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Pearls from MIT

by Jack Santos  |  May 22, 2012  |  2 Comments

For close to a  decade now, I have been attending the annual MIT CIO conference .  Always a delight to bump into old friends, and get some new perspective.  Our own Mark McDonald led a panel discussion, and it was great to see him there.

I never fail to walk away with some (unsubstantiated) nuggets – a few of which may even creep into my own research agenda…like:

  • The general feeling was the economy is on a slow mend.  Almost no one disagreed – the difference of opinion was on how slow the mend is (very slow, vs. slow, vs. slightly slow)
  • “Being global is about being local” (about making a global company look local, and be part of the local ecosystem)
  • The story is a programmer at Google spent one hour creating the Gmail UI.  Usually told as an example of agility.  It still doesn’t work for enterprises.  How much better it could be if  they spent at least two hours on it! 
  • A comment by the CEO of Zipcar about remembering when Pictel’s mantra was the elimination of business travel.  *FAIL*.
  • Is anyone seriously thinking about Win8, or (more importantly) have concrete plans for it?  Not many, from my vantage point.  It’s just not on the CIO’s radar of top ten things to worry about. or even top 20.
  • Lots of discussion about the sociological impact of “always on” mobility – are you sleeping with your Smartphone (and a plug for Leslie Perlow’s book by the same name)?  Maybe we need Smartphone turnoff for one hour a day for adults….
  • Only 4% of CEOs came up through an IT background.
  • CIO’s reporting to CFO’s are on the rise.
  • Mobile security is about not losing the battle plan on the battlefield.
  • “Agility eats strategy for breakfast”
  • From the director of the MIT media lab, Joichi Ito: The pressure on IT is about access and innovation without asking permission
  • Also from Joichi: You won’t need project managers in the future. (That one was beyond the pale for me; probably requires more elaboration).
  • Every year I do an informal observation of what people are typing into.  There was not a laptop in sight (Macintosh or PC).  Some juggled smart phones and tablets.  What a change in such a short period of time. Last year it was a mix of laptops and tablets, the year before a mix of laptops and Smartphones, and before that a mix of PCs and Macs – with Macs on the ascendancy from the prior year.
  • There is a difference between being “metrics driven” verses “data driven”.  Both can be limiting.  Data driven strategy looks for patterns, and is not about surveys.
  • Organizations tend to have a “low past filter” (nice play on words for you electronics aficionados).  Another way of saying they often try to achieve the historical least common denominator for a quick and easy solution.
  • We need to move from best practices and metrics, to placing “big bets”.
  • The maturity level of IT CIOs raises the level of risk averseness – no one wants to go through another CRM implementation (or the like)
  • Another way that one CIO avoided that risk was to push the system replacement plan beyond “his personal planning horizon” (i.e., retirement, job change).
  • The last two points are resulting in pressure for SaaS/Cloud solutions.
  • Startups and small businesses don’t have datacenters or IT shops – in one case the server closet was repurposed for a wine closet.
  • “Get comfortable being uncomfortable” (about IT spend outside of IT’s control)
  • “All my employees have two PCs on their desk – the one I give them and the one they actually work on” – referring to BYOD trends.
  • CSOs (Chief Security Officers) are becoming CIO peers, and more likely to report to the board on security and compliance issues. (General support and agreement on this point).
  • Is a “Big Data Data Center” in your future?
  • The real key to success with Big Data is coaching skills – those employees that know how to manage and use analytics need to pass that expertise on.
  • “Exhaust data” will change the big data game (ancillary data about a process)
  • “Big Data will lead to Big Judgments/Big Decisions”

There you have it. The 2012 gems from the annual MIT CIO symposium.

Category: cio-issues  economy  management  managment  mobility  predictions  security  

Tags: cio  cloud  consumerization  culture  it-relevance  management  mit  predictions  security  strategy  

Jack Santos
Research VP
7 years at Gartner
40 years IT industry

Jack Santos is a Research Vice President with Gartner, part of the Enterprise Architecture and Technology Innovation team within the Gartner for IT Leaders product. He focuses on enterprise architecture and technology trends. Mr. Santos' specific area of research covers individual development, leadership and management practices for enterprise architects, EA innovation, and collaboration approaches. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Pearls from MIT


  1. When Joichi Ito says You won’t need project managers in the future, he may well be thinking of a world where IT is all Cloud and Apps. Apart from all the projects you’d then need to do around integration, analytics, security, transitions etc. I don’t see Telco’s or Utilities run their billing or Banks process their payments in the Cloud any time soon; if ever.

    – Mendel

  2. Jack Santos says:

    Mendel – I think you hit the nail on the head! Thank You! But I would argue that the role of PM (ie., someone that focuses on scope, schedule, budget – OUTCOMES! – and has the best interest of the organization in mind) is EVEN MORE important. We frequently talk about this as “IT as a broker”. One of the things we are seeing is the increased complexity and level of integration across different cloud solutions (especially SaaS). Someone with a PM-like approach is needed to manage that, don’t you think?



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