General Technology, Technology

CIO Day, Amsterdam, Nov 16-17, 2009

On November 16 and 17, I was delighted to participate in an event just south of Amsterdam, Netherlands called CIO Day. It is an annual one and a half day event for the CIOs of primarily Dutch businesses but with some other European organizations represented. The theme of this years event was “Chief Impact Officer” and focused on how the CIO can bring increasing value to an organization. Despite the tough economic conditions, 600 people attended. The purpose of my participation was to host a roundtable on emerging technologies with CIOs and be part of a question and answer panel later in the day. The meeting was well attended and from what I can gather from the feedback, it was well received. Here is a summary of the discussion.

The discussion began with an overview of several macro trends: Increasing access to broadband across the globe and four times the number of mobile phones connected to the Internet than PC’s is further increasing the value, capability, and reach of the Web. However, there is recognition that many parts of the world still have poor Internet access. Global organizations are often forced to build applications for the weakest connection. This picture is gradually changing as broadband becomes increasingly ubiquitous. The cost of technology continues to decline. In some pricing models, netbooks for example, are given away free with other services. Free and low-cost hardware and software, subsidized through other means such as advertisements or optional premium services, and the recent recognition of open source software as a legitimate route for the enterprise, is further contributing towards the commoditization and reach of information and communication technology (ICT). ICT on its own may not contribute to competitive advantage, so innovation that is enabled by technology must become a core focus of the Chief Information Officer (CIO). In this light, it was also suggested that CIOs explore the creation of small IT innovation teams that focus on the potential for emerging technologies to, for example: reduce cost; disrupt existing business models; and/or create new opportunities.

A major trend that may even trump climate change and the energy crisis is the nature of demographic change. For example: aging populations; a shrinking tax-base; migratory patterns; and populations with hyper-connected and computer-literate youth cultures, are major societal game-changers.

The emergence of broadly accepted computing standards is helping data interchange which in turn leads to increasing the value of data. This coupled with the rapid accumulation of data through sensors and the myriad of transactions that exist in an individual system or those that are interconnected is resulting in data deluge. CIOs must look to leverage the data deluge in a positive way by evaluating data analysis solutions and exploring technology techniques such as mash-ups.

Before discussing specific emerging technologies, the CIOs were asked to think about the profile category in which they currently viewed themselves with regard to new technology adoption. The three categories were: (a) aggressive, (b) moderate, and (c) conservative. Recognizing a specific organizations approach is a helpful lens through which to view emerging technologies. Specifically, not all technologies will have the same impact to individual organizations dependent on its profile.

When the conversation turned to specific technologies, the following areas were briefly discussed: cloud computing (leveraging computing services typically from an externally hosted provider on an as-needed basis) and the group represented all perspectives from first-movers to watchful waiters; increasing use of enterprise open-source software (often free, community developed software) with many participants already leveraging it; consumerization (clearly a behavior not a technology, where employees are bringing their own computing hardware and software to work) with all members recognizing this in some form at their organization but with clearly different risk capacities; “video everywhere” with some divergent views on when and how this would manifest in the enterprise; and the rapid adoption of mobile technologies and the emergent attendant advantages brought about by location awareness. The latter was the least explored but the most interesting to the group in terms of potential for business opportunity.

Overall, the discussion was far-reaching in its scope of subjects. However, the objective of raising a number of valuable thought-provoking items related to emerging technologies was met.

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