvement over his contentious mentor, infamous CA co-founder Charles Wang.
Raise your hand if you're tired of the perpetual debate about how important the CIO role is to the business. (I'm picturing a veritable sea of hands out there.) I know I'm beyond bored with discussions about who's got a "seat at the table" and who doesn't. I don't care if the CIO reports to the chief executive or to the CFO. And I've lost all interest in whether the top IT exec rose up through the programmer ranks or hopped a cubicle wall from the business side.
No more what? Have I lost my mind? No, just my tolerance for the stigma of slapping an "IT" label on projects that would be far better served by more accurate, less legacy-driven descripters. Such as? How about "customer project","compliance project", "supply chain project" or "process improvement project"?
Like oblivious revellers in the last days of the Roman Empire, enterprise software vendors are enjoying themselves at customers’ expense with ever-increasing maintenance fees, overpriced support costs and forced-march upgrades. Imagine their shock when this party comes crashing to its inevitable end.
When all was said and done, did Mydoom spell doom for your company? Did the fast-spreading, widely publicized virus bring your enterprise down in a tangle of clogged e-mail systems and overwhelmed servers during the past few weeks?
Tony Scott has been coming to Comdex for 15 years, although as the chief technology officer at General Motors he could clearly delegate the task. He still makes the annual trek to Las Vegas because the legendary trade show, even on its deathbed, gives him “a snapshot of what’s really being adopted” by other technology buyers.
There's something ironic about the way so many vendors are talking about simplifying computing environments yet struggling to explain their visions in terms that make sense to anybody.