Keep an Eye on Risk
I loved “The Perfect Order” [Aug. 1] because it focuses on the role of the CIO as an agent to reduce uncertainty through information management and realize business value, which otherwise would have been lost. However, companies oriented to the achievement of “perfect orders” would be well advised that while they are restructuring their supply chain processes, they should do so within the overall context of business risk mitigation.
A 1 percent increase in profits looks great, but not if it exposes an organization to, say, a 10 percent increase in unmitigated risk. Broad-basing your supplier base is great for achieving perfect orders, but if it enhances access to critical corporate information and intellectual assets including data, it can leave the company vulnerable to unmitigated business risk.
Wal-Mart has thousands of suppliers. But if Wal-Mart gave its supplier base access to its internal data, intellectual capital and systems to achieve perfect orders, without holding them accountable to a comprehensive standard for information security governance, then it renders the company vulnerable to unmitigated and pervasive waves of business risk cascading through its supply chain.
Risks related to abuse or even inappropriate use of information and intellectual assets, if not addressed, could lead to loss of credibility for a company, at best. At worst, it could lose market share or even shareholder value and confidence.
The question CIOs need to ask is, “How can my company most effectively mitigate the business risk associated in implementing a system for perfect orders?”
Risk Management Consultant
Churchill & Harriman
Turnaround CIOs Share More Rules
Having been a turnaround CIO for a law firm, a manufacturing firm and a consulting firm, I’ve found that the first thing you should do is go back to the basics [“Rules of the Road for Turnaround CIOs,” Aug. 1].
Just like a losing basketball team goes back to the basics of the game to sharpen the fundamentals, so must IT. What does IT really do? (the basics of shooting, moving and communication); how does it score? (alignment of goals with the business); what puts fans in the seats? (revenue). Get those aligned first, and the rest comes easy.
The law firm at which I was director of IT saved $300,000 within the first 90 days of my employment by renegotiating with all its vendors, consolidating servers and focusing on the basic IT skills.
A turnaround CIO is the greatest job in the world. You feel alive and with a purpose every day.
Speaking from experience, it’s a lot easier to make radical changes when everyone agrees that things are badly broken. It’s much more difficult to make the type of “rock the boat” changes described in the article when the CEO, CFO and IT staff are content. Personally, I start to get nervous when things seem to be running too smoothly—it makes me want to shake things up. However, I don’t want to force change simply for change’s sake.
To me, understanding when, where and how hard to push is the most important talent any CIO can possess. In IT, failure is not an option, and pushing the wrong people too hard at the wrong time can result in big-time failure.
The Krystal Co.
I’m writing in response to the sidebar accompanying the story on turnaround CIOs, titled, “Do You Have What It Takes?” [Aug. 1]. One of the key aspects of a successful IT organization turnaround is recognizing that things will move more quickly if the CIO empowers, supports and lets loose the people in the organization who want to implement successful change.
Before that can happen, the CIO has to be able to admit—and this does not happen enough—that he or she cannot do it alone and cannot be the single point of failure.
If everything has to come through you, the organization will fail because of you.
Once the CIO truly commits to the organization, he or she becomes an instrument for not just departmental change but, quite possibly, cultural change throughout the entire organization.
VP of Information Technology
Thomas Nelson Community College
IT Is All About Connectivity
I see Michael Hammer is still pumping out the same old, same old [“CIO Evolution,” Aug. 1]. His shtick got tiresome in the ’80s, and it’s even drearier now.
The point of IT is not “process”—a silly, overused word if ever there was one. The point of IT is connectivity. The entire world has shrunk to the size of a computer screen, with billions of people and trillions of ideas being combined into one glorious supernova of creative and analytical energy.
We are entering into a worldwide cultural renaissance infinitely larger than any that has come before, and all Hammer can do is drool over his to-do list, as if getting organized—which is all “process” really means—is going to hold the barbarians at bay. How deeply sad for him…but the rest of us don’t have to share his folly.
This is the age of messiness. Get used to it.
Playing Catch-Up in Education
Publisher Gary Beach’s Aug. 15 column, “Needed: Good Writers,” was right on target. The only comment I would add is that there’s a need to improve verbal communication through the proper use of the English language. Slang has replaced the appropriate use of English in the business environment.
As Beach points out, written skills are fading quickly, and I wonder if the world of electronic media hasn’t encouraged the decline in one’s ability to write. Like verbal slang, instant messaging and e-mail may provoke one to ignore good writing skills in an effort to save time by just hacking out communication. You would think that with the growth of blogging that writing skills may actually improve.
Continuation of this trend will only place the United States behind other countries in intellectual leadership. Oddly enough, the effort required to correct the problem may be minimal. However, unless there are serious career consequences, the lack of good writing skills will likely continue.
Paul C. Tinnirello
Executive VP & CIO
Information Services Division
A.M. Best Co.
After having two children go through the public school system and seeing the state of math education, I’m very alarmed.
The way higher math is being taught today focuses more on how many kids we can put through accelerated classes instead of how many are really getting it. Teachers don’t grade homework anymore—they just check off if you do it. If a student didn’t understand it, that student is on his own to figure it out.
Pick up an algebra or geometry textbook and you’ll see very little step-by-step instruction on how to do the problems. Tutoring centers are swollen with children of affluent parents trying to get them the instruction they are not getting from our educational system. The other children are simply left behind, forever marked in their own minds as “one of those people who isn’t good at math.”
I read this week that the United States graduates about 60,000 engineers a year. China and India combined are graduating half a million. We have a great deal of catching up to do.
VP, Program Management Office
Operations and Technology
BOK Financial Corp.
Support for HR Within IT
I thoroughly enjoyed “Strategic HR Integration” [Aug. 15] and directly related to it in my current position as an IT manager. My company’s culture has changed greatly over the past couple of years with clearly defined priorities and values. These initiatives are consistently talked about by the chairman all the way down to the staff level on an almost daily basis. These initiatives were the catalyst that began the integration of human resources and technology.
We talk annually with HR to identify and discuss the need to better track and integrate HR and technology. We began with clearly defined core competencies for all levels but need to more closely integrate, measure and track the progress here.
I have worked closely with HR and have found their support invaluable to the entire organization. On a manager level, integrating HR and IT makes tremendous sense and is the right way to go.
Federated Systems Group