I rarely get wound up by articles I read. I read many, many articles about technology, about CIOs and about business. At worst I might emit a silent “rubbish” and quickly move on. But yesterday I had a intensely negative reaction to an article entitled “Why CIOs are rooting for a Microsoft Tablet win” written by Michael Hickins, editor of CIO Journal, part of the Wall Street Journal. Re-reading it this morning the feeling returned.
In essence, the article considers the introduction of Microsoft’s Surface hybrid tablet / laptop PC – a product for which we don’t know either the price nor the date of availability. Mr Hickins described it as “the revenge of the CIO” and explains that he believes that CIOs will be hoping the Surface is successful with consumers because it will allow CIOs “to standardise on Windows 8 across the board”. In fairness to Mr Hickins he does quote people who disagree, one particular CIO saying that “the decision about what tablet is adopted as a corporate standard is out of CIOs’ hands. That ship has sailed… We will only see the Microsoft tablet in the workplace if employees bring it there themselves.”
So why did I get wound up about that? Three things:
- I don’t know any CIO who would still seriously believe that a IT controlled, locked down homogeneous environment is a viable way forward for the whole enterprise;
- genuine CIOs are senior business people working with their colleagues to achieve enterprise goals and they don’t take revenge; and
- IT has shifted so far in the last two or three years that stifling the creative opportunities that emerge from the effective use of good technology is neither possible nor desirable.
Published at around the same time, Aneel Lakhani, writing on his Gartner blog, elicited the completely opposite reaction from me when he stated that “[g]etting work done is what people are paid for. IT exists to provide tools, platforms, levers, force multipliers, accelerators. No one invests in IT to create inhibitors to the work that needs doing. But where there’s shadow IT, you have a very strong signal that that’s exactly what is going on.” Well said.
Successful CIOs get out of the way of those things that no longer need regulation. Successful CIOs control only the essentials – like security and data standards. Consequently, successful CIOs ensure their enterprises flourish from the innovative use of IT. That is the definition of success.
I don’t know Mr Hickins. Clearly he’s a successful journalist to be editor of CIO Journal, and he’s elicited a response from me to his work. He’s not being ignored which I’m told by my colleague and editor of CIO Connect Magazine, Mark Samuels, is the worst fate to befall a journalist. I have no personal quarrel with him and he’s entitled to his opinion. But I do think he is completely wrong on this. Read his article here to judge for yourself.