CIOs 'struggling to manage' emerging technologies

You have to keep sailing the boat even if you can't control the wind, say CIOs

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Managing social networks and other collaborative technologies is presenting some quite acute control problems, according to CIOs participating in a panel at Cisco Systems's C-Scape analyst conference last week.

Randy Spratt, CIO at McKesson, a US medical services company, said trying to control the new social networking and mobile technologies was like piloting a sailboat. "You never know where the wind's coming from and how hard it is, but you have to ride with it and keep sailing," he said.

He said that employees often hear from small vendors trying to sell a few licences for Web 2.0 products to workgroups. Describing those vendors as "annoying ankle-biters," Spratt said, "They create a lot of headaches for me [but] are often at the cutting edge of new technologies."

The biggest IT concern, Spratt noted, was the possibility that using social networks could lead to legal trouble. "There could be loss of intellectual property, or inappropriate comments could be discovered," he said.

Rebecca Jacoby, Cisco's CIO, acknowledged that she has "abandoned any idea that you could possibly control" the new technologies, so she aims to teach employees how to use them properly in a corporate environment.

About 50,000 Cisco employees use wikis, which has challenged IT to create a proper infrastructure and make sure that the tools fit into the company's business processes, she added.

Energy group Chevron is implementing Microsoft's SharePoint collaboration software carefully, to ensure that it can maintain control of how it is used, said Louie Ehrlich, CIO for the company's global downstream operations.

"We're playing with things and being cautious," Ehrlich said. "We don't have a clear strategy." A key challenge, he added, was making sure the cost of managing the collaboration products doesn't stretch Chevron's IT budget.

In a recent report analyst IDC recently predicted that taming Web 2.0 and mobile technologies was set to be a key concern for CIOs in 2008.

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