7 Bold Tech Ideas That Will Make You Uncomfortable - InformationWeek
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5/26/2015
04:36 PM
Chris Murphy
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7 Bold Tech Ideas That Will Make You Uncomfortable

Elite tech leaders pushed the boundaries at the InformationWeek Conference. At least one of these ideas should make you squirm and think, "We need to do that."
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Wal-mart's Karenann Terrell (right), with InformationWeek's Stephanie Stahl.
(Image: InformationWeek)

Wal-mart's Karenann Terrell (right), with InformationWeek's Stephanie Stahl.

(Image: InformationWeek)

Is your IT shop really, really good at recovering from your mistakes? Is recovering from mistakes even something you talk about, let alone measure?

Wal-mart Stores CIO Karenann Terrell considers recovery to be a critical skill, and her team counts "mean time to recovery" among its performance metrics. Unless the Wal-mart team is confident in their ability to recover, they'll never perform well on another vital factor: Speed.

"What happens when you're not focused on speed is that you're measuring twice or three times or even four times before you cut," Terrell said during a panel session at the InformationWeek Conference last month. "I believe that the right thing for Wal-mart, and the way we look at it, is being absolutely expert at recovery and speed. That allows you to take a lot more risk."

Rapid recovery, risk taking, speeding up IT and business processes, and using technology to improve all corners of the enterprise were among the ideas put forth by tech leaders during the conference.

For Wal-mart, the focus on rapid recovery applies even to customer-facing production systems. Wal-mart has hundreds of thousands of point-of-sale (POS) terminals, for example. If IT had to get every change perfect before rolling it out, Wal-mart could do one or maybe two POS updates a year. Instead, the store environment needs a constant push of innovation. "Thinking through the process of change, and speed, and speed to recover, I think are unbelievably important concepts for technology leadership," Terrell said.

Terrell acknowledged that she was "looking at a lot of skeptical faces" in the audience as she described the importance of recovery. But challenging ideas were the norm from the elite technology leaders who spoke at the InformationWeek Conference. These leaders dared their peers to think differently.

On the following pages, you'll see six more examples of the many ideas from IT leaders at the InformationWeek Conference that will challenge your perceptions of what IT can do.

[Did you miss any of the InformationWeek Conference in Las Vegas last month? Don't worry: We have you covered. Check out what our speakers had to say and see tweets from the show. Let's keep the conversation going.]

Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek and co-chair of the InformationWeek Conference. He has been covering technology leadership and CIO strategy issues for InformationWeek since 1999. Before that, he was editor of the Budapest Business Journal, a business newspaper in ... View Full Bio

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StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Ninja
6/30/2015 | 9:12:57 PM
Re: Analyze risk
Great point. I think this is overlooked way too often.
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Ninja
6/30/2015 | 9:11:05 PM
Re: Pfft!
Haha this made me think of a meme I saw about Wal-Mart having 50 registered and only two open because "f you"....
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 9:24:33 PM
Analyze risk
It is always important to analyze the risk since it will occur in different levels. Especially when you are working on projects.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 9:20:07 PM
Re: Risk
True. However there can be instances where you should accept risk even without a plan B. in this case the best option would be to analyze the impact of risk.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 9:13:46 PM
Re: As the Old saying goes..
In my opinion quality and cost are more important. Speed will lead towards quality issues.
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 4:06:50 PM
Re: As the Old saying goes..
Haha...funny, you know cost will always be number one. Speed or quality will always take the backseat to cost...and unfortunately quality often gets left behind for speed.
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 4:05:40 PM
Re: Risk
There should ALWAYS be a contingency plan in place when taking any risk, business or otherwise!
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 4:04:26 PM
Re: A common thread...
Great point! Sometimes accuracy is much more important than speed.
asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 2:48:20 PM
Pfft!
I think Walmart should focus on keeping its self-checkout POS stations in operable condition before it worries about anything else.  As is, those things are constantly out of order.  And management doesn't like to bring in more than 1 employee to run register for every 50 customers standing on the checkout line.
mdortch570
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mdortch570,
User Rank: Strategist
5/28/2015 | 10:45:57 AM
Re: A common thread...
Mom always said I was naively optimistic, but I believe that the speed focused on by several of the tech leaders featured here can be a win, if it's done right. I'm reiminded of the day I didn't sleep through a high-school physics class, and learned the difference between vector and scalar quantities. Speed of IT transformation is essential, IF it has a specific direction, or goal. And that goal should always be improvement of agility, resilience, and/or trustworthiness ("ART") of an enterprise. 

Little if anything transpires faster than the speed of human thought. So if the direction of IT transformation is well thought out and focused on improving business operations, speed will thrill, not kill. But speed without clear direction is nothing more than a major catastrophe waiting to happen.
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