Strategic CIO // Team Building & Staffing
Commentary
11/12/2009
12:30 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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Global CIO: IT-Led Opportunities Abound, So Stop Sniveling

Lose the Depends and ask yourself why you find it so hard to believe when so many before us have given us so very much to work with.

Are the best days of the technology business behind us? I could almost understand why some people might entertain such a thought because these are indeed the days pessimists live for: a challenged global economy, uncertainty in many markets, shaky employment prospects, a widespread tendency toward risk aversion, questions about how effective IT really is, and in some precincts, a sense that the server of today is the buggy whip of tomorrow and that the transformative magic of information technology is gone.

To those of you who feel yourselves sliding toward such feelings, I say put a little steel in your spine and spend more time thinking about your customers and the opportunities they represent and a little less time thinking about how rough we have it today.

To those of you who spread such baleful forecasts and who choose to wallow in what you think is hard-edged doom and gloom but is in fact a glaring lack of courage and personal responsibility, I say lose the Depends and ask yourself why you find it so hard to believe when so many before us have given us so very much to work with.

C'mon, folks--have we really learned nothing in the past 110 years? Because it was way back in 1899 that the leader of the still-thriving ZITS (Zero Innovation & Technologically Shortsighted) Society, U.S. Commissioner of Patents Charles H. Duell, dolefully intoned, "Everything that can be invented has been invented." In hindsight we look back and say, "What complete rubbish!" And yet far too many of us today are expressing that same type of dreary, no-hope outlook.

Well buck up, you snivelers out there, because we've only just begun to scratch the surface of what's possible when we take the massive intelligence jammed into information systems and begin spreading it across cars and appliances and buildings and tools and machines and water systems and oil exploration and healthcare and much more.

In a speech one year ago, IBM CEO Sam Palmisano offered this perspective: "The transistor, invented 60 years ago, is the basic building block of the digital age. Now, consider a world in which there are a billion transistors per human, each one costing one ten-millionth of a cent. We'll have that by 2010. There will likely be 4 billion mobile phone subscribers by the end of this year ... and 30 billion Radio Frequency Identification tags produced globally within two years. Sensors are being embedded across entire ecosystems--supply-chains, healthcare networks, cities ... even natural systems like rivers."

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Yes, that's a broad vision, but that's what's required. Take that and extend it to your own industry or business. Sporting goods: How could an intelligent tennis racket improve the player's experience? More intelligence in power tools? More intelligence in meters and motors and mowers and mittens? Smarter bicycles and bananas?

Who's going to connect all that stuff in ways that your customers will pay for? Who's going to take different combinations of all the data those intelligent thingamajigs are spewing and turn it into insights?

The answer's the same as it has always been: It'll be you, or it'll be your competitor. So let's get busy.

Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO, or write to Bob at bevans@techweb.com.

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