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Global CIO: Cognizant Sees CIOs Driving For Growth & Transformation

CIOs are leaning on SaaS, social networks and the cloud as they ask the big new question: What business am I in today?
**major SaaS implementations ("way beyond just having the Topeka office on Salesforce.com");

**Infrastructure as a Service to hammer away at the currently prohibitive costs of keeping the lights on;

**Business Process as a Service for time-sensitive opportunities like mortgage modifications where "you need to do it now and don't want to endure another 18-month death march"; and,

**an rapidly increasing acceptance of the SaaS model spurred by consumer technology that's often so vastly superior to enterprise technology. "Take the iPhone as an example—an app costs $1.99. If I buy it and don't like it, big deal—it cost $1.99! At the enterprise level, it means you have alternatives to those gut-wrenching decisions of whether to sign off on 18 to 24 months for $10 million to $20 million," he said. Companies are eagerly embracing the idea of running SaaS trials that can often lead to outcomes that are better, faster, and cheaper.

But—and you knew there was a but coming, didn't you?—these blissful engagements are often interrupted by a group Frank referred to as "the tree-huggers," who raise endless objections about whether it's really scalable or manageable or securable and what about integration and on and on and on.

"Don't get me wrong—those are of course deeply vital issues," Frank said. "But at some point, in this economic environment, you've got to be willing to make a decision and jump into the new way of doing things."

So Cognizant is helping mollify the tree-huggers by showing them the advantages the new approaches can bring; by helping clients develop social-net strategies that take into account not just the new technologies but the new workers who are so interconnected with them; and by helping IT realize that three vital new vectors on which it must execute are efficiency, innovation, and virtualization.

But beyond the technology issues, Frank said, there are always the thornier challenges of dealing with human beings and dynamic human behavior and expectations.

"The CIO at a big pharmaceuticals company we work with had started a huge effort to bring in workers based in the U.S. and they hired lots of great people of all ages," Frank said. "But they found that among the Millenials they brought in in that new round of hires, they had 100% turnover. And exit interviews showed it was primarily due to a ban on social networking.

"They had one really ideal 28-year-old who resigned and the CIO said, 'I don't understand this—you're a perfect fit for us.' And she replied, 'I may be a perfect fit for you, but you're not a perfect fit for me because you won't let me use some of the key tools that I need to be able to do my job.

" 'What if you told the salesforce they couldn't use the telephone to communicate with clients? Well, it's exactly the same thing when you tell me I can't use social nets to do my job.' "

As Frank said early on, clients have been asking new types of questions, and that's always a good thing. We just need to be sure that we all understand that in today's world, many of the biggest questions in IT have nothing to do with technology, and everything to do with adaptive cultures and a willingness to tap into new ways of thinking and new tools.

Because innovation's about a whole lot more than just technology.

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GlobalCIO 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 [email protected].