CIO Summary: Killer Insights From The IW 500 Conference - InformationWeek
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Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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CIO Summary: Killer Insights From The IW 500 Conference

From HP Chairman Ray Lane challenging IT to the confessions of a hacked CIO, the InformationWeek 500 Conference had plenty to make IT leaders squirm.

Stop fretting over buying decisions like which ERP system to use. Befriend the chief marketing officer. Prepare for big data, no matter how big your company is. Get ready for private cloud data centers--their time has come. These are the kinds of ideas that streamed nonstop from the stage of the InformationWeek 500 Conference, held this week in Dana Point, Calif.

More than 300 CIOs and other top IT leaders joined our conference. I listened to every word of every speaker on the conference's main stage. Here's a recap of some of the killer insights.

"The CIO's position and job is to manage the environment, bringing the best technology solutions and best professionals into it, but not to make technology decisions--not to decide what PCs to buy. That's the procurement guy making that decision now." -- Ray Lane, Hewlett-Packard chairman

Lane reminisced about working at Oracle in the 1990s and watching companies take a year to decide whether to use SAP or Oracle enterprise applications. In the end, SAP had maybe 90% of a customer’s needs and Oracle 83%, he said. "It just wasn't the high value end of the equation,” Lane said. “But we were in the '90s, so it was acceptable."

Today, it's not. CIOs must set the strategy, so they can't afford to spend time on what Lane describes as technology buying and pricing decisions. They need to focus on the strategic job of using data to run companies. "Today, the speed and the amount of information out there, the amount of information to be managed, the ability to compete with information, is just too important," he said.

Lane said the SAP-Oracle analog can apply as well to IBM and HP services, where there are some differences on the margins but where CIOs need to worry more about using information to compete.

So as a CIO, are you immersed in a six-month bakeoff to decide on the right content management or email system? Lane's implication: You're doing the wrong job.

"Our competition is the couch." -- Bill Schlough, San Francisco Giants CIO

Schlough worries about people choosing to watch Giants baseball games in glorious 50-inch hi-def at home, with all the instant replays they want, rather than buy a ticket and come to the park. Delivering Wi-Fi and encouraging fans to use their portable devices at the park is one way Schlough's using IT to attract customers.

More than 16% of Giants fans have used AT&T Park's Wi-Fi this year, up from 10% last year. And those fans are reaching out to friends who didn't come to the park. During the playoffs last year, there was more data volume flowing out of the Wi-Fi network than coming in. "Everyone there at the ballpark was sharing content," Schlough said.

Like Schlough, great IT teams today are asking the question: What does the end customer need from us?

"Many of us have been educated out of our creative confidence." -- Sir Ken Robinson

As Sir Ken Robinson, a renowned author and speaker on creativity and innovation, laid out the misconceptions many people have about creativity, I couldn't have been the only audience member who felt chastised. Do you think certain jobs are bastions of creativity and others not? People need to drop these misconceptions, Sir Ken said, if they're going to build a business culture where everyone strives for creative ways to do their jobs better. Part of the solution is having the right definition of creativity; Sir Ken defines it broadly as "unique ideas that have value."

As kids, we all believed in our creative abilities, but far too many have had that faith pounded out of us, Sir Ken said. Business leaders have to train people in creative problem solving to get that confidence back. "Everyone is capable of honing their creative skills," he said.

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