Firefighters See Problems, CIOs Must See Opportunities - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Government // Mobile & Wireless
02:29 PM
Rob Preston
Rob Preston
Connect Directly

Firefighters See Problems, CIOs Must See Opportunities

As the IW 500 Conference kicks off this week, IT leaders rank BYOD and cloud among their biggest challenges. But the smartest CIOs look beyond the negatives.

There are two types of business technology organizations: those whose main mission is to create and pursue opportunities, and those preoccupied with putting out fires and solving problems. Opportunities are the stuff of growth and success: more revenue, fatter profits, happier customers. Problem solving is more about upkeep and survival: system maintenance, software patches, security plugs.

All are critical responsibilities, of course, so it's a question of emphasis. What do you want your business technology organization to be known for: its five 9s of availability and spot-on remediation, or its bold innovations and ability to create shareholder value? Channeling Peter Drucker, a Wall Street Journal column recently observed: "When you solve problems, you end up feeding your failures, starving your strengths, and achieving costly mediocrity." Do you see any of your organization in that statement?

Prior to our InformationWeek 500 Conference, I sent a note to registered attendees, many of them CIOs and all of them IT leaders, asking them to list their top three or four challenges. Their responses were a mix of problems and opportunities. At the risk of sounding like a management consultant, I think many of their problems are opportunities--if CIOs and their lieutenants come at them in a different way.

Consider some of the examples from our conference attendees:


Problem: How do I get our iPhone-toting employees and my iPad-loving boss off my back? How do I make sure that they're not exposing sensitive company data and communications?

Opportunity: How can we make employees more productive--and perhaps cut costs in the process--by letting them use the tools they're most comfortable with? How do we embrace mobile applications to wow customers and make more money for our company?

Cloud Services:

Problem: How do we stop other departments from buying and implementing software, storage, compute, and other cloud services without the IT organization's expert input and assistance?

Opportunity: Where in our company might cloud services trump conventional software or systems, for reasons of functionality, cost, usability, ease of upgrades, and/or speed to market? How do we partner with other business departments to evaluate cloud services?

Social Media:

Problem: How do I keep our employees from running amok on Twitter, Facebook, and other public and private sites? How do we react to and manage negative comments about our company?

Opportunity: How can our company listen in on social media conversations to better serve customers and attract potential customers?

Big Data:

Problem: How do we tame (or slow) the growth and duplication of data at our company?

Opportunity: How do we turn our mountains of data into actionable insight, in order to make more-informed decisions in real time as well as anticipate customer and partner needs?


Problem: How do we lock down our systems to lower the risk of attack and data leakage?

Opportunity: How do we protect our most important information assets without making it difficult for employees to do their jobs and for customers to do business with us? How do we build an internal culture of information security awareness? How do we build a reputation for handling customer data with the utmost care and sensitivity?


Problem: How do we squeeze our IT operations budget and carve out the time to do more innovative work with fewer resources?

Opportunity: How do we align the hearts and minds of our IT pros with the mission of our business and the needs and aspirations of our customers? How do we go on the offensive--in the words of our magazine cover story, become innovators and rule breakers--rather than react and defend?

Go to the 2012 InformationWeek 500 homepage

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
User Rank: Apprentice
9/12/2012 | 1:37:04 AM
re: Firefighters See Problems, CIOs Must See Opportunities
As I see Innovation as a business-centric process, driving innovation should depend less on whether we are squeezing the RTB budget (which we should do anyway), but rather be an integral part of the strategic planning and execution.

Ofir Shalev @ofirdi
Andrew Hornback
Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/11/2012 | 2:02:18 AM
re: Firefighters See Problems, CIOs Must See Opportunities
With regards to your security point - I think one thing that needs to be addressed is the valuation of the informational assets that the organization possesses. Sure, it's possible to build a Fort Knox to protect your data, but does it make sense to spend millions of dollars pursuing that dream when your informational assets don't match that value? Every dollar spent gets scrutinized these days, since dollars are in short supply.

When it comes to innovation - until there is zero possibility of any form of threat out there and every system is built with zero single points of failure, there will always be the need for a react and defend group in any organization's IT department. They key is to reduce the time spent on reacting and defending in order to improve the organization.

I also see the Social Media point playing into the security point by way of social engineering.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
User Rank: Apprentice
9/10/2012 | 5:58:36 PM
re: Firefighters See Problems, CIOs Must See Opportunities
These are struggles for major industries today globally. Each one requires focus for the year. If you are going to provide virtualization then you must understand other items will be delayed in the year. You must realize which business problem you will be solving? Set the priority and then move out on the plan? Realizing you maybe faced with fixing something while deploying virtualization since you will not know what ugliness you find in the process.

You may have to change your approach and train users in the new process. This takes time and money to execute. And then plan the next insertion. Review the lessons learned and this will aid you on other insertions within the business environment.

Planning is 80% and 20% execution of the plan. dp
How to Create a Successful AI Program
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  10/14/2020
Think Like a Chief Innovation Officer and Get Work Done
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  10/13/2020
10 Trends Accelerating Edge Computing
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  10/8/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
[Special Report] Edge Computing: An IT Platform for the New Enterprise
Edge computing is poised to make a major splash within the next generation of corporate IT architectures. Here's what you need to know!
Flash Poll