Commentary
10/7/2010
09:24 AM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary

Global CIO: IBM & Dell Get In Obama's Face With $1-Trillion Challenge

Their plan for helping the White House save $1 trillion includes a haunting scenario for America if no action is taken.



Among the many intriguing aspects in Wednesday's proposal from Sam Palmisano and Michael Dell for helping the federal government save $1 trillion over the next decade was the surprisingly -- and refreshingly -- blunt language they used to describe the consequences should the White House decide not to pursue their proposals.

In a Wednesday op-ed piece from Palmisano and Dell, their concluding sentence says this: "The alternative is to remain mired in deficit and recession, choking U.S. competitiveness and stifling the fundamental driver of our country’s growth and greatness, American society itself."

Even more surprising -- and again refreshing -- is the fact that this blunt position is supported by not only IBM and Dell but also by Intel, EMC, Motorola, and other members of the Technology CEO Council that developed the trillion-dollar proposal.

The group's member companies generate $300 billion in annual revenue and employ 700,000 workers around the globe, so they've got the real-world heft to make such claims as well as the real-world experience to show how to strip out $100 billion in waste each year for 10 years.

The op-ed piece is thoughtful and measured, citing numerous examples of various government agencies that have used advanced technology and related innovations to dramatically lower the cost of government and enhance the level of service offered to citizens.

But the concluding sentence noted above is a doozy because it aggressively and appropriately escalates the entire discussion from one of rosy potential scenarios to one that starkly describes the cost of doing nothing. Look at the language:

  • "...remain mired in deficit and recession..."

  • "...choking U.S. competitiveness..."

  • "...stifling the fundamental driver of our country's growth and greatness..."

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    Those are not the carefully calibrated words generally associated with the CEOs of massive global corporations as they discuss situations involving the same federal government that would stand to gain so much as a client but that can also wield such harmful power as a regulator of industry and a promoter of anti-business sentiment.

    The overall plan offers a vast range of cost-savings opportunities to the White House:



    $22 billion can be saved via data-center consolidation and applications rationalization; $500 billion from supply-chain overhaul and consolidation; $200 billion from using analytics to reduce fraud and abuse; $50 billion from transitioning from paper to digital records management; and more.

    But in wrapping up its op-ed piece with that ghastly description of the consequences of inaction, the Technology CEO Council is appealing to the ultimate decision-maker -- President Obama -- with a blunt and confrontational approach that the President himself used two years ago on the campaign trail when, during a stump speech in Nevada, he told his supporters to get out and talk aggressively to their neighbors: "I want you to argue with them and get in their faces."

    I like the parallel stance taken by the Technology CEO Council in saying we can work together to attack these problems and return $1 trillion to taxpayers over the next decade while also giving them better government services, or we can continue on the current path of gross inefficiency, lack of transparency, and hopelessly outdated processes, and in turn face a bleak and miserable future.

    As Palmisano and Dell say in their op-ed piece, "This is not just theory. We've seen both the cost savings and the innovation that these approaches can unleash -- in both the public and the private sectors."

    Their companies, along with Intel and EMC and others in the group, have demonstrated their ability to deliver such results in thousands of cases around the world.

    IBM and Dell and other IT companies should step forward aggressively and unashamedly with such ideas, and I hope they continue to do so and I hope many others within and without the Technology CEO Council do so as well.

    Because if they don't, the White House is sure not going to come up with any $1-trillion solutions on its own -- neither this nor any other administration has the experience, the expertise, or the resources to do that.

    And if the IT industry doesn't take the lead in advocating powerful solutions, here's one description of what we'll all be facing: "The alternative is to remain mired in deficit and recession, choking U.S. competitiveness and stifling the fundamental driver of our country’s growth and greatness, American society itself."

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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].

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