The pressure remains

Power and cooling in the data centre may not have been the most exciting topic to focus on in the first issue of 2007. But add up your costs and find out what is stake by reading the article beginning on page 8, you may change your perspective.

Our annual look at outsourcing at this time of year usually examines the business strategy or applications development side of things, but by looking at having somebody else manage your data centre, you may be surprised by the cost-savings that can be had.

We also begin this year with a look at business transformation, first from the perspective of Queen’s School of Business professor Elspeth Murray (see Q&A, p. 14), then offering seven examples of this type of change in a companion feature (see p. 16).

What you may be able to glean from all this is that CEOs, and the CIOs who report to them, don’t always have the luxury of staying on a path of cautious, incremental improvement.

More and more, companies are beginning to embark on a journey of radical change, and IT is expected to have a huge role in such a transition.

It means CIOs will have to become more business savvy than ever, yet at the same time, ensure their technical infrastructure is always up and running.

Speaking of which, I’ve recently had the chance to talk to several CIOs and gather opinions on what they feel are the top concerns going into 2007. What surprised me is the differences of opinion. (For full coverage of these interviews, please see the Feb. 2, 2007, issue of Computing Canada.)

Some CIOs are quite content to delegate all technology and infrastructure issues to a chief technology officer leaving them to focus on business strategy instead. Other CIOs worry they will lose touch with the technology, and longer term, ultimately dilute what technical skills they may have.

Some CIOs want to maintain full inhouse responsibility for application development and high-level business analysis, while others don’t mind entrusting this function to an outsourcer or third party because that level of skill required is almost impossible to recruit and maintain.

Some CIOs will tell you the technology is the easy part while others say infrastructure issues related to storage, e-mail, back-up and recovery and networking have never been more complex.

There is one thing most CIOs do agree on, we are on the verge of a serious skills shortage, with experienced programmers and Web-based developers extremely difficult to find.

One CIO was very blunt about it. It doesn’t matter how good you are at plotting a business strategy; without the right skills behind you, you cannot execute.

I suspect regardless of how you feel about these and other issues, you will be facing a very interesting year.

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