Smugness, leading to a moment of insight

They say that an addict never stops obsessing about the object of their addiction; so does my still being awake 6 hours into a flight to Tokyo and working not relaxing mark me as an addict to work? Scary question and one I think best to ignore for now as too much self-awareness can be way too disconcerting! Still what I’m reading is really interesting – alright – that might be my addiction still typing but stay with me for now.

I’ve just finished reading a Gartner report entitled “The CIO’s Role In Making The New Realities Real” which was really thought-provoking. I started off feeling super smug as they list five actions a forward-thinking CIO should be actively progressing now and I hit four out of five of them. However, having a plan and executing that plan over the required period in a sustained way are very different propositions. For the record, if you do not have access to the report, the five actions are: see beyond your enterprise and sector to understand the changes underway in the industry/role; build an innovation engine; shift resources to growth and innovation; rethink risk management; increase focus on governance.

I’ve talked about governance and the need to reset the place CIOs and their function have in driving value for the organisation in a world of “have credit card will purchase cloud computing” and “shadow IT” in a previous post. I’ve probably bored people rigid with opinion on the importance of innovation and how I agree with the analysts arguing that the future CIO will be as much about innovation as they will information. However, what I am finding the toughest action to progress is shifting resource to growth and innovation in a world where I have to deliver year on year cost reductions, minimise my spend and maximise the value derived, ideally via that lovely fantasy of many of zero cost, ever-lasting, self evolving IT perfection. It is a constant challenge to free up resources, people or money, to enable strategic value enhancing initiatives (as opposed to making IT systems cost less) whilst broadly performing the same function and enabling a non-innovated business process/outcome. This is what really caught my attention as it relates directly to a current challenge with which I’m wrestling: how to tackle, in a way that does not involve simply buying more storage, our insatiable corporate appetite to store more and more information, structured and unstructured.

My thoughts were focused on this topic by a mix of CAPEX requests, strategy proposals, an extremely interesting set of articles in the February edition of Wired (UK) entitled “Your Life Torn Open, What The End Of Privacy Means for You” (Sharing is a trap; Zuckerberg’s next move; get over it) and the fact I will be meeting Professor Nonaka this week, a business guru with a track record in knowledge management. I cannot do justice to the thought-provoking issues and insights contained in the Wired portfolio but I would strongly urge that you read them, soon. However, in this context it hammered home to me that we need to revisit the information we are storing, ask why we are storing it and ask what value is derived from the sheer volume as opposed to the knowledge that may be harvested from it. We absolutely cannot continue chasing the lowest cost solution to the ever growing demands for storage space nor can we allow the volume to make it ever more difficult or slow to access the knowledge. At the same time, we absolutely cannot allow our growing unstructured data storage requirements to be constrained by the consequences of our structured data “file everything multiple times” habit. Hardly a eureka moment or even very insightful but sometimes the spur to tackle preconceptions and reset your approach can arise from the least likely component convergence. So clearly, the key question now is “What am I going to do exactly then to break the cycle of ever expanding storage spend?”…

Image credit: © DigitalGenetics –

6 thoughts on “Smugness, leading to a moment of insight

  1. After 10 years in the IT business as an architect and with 5 years experience in storage perhaps as an extension of your initial thoughts we should be asking: When does data and/or information just become baggage?
    When does the information we store have no worth? Maybe IT could take a leaf out of the book of TV reality shows and clear out everything that has not been used in the last 6 months.
    Hold on! You cannot do that! I hear IT crying from the rafters. Well why not I say!
    So OK, back to reality; we all know that we have legal obligations to keep financial data and for many companies data is their lifeblood but really, in this ever accelerating world of business if anything is older than a year is it really that relevant?

  2. A couple of quick points:
    1. Storage spend is not the issue. Rather it is our apparent inability to drive out the value of information and hence what should be retained (ie the value to the business therefore justifies a correct spend level) that is the problem.
    2. With respect to shifting resource to growth and innovation – one of the many benefits of applying a Portfolio Management approach to investment decisions is to underpin this type of strategic objective whilst balancing risk across the whole portfolio.

  3. Hi Eddie, thanks for the comment. The approach we are going to try is to tier the storage to reflect either age or popularity or both of the data and also to make the search engine more granular in terms of which of those data stores it searches. This seems more likely to give us some positive results on cost and accessibility compared to encouraging the end users to archive themselves or even delete. Regards, David

  4. Hello Bruce, totally agree with your first point and you express it far more succinctly than I managed to do! I agree the portfolio management approach is a good one to ensuring spend to value is maximise to a defined and acceptable risk profile. Many thanks for taking the time to comment. Regards, David

  5. Hi David,

    I just stumbled across this post and wanted to chip into the discussion. I like the self-awareness of the title and points to something we’ve found again and again, namely that collaboration can only happen between equals.

    If there is too much power on one side of the relationship then you slip into transaction mode, but for innovation to flourish you need to find safe spaces to have conversations internally and externally. Many of the barriers to collaboration are around mindset and culture so awareness of how you are perceived as an individual as well as an organisation is crucial though we don’t own our reputations.

    RE the wired article, you might be interested in our ambition to be 100%Open which I blogged about recently here:

    Anyway, thanks again for a good post.


  6. Roland many thanks for your comments. Just read your blog on wired and we are certainly thinking along the same lines!

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