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Saturday, July 21, 2007

The CIO Conundrum

I call it the “CIO Conundrum”, and it goes something like this: you are the CIO of a large company and each year, your budget is, on average, decreasing by about 4%. And, most of the money you’re allocated (perhaps 70% of more) is used to maintain your existing environment, with probably a lot of legacy stuff in there. Of course, your users are demanding more and more features with greater accessibility to key data. And, if you are like most Fortune 500 companies, you probably have over 40 different financial systems and three ERP systems*. These systems are obviously each performing similar functions, but perhaps not exactly the same way (think 48 different versions of tax calculation).

To make matters worse, your company’s end-user customers want seamless, consistent access to their information. For example, if you are a brokerage house, your customers want access to their accounts and trading platform from anywhere including their cell phones. And, if the customers have multiple accounts (ie savings, corporate stock plan, 401K, capital growth, etc.), they absolutely want a common interface and “look and feel” into each of their accounts. The customers don’t care what applications are running in your environment, nor do they particularly care which databases, operating systems, and hardware are there. They expect it all to work and to give them what they want, when they want it. And, no doubt that if you don’t meet these user’s needs, your competitors will.

And, if that weren’t challenging enough for our hypothetical CIO, you are also being held more and more accountable for business results. You are no longer just a cost center. You are actually being asked to contribute to the business at the top line as well, and you may even have a seat at the executive committee table.

Hmm. That sounds like a pretty daunting task, and it is. That is the “CIO Conundrum”, and it is what makes the modern-day CIO job a very difficult role. But, the good news is that there is a way to solve this conundrum. And, that was the thrust of my keynote talk at the InterOpen Forum yesterday in Minneapolis. The forum was designed to help senior business executives leverage open solutions and interoperability toward improved business performance.

My talk was titled Harnessing Mass Collaboration for Business Results – How Open Source and Web 2.0 Are Solving the “CIO Conundrum”. We had a full house in the beautiful Wheelock Whitney Hall at the Minneapolis Community & Technical College. We had a great discussion in the hall, and also heard a wonderful presentation from Dominic Sartorio, President of the Open Solutions Alliance (OSA) who presented “A Case for Customer Centricity” and the activities within the OSA. Michael Grove, OpenITWorks CEO, also spoke about collaborative projects to drive business results. My special thanks to Ron Fresquez, CEO TOSTA, for setting up a great event (and also for the great dinner at Brit’s Pub
... although we never got around to lawn bowling).

If you are interested in seeing any of the presentations, send me an email and I’ll be happy to forward them to you.

*2006 Bloor Research report

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Red Hat SI Breakfast outside Washington DC

Served on a panel discussion at today’s Red Hat breakfast seminar entitled: The Next Big Open Source Migration – SOA: Simple, Open, Affordable. I was joined by very knowledgeable panel members including Robert Ames, BU Executive at IBM; Drew Cohen, Senior Principal at Booze Allen, and Joe Dickman, Program Director for AEM (Applied Engineering Management). The keynote was delivered by Shaun Connolly, who I believe the last time he and I were together was in Vegas at JBoss World right after they were purchased by Red Hat. Lynne Corddry (RedHat VP Business Development, Public Sector), an old friend from her days running Federal Systems & Technology for Unisys, chaired the event.

The attendees were mainly folks from Government, but they all had an interest in SOA and the future of the JBoss stack. It was a packed house and a lot of great questions were asked, including how best to go about choosing the right components (open source and commercial) in datacenter environments. The folks at RedHat did a very nice job organizing the breakfast and hosting the event (check out the photo of 2941 Restaurant). It was also very nice to finally meet Paul Smith face-to-face. Paul is the RedHat VP for Government Sales Operations. He and I have chatted many times on the phone, but somehow found a way to keep missing each other over the past year.

I was a little disappointed that upon reading the recently published Red Hat 2007 Annual Report, on page 7 under the category: Support by leading independent software and hardware vendors to the large enterprise, there was no mention of Unisys. Somewhat unfortunate given that we were the first vendor in the world to scale Red Hat Linux beyond four processors, the first to scale it to 32 processors, and that we run one of the largest commercial database environments on Red Hat Linux. And, I believe we were the first vendor to achieve EAL 3/4 certification with Red Hat. Hopefully Matthew will take notice and address in their next 10K report :-).

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Open Source in Washington, DC

I had the wonderful opportunity to present at the Breakthrough Technology Innovations: Creating Secure and Agile Infrastructures conference. It was held last week at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC and was attended by well over one hundred government executives. The opening keynote was delivered by John Garing, DISA CIO. John spoke about the rate at which change is occurring and showed the now extremely popular Shift Happens Youtube video. John seems to be doing some great things in DISA and it was a great honor to meet him and a few of his staff members.

The panel session on Modernization was hosted by my friend and colleague, John Carrow. John’s extensive experience in both government and commercial industry coupled with his engaging speaking style make him a “must see” speaker. John also authored a guest-spot on my blog a few months ago ... definitely worth reading. My talk last week focused on how the open source development model of mass collaboration is changing the world. It was an engaging day with much audience interaction.

One of the interesting topics that came up from a few of the Government folks was security of open source. They really wanted to understand how open source compared to commercial software from a security perspective and felt that there wasn’t enough information in the general public on this topic, particularly at the executive business level. Although there are lots of discussions and opinions on this topic (“with enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”), I agreed to put together a high-level white paper on open source security for government usage. So, stay tuned as I put that together.

Lastly, another really useful blog on open source in government is my colleague Christian Wernberg’s blog
. His focus is more European, but the topics are applicable all over the world. Christian also authored the chapter in the Open Source for Knowledge and Learning Management book (which I has the honor of editing) on how governments evaluate open source.