Which issues are top of mind, or should be top of mind, for CIOs? Consider this list, gleaned from discussions with scores of U.S. and Indian CIOs, as well as from our own research.
No. 7: Leverage Social Media
Your customers, partners, and suppliers are talking about your company, its processes, and its products on some form of social media, whether that's Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, YouTube, or more specialized forums and portals. Companies need to monitor and participate in those conversations, especially with customers. Semantic analysis tools, in particular, can help companies mine that social dialog to shape new product development and upgrades, improve customer service, and refine sales and marketing initiatives.
At the very least, establish a social presence and see what you learn. For example, after introducing a motor bike aimed at girls and young women, TVS Motor, India's third-largest maker of two- and three-wheelers, created a Facebook fan page around the new brand and learned that its female buyers wanted a choice of about 100 colors rather than the standard four or five--so TVS updated its product offering accordingly, says CIO T.G. Dhandapani. Back in the U.S., the Facebook site of girls' clothing retailer Wet Seal has become one of the biggest drivers of its in-store and website traffic, thanks to coupons and other promotions, and its "shop with friends" functionality turns shoppers into buyers at 2.5 times the company's average online conversion rate.
Even though Gartner has listed "social computing" among its top 10 CIO priorities, it isn't so sure companies will succeed with it. Through 2012, the advisory firm predicts, more than 70% of IT-dominated social media initiatives will fail as IT organizations "struggle with shifting from providing a platform to delivering a solution."
No. 6: Find The Right People
Ask 10 technology vendor CEOs about their No. 1 priority, and they'll all give you the same answer: finding smart, skilled, talented people, even amid high unemployment. Just look at the battle for talent among industry players Google, Microsoft, Apple, Cisco, Facebook, and Zynga. In India, for instance, Facebook reportedly offered a 21-year-old computer science and engineering major a total compensation package valued at about $145,000, including signing bonus and relocation to the U.S.
Tech skills are hardly in such high demand at the IT shops of most U.S.-based companies. InformationWeek's 2011 IT Salary Survey, the most extensive in the industry, found the median total compensation raise for IT staffers to be just 0.9% this year, 1.9% for managers, indicating a tight job market. Compare those stats with the tech boom of 2001, when the median raise was 8.5% for IT staffers and 9.9% for managers. (Such annual raises are commonplace in India, where annual turnover among IT pros can run 20% or higher at tech companies.)
Still, certain tech skills are in very high demand in the U.S, according to our salary survey. Among managers: enterprise content management, data integration and data warehousing, business intelligence and data analytics, ERP, application development, and application integration. Among staffers, add security and Web infrastructure skills to that mix.
No. 5: Prep For The Post-PC Era
The PC turned 30 this year, and it's already looking ready for the retirement home. When Steve Jobs, the late Apple chairman, called this "the post-PC era" during the company's iPad introductions, he wasn't just tooting Apple's horn--Goldman Sachs estimates that tablets are displacing as many as one in three Windows PC sales. At a recent meeting InformationWeek hosted with top CIOs, they all agreed we're witnessing the slow demise of the PC. Even IBMer Mark Dean, one of the co-developers of the original personal computer, thinks the PC is "going the way of the vacuum tube, typewriter, vinyl records, CRT, and incandescent light bulbs."
We're seeing a proliferation of complementary, sometimes replacement business computing devices, most of them around the uber-trend of mobility: yes, tens of millions of tablets, led by the iPad, but also myriad iOS, Android, and BlackBerry smartphones loaded with enterprise applications. We're also seeing a proliferation of specialized computing devices in retail, warehousing, transportation, and other industries. We're hearing about general-purpose thin client devices from the likes of Samsung and Acer running Google's Chrome operating system. And we're seeing momentum around desktop virtualization.
Umesh Jain, CIO of YES Bank, the fourth-largest private sector bank in India, says he's close to picking a "desktop as a service" provider to give employees server-based access to gold-, silver-, or bronze-level Windows applications and services, either on company-issued dumb terminals or on their sandboxed personal devices. A BPO company or companies would provide the service to YES on a subscription basis, Jain says. Among the benefits: lower client hardware, security, and power costs.