18 Feb WTN Survey: CIOs have mobile applications on the brain
Madison, Wis. The implementation of mobile applications, business intelligence tools, server virtualization, and enterprise resource planning are on the minds of a good many Wisconsin CIOs in 2008, according to a recent WTN survey.
The aforementioned technological trends, followed closely by service-oriented architecture, were the top three responses to the following question: which three technologies will be the biggest part of your IT implementation strategy in 2008?
Mobile applications are the choice of 40.8 of the respondents, followed by business intelligence, 35.5 percent, and server virtualization, 34.2 percent.
James Browning, a research vice president for Gartner, Inc., said mobile wireless seems to be a key focus, especially for small businesses.
“We’re seeing a lot of upgrades from desktops to laptops and improving the productivity of end-users by allowing them access to applications and resources, especially the Internet, from the office, from home, from Starbucks, wherever they are, and being able to go out and have access to the applications and the information they need from wherever they are,” Browning said. “So mobile wireless is a big one.”
Also receiving strong consideration from the 84 survey respondents were: SOA and customer relationship management, both at 31.6 percent; software-as-a-service (SaaS), 22.4 percent; and Voice over Internet Protocol, 21.1 percent.
The majority of them are among the hottest technology trends identified by Gartner for 2008 and beyond. Business intelligence tools are increasingly seen as data analyzers that can drive more effective decision making on the part of executives, while server virtualization, closely associated with the burgeoning trend of “green IT,” typically is adopted to save energy costs.
Embracing trends and preparedness
Still, there is division on whether online social networks are best left “outside the enterprise” for personal use. A greater percentage, 45 percent, somewhat or strongly disagreed with that sentiment, while 43 percent somewhat or strongly agreed with it.
David Cagigal, chief information technology officer for Alliant Energy Corp., has resolved to explore social computing in the enterprise. While Alliant will continue with its traditional large-scale projects, Cagigal has established a New Year’s resolution to explore the role of FaceBook or MySpace equivalents, as well as blogs and wikis, in its corporate culture.
“We have instant messaging and employees are using it judiciously,” he said. “I strongly believe the younger generation of workers is accustomed to these communication and collaboration tools.”
Without them, Cagigal believes employees may be less productive. More importantly, they may also use the presence or absence of these tools when screening other prospective employers for opportunities.
That’s not to suggest that due diligence can be ignored. Cagigal said FaceBook and MySpace tools raise privacy issues, and Alliant will have to weigh the benefits against the risks.
Yet it is amazing to him that the younger generation would rather text message than pick up the phone. “Human interaction is important, but perhaps they believe it is overrated,” he remarked. “We have a high regard for diversity, and it will be a challenge to reach a middle ground that leverages technology solutions which benefit the individuals, teams, business units, and the enterprise as we service our customers, shareowners, and other constituents.”
Perhaps, as Cagigal suggests, Alliant can accomplish this with external public domain offerings, including SaaS, rather than build with corporate infrastructure resources. In either case, the need and value will drive the business case development and timing, he indicated.
“It will be an interesting journey as we travel through this new territory with so many variables, risks, and benefits,” he said.
Peter Logothetis, senior vice president and CIO of QBE Regional Insurance, is thinking along the same lines. Among the things he’s resolved to do in 2008 is learn all about social networking and its appeal to the younger generation, and “actually enter a page on a social networking website like My Space of Face Book.”
ERP and virtualization
Asked to sum up in one sentence the focus of their IT strategy for 2008, survey responses were all over the board. They ranged from the generic “maintain to meet needs” to the more ambitious “replacing legacy systems with ERP,” “developing a more robust strategy for supporting remote workers,” and “revamping key IT operational policies and procedures.”
Herman Nell, executive vice president and CIO of the Appleton-based School Specialty, Inc., has just come off a year in which more than 80 percent of the company, including different business units, went through the daunting process of converting from multiple legacy systems to a new Oracle ERP system.
Although Nell characterized the project as a success, it’s clear to him that the implementation of the new system represents the start of a journey that will continue for years to come. As a consequence, Nell will be focusing special attention on completing the last few parts of the ERP implementation, with an eye toward maintaining the quality of data, developing associates’ skills, and attracting more of the “scarce skills” necessary for the support and growth of new systems.
Byrne Chapman, vice president of the IS operations for American Family Insurance, plans to champion additional server consolidation to reduce expenses. This means a combination of virtualization and application consolidation, but Chapman has yet to determine how many physical servers will be replaced.
“I don’t think we are ready to go there,” he said. “The transformation is in its infancy.”
On some of the more prominent technological trends, responding organizations increasingly see the value of energy-efficient data centers because they are a socially responsible practice.
Slightly more than 53 percent somewhat agreed with that, and 34 percent strongly agreed.
In terms of strategic technologies, about 23.7 percent of the survey respondents answered “other” and specified items like data management, IT controls, security, encryption, and business continuity planning.
For this survey, WTN sent e-mail surveys to 434 IT professionals, with a response rate of 19 percent. About 29 percent of the technology executives that responded to the survey are from organizations of less than 250 employees, which was the largest single block indicating company size. Meanwhile, 75 percent of the respondents have annual IT budgets of $1 million or more.
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