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?”…

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