A CIO's Most Valuable Network - Page 1

Nov 28, 2007

Anne Zink

Multi-modal biometrics for access control and mobile device security; agentless backup and recovery software; semantic search and analytics tools.

Analysts and the trades make it sound like these and other examples of emerging technology are must-have innovations. But do they work in the real world? Who are the best vendors? What’s the best way to integrate them into an IT environment? And where is the best place to get answers?

According to 50 CIOs recently interviewed by AZtech Strategies, the best place to get answers is to ask external peers.

Organizations tend to be very insular. Even marketing can fall into the trap of focusing on internal stakeholders. CIOs, in particular, often find themselves obsessively focused on their internal environments. In fact, 31 of the 50 CIOs we interviewed admitted they even catch themselves focusing on their department and losing sight of the larger corporate environment. Keeping up with innovation, trends and best practices is an impossible task without help.

But good help is hard fine. Only 15 of the CIOs we interviewed felt the analyst community delivers valuable insight. The balance of CIOs felt analysts were often biased and rarely as familiar with the technology as they had claimed. The trades tend to focus coverage on the big brands and their advertisers. Vendors can’t be expected to deliver unbiased information. The only place to look for honest, unbiased information is a network of peers.

But the importance of peer-to-peer networking extends beyond information sharing. The CIOs we interviewed share four benefits of peer-to-peer networking.

Safe Brainstorming – The adage "it’s lonely at the top" is as true for the CIO as it is for the CEO. The No. 1 challenge our CIOs face is not having enough time to think about their long-term strategy. They spend more than 80% of their time reacting to emergencies and corporate mandates. Add to that the fact CIOs spend the vast majority of their time focused inside the business, and the enormity of this challenge becomes clear. Networking with several peers helps them shift their focus outside and provides a safe environment to brainstorm.

Our CIOs tell us this safe environment is invaluable. They are able to think out loud about the possibilities before going public with their plan. Their peers are respected devil's advocates who are able to see weaknesses as well as missed opportunities. The external perspective of their peers also exposes them to different justification methodologies.

Getting Ahead of The Curve – Technology innovation happens at a frantic pace. No one can keep up with it all. But in a group of peers, invariably each has explored technology the others haven’t. Our CIOs shared they network with several peers across different industries in order to stay on top of new technology.

For example, a medical-research facility CIO is testing a semantic search and analytics tool to streamline the patent research process. His peer in banking is testing a high thru-put biometrics security tool. They share the benefits and lessons learned from their implementations.

Next page: How they do it...

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