What Do Enterprises Really Want, Part II

Arthur Cole

After examining user communities' wish list for the future of IT, I thought it might prove insightful to take a look at what some of the leaders are in the field are saying about their own enterprises and where the industry is headed in general.


One of the chief issues confronting CIOs is how much leeway to give employees to boot up consumer applications on corporate intranets. Douglas Merrill, CIO at Google (at the ripe old age of 37), who recently left to take a gig at EMI Music, offered a pretty free hand, allowing users to access not only their own apps, but any of several different operating systems and numerous internal software programs. For a company that offers its own Google Apps to client enterprises, it would be hypocritical, to say the least, if Google had anything but an open shop in its own enterprise.


One of the most steady complaints of the modern enterprise is that it is still not flexible enough to meet changing demands. The pace of business often requires new services to be rolled out in weeks, if not days, a feat that many find to be impossible. Novell CTO Jeff Jaffe says he might have a fix in the Fossa Project, which seeks to leverage open source technology to foster a more adaptable infrastructure in which systems and services can be more easily modified and integrated with one another.


When it comes to government enterprises, the goal is to tear down the bureaucratic logjams that prevent timely acquisition of new technologies. Even for critical functions such as national security, extensive budgeting processes and technical detail statements can stretch acquisition times to three years or more. The new Office of the Director of National Intelligence is expected to begin consolidating IT operations such as e-mail and data management that are spread across multiple agencies.


With all the attention paid to the transforming the enterprise, little notice is going to the changing role of the CIO. According to MIT research scientist Jeane W. Ross, a more apt title going forward is likely to be "business process manager" or "strategic execution officer" -- charged with making sure that processes, not just technology, are meeting goals.


Technology, of course, will always be a primary concern for whomever is overseeing the enterprise. But rather than simply deciding which box to plug in where, more and more CIOs are finding themselves at the crossroads of competing strategic influences. And the decisions they make today often spell the difference between success or failure for the entire organization.

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