The 10th annual MIT Sloan CIO Symposium's theme, Architecting the Enterprise of the Future, focused on CIOs and their ongoing relationship with mobile, social, cloud and big data. The day-long event was captured -- where else -- on Twitter, where nuggets of wisdom were linked to the hashtag #mitcio. Here are six must-read tweets from the event.
#1** "As CIO [its] important to balance innovation with keeping things 'ok'. #MITCIO"
As CIO important to balance innovation with keeping things "ok". #MITCIO— Gary L Kelley (@glkelley) May 22, 2013
CIOs have to find a way to balance stability with innovation. As the Symposium's CEO keynote made clear, bosses are looking to CIOs to add value to the company, but not at the expense of stable IT operations. One pointer? Panelist Joe Chang, managing director and co-founder of Redstar Ventures, advised CEOs and CIOs alike to recognize that the old model of making IT decisions according to Highest Paid Person's Opinion (HiPPO) no longer holds. That kind of approach can overshadow good ideas coming from elsewhere in the organization. Do like Google, the CEO panel advised, and dedicate time during work hours for out-of-the-box thinking. And start small: Implementing a new idea doesn't have to be a major project. Instead: iterate, fix and repeat.
#2** "Erik Brynjolfsson: Big Data is a measurement revolution but it also needs to be a management revolution #mitcio"
Erik Brynjolfsson: Big Data is a measurement revolution but it also needs to be a management revolution #mitcio— MITSloan ExecEd (@MITSloanExecEd) May 22, 2013
Today's companies have access to technology that can provide a more granular, accurate rendering of an impressive amount of data -- not unlike the introduction of the microscope, according to Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Center for Digital Business and an MIT professor. The new measurement capability should usher in a management revolution as well -- one wrapped in the scientific method of measure, experiment, analyze and replicate. Businesses that have moved in this direction are already seeing success. According Brynjolfsson's research, data-driven businesses are 5% to 6% more productive than their counterparts who aren't. An important caveat from the MIT prof: Data does not equate to knowledge, and correlation is not causality.
#3** "Interesting dialog on data use for public good. Makes me ponder how politics, privacy, monetization slow more global innovation? #MITCIO"
Interesting dialog on data use for public good. Makes me ponder how politics, privacy, monetization slow more global innovation?#MITCIO— Cynthia Nustad (@cnustad) May 22, 2013
Open data can set off privacy red flags, but Alexander (Sandy) Pentland, a professor at the MIT Media Lab, also believes it can be harnessed for good. He discussed his work on creating the first data commons project with Orange, a telecommunications company based in France. By analyzing mobile phone data, they scaled back commute times by 10% in the Ivory Coast and also uncovered the lines of ethnic division after a civil war in the country. Interesting findings, to be sure, but big data also raises the spectre of Big Brother, panelists said. In a big data world, are we powerless to protect our privacy? Andrew Lo, professor of finance at the MIT Sloan School of Management, said cryptography technology was the answer to keeping personal data private, but one tweeter immediately countered that it "may give a false sense of security."
When the line of business circumvents IT and purchases technology, it can spark debates about who owns what -- conversations that panelists for the event's CIO keynote saw as a waste of energy. Forget ownership of tech, they said, today's CIOs should be more concerned about how to leverage the tech skills of business users and how to provide a holistic view of tech across the enterprise. Business users will continue to embrace technology to do their jobs, but IT remains the department that understands how the technology works, said Georgia Papathomas, vice president and CIO of Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals. When architecting the enterprise for the future, CIOs need to start thinking of themselves as partners in the business; in Papathomas' case, the marriage of IT and the business enabled J&J to transition from a products company to a health care company. One of IT's biggest challenges in building the bridge, she said, is being able to explain the technical stuff in layman's terms.
#5** "Scott Blanchette: When cash is cheap (like today), cloud value prop of 'turn capital to operating expenses' is less attractive
Scott Blanchette: when cash is cheap (like today), cloud value prop of "turn capital to operating expenses" is less attractive #mitcio— george westerman (@gwesterman) May 22, 2013
One of the more provocative observations to come out of the cloud panel -- which made some tweeters sleepy -- was on when it pays to use the cloud. Scott Blanchette, senior vice president of information and technology services for Vanguard Health, pointed out that the value proposition of investing in cloud depends on economic factors weighted against functionality. Today, he said, cash is cheap and equipment is relatively affordable, even from panelist John Roese's company, EMC, he joked. Why not buy and build your own cloud? Roese, CTO at EMC, didn't disagree: "[We've asked ourselves] is there an economic argument for cloud? People believe it's an all or nothing proposition," but it isn't, Roese said. EMC is seeing companies take a hard look at which parts of their computing really belong in the cloud and finding some tasks, such as real-time analytics, may be better served by keeping them local.
#6**"The first machine age overcame the limitations of our muscles. The second machine age is to overcome the limitations of our minds"
"The first machine age overcame the limitations of our muscles. The second machine age is to overcome the limitations of our minds" #mitcio— Ian Robertson (@robertsoni) May 22, 2013
The symposium ended the way it began -- with a comparison between data-driven businesses and success. Andrew McAfee, research scientist at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the associate director for the MIT Center for digital business, turned to data to find moments in history that made the most impact. Beyond war, famine, philosophy and religion, the biggest change hinges on the Industrial Revolution, an era when machines overcame the limitations of the human body. Today's society is just embarking on a second machine age: a time when machines will overcome the limitations of our minds and cause tremendous disruption. "The future is already here; it's just not evenly distributed," McAfee said, quoting science fiction writer William Gibson.
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