Consumerism and the Irrelevant CIO

iPhone, uPHone, we all scream for iPhones.  The NASA CIOs just had a CIO-like conversation about iPhones.  And so, I can check email and get reservations at Ruth’s Chris on the same end user device.  Wow. But what does that really mean? Is there really room for this consumer device in the Enterprise?


Consider Consumerism and the use of Web 2.0 technologies.  At Gartner’s Emerging Technologies Best Practices Council we posed, what I affirm, is a bar room question, how do we harness the power of Web 2.0?  Harnessing Web 2.0 is analogous to taming a wild mustang.  You can do it, but it would be wrong.  How can you tame the untamable?  The power Web 2.0 is atomic and it’s viral.


My brother-in-law, Eric, was complaining about his IT Department.  He needed a snazzy little application that would help his productivity in meetings.  Of course his IT Department wanted written requirements, an IT security plan, and a risk management plan.  So, I said, look on the Microsoft Template Gallery, you’ll find something.  And he sure did.  By the next day, he had what he needed.  Surely any Federal CIO will tell you how important it is to meet requirements, ensure security, and manage risk.  But, how do we get to YES faster while still tending to the things we need to tend to in a responsible manner?


During this Thanksgiving holiday, I noticed an interesting image.  I have a kitchen table that sits six people in the breakfast area.  I was sitting at the table with my two sisters, and my two brothers-in-law.  We were all working on our laptops.  Gee, five laptops — I had a data center in my kitchen.  Oh, and everyone had RSA tokens hanging around their neck, so we were a highly secure data center even.


As CIOs and IT service providers we are used to managing technology.  But what does it mean to lead technology?  The tempo of consumerism moves like a speeding locomotive down a railroad track.  CIOs who jump in front of the speeding train and pretend like they are leading will get run over.  CIOs who lay track that moves the train towards their organization’s goals have the right leadership stuff. 


In a CIO.COM  article, User Management – Users Who Know Too Much and the CIOs Who Fear Them, Ben Worthen challenges CIOs to still think about security, manageability, scalability, and Federal regulations but to do so strategically, not draconically. 


The employees in your company are using consumer IT to work faster, more efficiently and, in many cases, longer hours. Some are even finding new and better ways to get work done. CIOs should be applauding this trend. But when you shut down consumer IT, says William Harmer III, assistant vice president of architecture and technology of financial services company Manulife, “You end up as a dissuader of innovation.”


Growing up as a mainframe systems programmer, I still remember my IT “childhood” when the IT Department became irrelevant with the advent of client server computing.  We were called dinosaurs.  Those of us who didn’t adapt became extinct. I suppose we all learn things from our childhood.  Consumerism is the comet that threatens the Jurassic CIO.  The fittest CIOs are the ones with the right amount of courage, creativity, vision in their leadership DNA.


So is there room for iPhones?  The right answer for the Relevant CIO must be yes, just give me a few seconds to get to yes … but next time, I’ll anticipate your question.  Do I *have* to endure an eighteen month development cycle?  Well, no, here are some resources we can point you to.  Oh, and before you even ask, let me tell you about the atomic power of Web 2.0.  And finally, let me introduce us, we are your Relevant CIOs.


Linda Cureton, CIO/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Turning Ideation into the Greatest Nation in the World

This week, I attended a meeting of Gartner’s Emerging Technologies Best Practices Council.  It was a fascinating week of learning about how old organizations are using new technologies in new ways.  Not surprisingly, there were many conversations about Web 2.0 technologies.  There were also several discussions on the process of creating ideas, ideation.


My Myers-Briggs type is INTP. So, assuming one believes in those instruments, I am suppose to be an idea-generating machine who “… starting with only a vague intuition, can construct a whole new world of ideas.”  But this notion of ideation had been bugging me for a while, but I really couldn’t put my finger on why.  I was reading a passage in Judy Estrin’s book “Closing the Innovation Gap” which shed a little light on my irritation. 


“There are a half a dozen words in the English language that are substitutes for substance.  Three of them are innovation, accountability, and leadership,” says retired Intel CEO Andy Grove. “Companies that let people get away with murder talk too much about accountability. Those that don’t have the courage to leave the handrail talk incessantly about leadership. And people who are incapable of changing what they are doing, or even analyzing what’s wrong, go on and on about innovation.”


Now, don’t get me wrong, my husband would tell you that I am probably an impractical true-to-type INTP. But, what good are ideas if they never develop into anything of measured value, use or purpose? Drop back ten and punt? And then again, how do you know whether or not you’re on the very brink of inventing the next wonderful thing? Fourth and short – go for it!


Time Magazine just recognized the 50 Best Inventions of 2008. Two missions from NASA made the list – Goddard Space Flight Center’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (#3); and though not entirely a Goddard Mission, the Mars Science Lab (#18) will carry Goddard’s own microwave-oven-sized instrument suite, Sample Analysis at Mars. I am clearly fortunate to live in what Estrin calls an Ecosystem that has bred such marvelous engineering wonders of the world.  But, how does a CIO create and nurture an Ecosystem that breeds the IT wonders of the world?  It’s all around me and I don’t want to just talk about it, I want to do it.


In looking back at great innovations, they seemed to have come about as a result of the right environment, for the right people, given the right resources.  These people, and their supporting leadership, also had a courage to persist that was fueled by passion and inspired by a nurturing culture. 


Maybe ideation seemed to me to be a mindless paint-by-numbers process.  It’s probably not.  I think it just seemed strange to define a process that was so natural to me.  Whatever.  But, the supernatural part comes in when we understand how to apply the right dose of leadership, passion, power, and purpose to inspire ideas into reality and into masterpieces of innovation.


Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

My Head is Virtually in the Clouds

My Head is Virtually in the Clouds


Long, long ago, before I became a CIO, I used to be a happy carefree Virtual Machine systems programmer.  But, today, I think about hyper supervisors instead of hypervisors; about the Goddard Unified Enterprise Services and Technology (GUEST) procurement instead of Guest Operating Systems; about losing virtually every bit of my memory instead of losing my bits in virtual memory; about program managers who thrash instead of computer programs that thrash. 


So, years later,  after Federal Data Center Managers struggled with the challenges of consolidating Data Centers, I find myself ?Back to the Future? wrestling (using Judo actually) with Data Center consolidation strategies.  But relative to technologies like cloud computing, virtualization, and Web 2.0, what does this really mean if the entire world, or universe (remember, I?m a NASA CIO), is your Data Center?


Wikipedia gives the following definition of cloud computing:


Cloud computing is a general concept that incorporates software as a service (SaaS), Web 2.0 and other recent, well-known technology trends, in which the common theme is reliance on the Internet for satisfying the computing needs of the users.


Gartner, in Cloud Computing: Defining and Describing an Emerging Phenomenon (Daryl C. Plummer, et. al.), calls the trend of IT during the last 15 years,  a discontinuity due in part to the ?commoditization and standardization of technologies, virtualization, ?  the rise of service-oriented software architectures, and, most importantly, the dramatic growth in popularity/use of the Internet and the Web.?

Relationship between cloud clients, cloud architecture, and datacenters


I?m not sure it?s a discontinuity.  It has a feel to this CIO like a point of inflection in some kind of continuous evolution ? whether or not it?s periodic or not.  One good thing about metaphoric points of inflection is that we know something is about to happen, good or bad. 


In this risk averse profession, it?s easy to retreat to a ?default deny? mode.  But, maybe we should think about the paradigm-changing point of inflection we?re on.  The site has some interesting discussions about security and cloud computing.  Not just the traditional ?keep a CIO up at night? stuff, but some potential security benefits that this technology may have.  What are the possibilities? In this technology Jurassic Park, the nature of our customers will be to ?find a way? to get to these capabilities ? whether or not CIOs are ready or not.


Maybe it?s time for CIOs to be superheroes.  Maybe it?s time that CIO?s use their power for good.  Maybe we need to learn from our past and change our whole concept of service delivery and security in light of this new future. 


?I never look back, darling. It distracts from the now.? [ Edna in The Incredibles]


Just like the ?has been? superheroes in the animated film, The Incredibles, we are no longer needed by our customers to acquire and use these technologies.  But the real CIO power comes from her ability to help her organization and her customers use these technologies for ?good?. 


Oh, the good old days ? when I was a superhero systems programmer.  I can?t look back again.  But, it?s sure incredible up here in the clouds.  Now where did I put that cape?


Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center