What I Learned from the IT Business Edge Midmarket CIO Forum

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I've spent the first part of this week at the ITBE Midmarket CIO Forum and I've been learning a lot. We had CIOs from all over the country here. In chatting with a number of them, I learned a great deal, which highlights that one of the big values of events like this is what you learn from the attendees and the relationships you develop. Over the years, I've watched a lot of folks solve major IT problems, find jobs, and generally learn things they never expected to learn from peers at these things.


Here are some of the things I picked up at this show.


Make the CFO Your Partner


It is clear that a lot of CIOs struggle with their CFO in terms of getting and maintaining budgets. One brilliant comment that came from Don Tennant's panel on the first day was to push back hard on CFO edicts to lower budget and instead promise to do more with the budget you have. Once you start cutting budget, it becomes an annual thing, and every year you are asked to give up at an increasing rate. Eventually -- which could happen really fast -- you will find you don't have the money to operate and the fix will be a new CIO who can once again ask for a sufficient budget.


Instead, by promising to do more with what you have, hold the budget line and do not start a cycle that could lead to your own eventual elimination. Your job could really depend on it.


In addition, there were several who indicated that befriending the CFO paid strong dividends. If you can find ways to make the CFO's job easier, that person is more likely to help you when you need it and less likely to hang your budget out to dry. If your goals align, the CFO is more likely to see the advantage of spending on IT, and will focus cuts on other areas. Given how hard it is for the CFO to get real numbers and how critical IT is to generating those numbers, an alliance can pay strong dividends, including cutting stress from both jobs.


Combine EA and Hardware Purchases


This came out after my Windows 7 Best Deployment Practices talk at the show (you can see the outline of Rob's presentation here). Evidently, if you combine your EA (Microsoft Enterprise Agreement) with your hardware purchase, the OEM, who gets a kickback from Microsoft, will share it with you. One of the CIOs, who was using Dell, did this and reported getting an additional $90 off per desktop, which equated to savings of about $750,000.


Wrapping Up


The ITBE Midmarket CIO Forum was a great experience and I met a number of great CIOs. It looked like the vendor sponsors, the CIOs who attended, and the staff had a wonderful time. I'll remember this event fondly and be able to use what I learned in the months ahead. I think the others can say the same.


To the folks who put this show on, nicely done!