19 Mar Fusion 2008 gives IT executives something to think about
Madison, Wis. — After gaining new insight into pressing IT issues from some of the leading people and organizations in the field, attendees at the recent Fusion 2008 CEO-CIO Symposium in Madison came away energized and ready to take on the challenges they face.
David Cagigal, chief information technology officer for Alliant Energy in Madison, said a presentation on IBM’s approach to innovation by newly minted CIO Mark Hennessy resonated with him.
Hennessy is challenged with the task of communicating with 300,000 people across the globe. He explained that by allowing technology to facilitate his access to the IBM employees who work in Wisconsin, he was able to review their profiles and match their particular skills to best serve the client’s needs.
“That is one of my aspirations, to achieve that degree of intimacy within my own organization,” said Cagigal, whose utility service territory covers Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. “If he can do it with 300,000, we should be able to do it with 5,000 people.”
IBM is also using social networking to drive innovation throughout the global enterprise. This part of Hennessy’s presentation also made a lasting impression on Cagigal, as the IBM CIO talked about how the younger generation of IT workers wants to collaborate and communicate through blogs and wiki sites, regardless of how some members of senior management may view the process.
“The older generation is always worrying about obstacles – issues surrounding privacy and security – instead of facilitating communication the way the younger generation is doing,” Cagigal said.
Taking a step back
Ann Marie Durso, CIO for the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, said she derived quality information from one-on-one dialogue with the speakers and discussion with other CIOs from the public sector from across the state.
“The range of topics was very broad that we, as CIOs, face in managing our technology environment,” Durso said. “I really enjoyed getting out of the middle of it that and discussing the range of issues. When you are in that kind of heat of battle, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees.”
“Sometimes it seems pretty overwhelming, which problems to address,” she continued. “This conference gives me the opportunity to take a step back, listen to others, understand the state of technology, the state of the issues. It can be reaffirming, and a little bit enlightening. Maybe it’s an approach you haven’t thought of.”
A presentation by CDW Berbee’s Paul Shain on enterprise data center buildouts was of particular interest to Durso. Shain discussed how everyone is consuming more power as part of data center buildouts, as well as going over the cost and some of the environmental ramifications.
“To be able to manage all of that is substantial,” Durso said. “We are all dealing with that while trying to be more sensitive to the environment.”
Several speakers talked about using third parties who have the necessary resources to build data centers with more capacity.
“Maybe we are beyond the days where every business should be trying to build and house the infrastructure – it’s labor intensive,” Durso said. “Look at your own operation, and make a judgment; is your data safer within your own four walls, or, is it more economical to look at service providers?”
Innovation has been a theme of the Fusion conference for the last two years, with Delphi Group founder and CEO Tom Koulopoulos delivering a keynote address. Durso took note of Koulopoulos’ observation that innovation can be approached in the sense of continuous improvement, and not just as the quest for major breakthroughs.
“We all need to get smarter about how we use our resources and manage our environments,” she said. “It’s about getting cooperation to simplify our process so that we can get better utility out of our business processes. We can’t just keep throwing money and iron at the problem.”
Now in its fourth year, the Fusion conference demonstrated a mix of business and IT topics to Frank Ace, CIO with the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
Ace said he brought one of his business partners to the conference, someone who is a non-technical person. While Ace was initially concerned the content was too technical, his associate found the conference interesting and engaging.
A big takeaway that Ace’s business partner got from the conference was a presentation by Peter Coffee, director of platform research for Salesforce.com, on meeting IT expectations by putting applications up and “hosting them on a cloud.”
“He is asking me things now that he heard about at the conference,” Ace said. “So at the business level, I think it’s very valuable.”
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