Wanna see something really scary?

With Halloween just around the corner, it’s time to get creative about how you can scare the pants off of the people in your IT organisation. I’ve been attending a fair amount of CIO events recently, and in the spirit of Halloween I...

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With Halloween just around the corner, it’s time to get creative about how you can scare the pants off of the people in your IT organisation. I’ve been attending a fair amount of CIO events recently, and in the spirit of Halloween I put together a few costumes that I can guarantee will keep your CIO up at night.

  • A Storm Cloud. While “The Fog” might have scared your CIO in 1980, thirty years later it's the cloud that is scaring him. Despite all of the hype around "as-a-service technologies" over the past two years, Forrester has found 48% of IT decision makers still say they are “not interested” or “have no plans to adopt” software-as-a-service -- a number that rises for other cloud-based offerings. Why the lack of interest? Security, integration, and lack of customisation top the list of key SaaS concerns. Yet, as the cost savings and purchasing flexibility benefits becomes increasingly obvious, IT professionals know they have to get comfortable with their fears to reap the cost-saving and flexibility benefits that cloud-based offerings provide. (Extra costume points: Grab a lunch tray and say you are a cloud-based “server”. A full 59% of IT decision-makers say they are not interested or have no plans to adopt infrastructure-as-a-service.)
  • Mark Zuckerberg. You didn’t think the movie “The Social Network” was a horror film? Your CIO did. The CIOs I have spoken with recently know that social computing is fundamentally changing the way that their workforce does business, but many have not figured out how to harness its power within their business. They have to wrestle with new security, compliance, and integration issues - and get the entire organisation (including their CEO) behind the use of the tools that they adopt. The most forward thinking SVM professionals know that they have a role in researching and identifying social tools -- like community platform providers -- that are enterprise-ready (Jive, Telligent, and Lithum are examples). Still, far too many companies remain in the dark about why social collaboration is more than just a passing fad. (Extra costume points: Hire a team of friends to dress up as lawyers to follow you around to fend off litigious ex-Facebook employees.)
  • The Mac Guy. Remember that too-hip-for-school dude who was always making the poor PC guy look stupid? Teenagers love him, CIOs hate him. I have found that CIOs spend a disproportionate amount of time discussing Apple products, because they know that their PCs are starting to look outdated to a new generation of information workers. I think there is something else going on here: Apple has become a sort of CIO proxy for the much larger trend of “technology populism” - the trend of self-provisioned consumer technology in the business. Recent Forrester data showed that almost 27% of workers now indicate that the technology they use at home is better than the technology they have at work, and this number rises to 34% for Generation Y workers! Already, we see many enterprises embracing a host of consumer technologies to empower their workforce and gain an edge on competition - something explored in Forrester’s new book “Empowered.” (Extra costume points: dress  as "Empowered" co-author Josh Bernoff and get quoted on National Public Radio.)
  • A Mongolian Death Worm. I’ll admit I chose this primarily because of its cool name (look it up -- it may or may not be real), but at the core this sounds like a really scary worm. You want to know what else was a really scary worm? The Stuxnet worm, which is just one example of the countless threats CIOs face related to the IT security of their companies. But the scariest part about security threats is that it gets more complicated every day: all of the trends on this list create security issues that your CIO must defend. But help is on the way: Forrester sees more IT service providers -like Deloitte and Accenture-- marketing their robust security and risk management consulting services, and Forrester expects the managed security services market to grow roughly 8% in 2010. Further, while cloud-based technologies seem scary to your CIO today, “as a service” security offerings have the potential to be a major benefit to your CIO in the future. (Extra points: figure out how to dress as a virus.)

  • Your Chief Operating Officer. Now, this would be downright mean. Most IT professionals I speak with know that their IT organisation needs to operate more like a business, but are struggling with the transformation. In particular, CIOs are frustrated by the fact that they are under pressure from COOs to cut costs in everything they do, while also providing increasingly high levels of IT-driven innovation . Though this tension is nothing new to SVM professionals, the best organisations look at “costs” holistically, recognising that squeezing every last dollar out of a contract must go hand-in-hand with establishing strategic relationships with vendors. They are also constantly working with their business counterparts to highlight their innovation capabilities and cost constraints. (Extra points: tape a piece of cardboard to your head and make it look like an Excel spreadsheet. Add in a lot of red numbers for effect.)

Of course, if you want to be a nice person, and actually help your CIO sleep at night, dress as a superhero. Why? CIOs are starting to realise that, in an age where technology is becoming embedded in business process, they can’t be expected to understand the benefits and risks of every single technology they manage. They need people like you - highly empowered and resourceful operatives (HEROes) - to play this role.

As one CIO told me recently “when I have a problem, I pick up the phone and call one of my HEROes. I don’t have all the answers, but I know they do, and that’s just as good in my opinion.” SVM can be a hero by knowing which new technology trends affect their business the most and playing a proactive role in market research, vendor selection, and risk mitigation.

So as you are working on your costume, recognise that it is in part your responsibility - the day after Halloween at least - to be a HERO, understand these threats, and get your organisation comfortable with the changing face of technology.
Got other (technology-focused) Halloween costumes to suggest? Post them here -- I’ll try to post the most creative. Also, If you are interested in how these topics relate to the changing role of sourcing, attend Forrester’s Sourcing and Vendor Management Forum 2010.

Posted by Christopher Andrews

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