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Mon 23 Feb 2009 10:12 AM

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Through the looking glass

Everyone’s heard that old saw about the glass of water being either half full or half empty, depending on which side of the optimist/pessimist debate you fall on.

Everyone’s heard that old saw about the glass of water being either half full or half empty, depending on which side of the optimist/pessimist debate you fall on.

What most people forget is that there is a third way to perceive the situation: perhaps the glass is the wrong size for its contents. That certainly represented the mood amongst regional CIOs at the recent IDC summit held in Dubai.

The glass in question refers to the current state of infrastructure and IT direction in regional enterprises – and the fact that the vast majority of what is extant was conceived and executed during a time of relative plenty, aka the past six months. Most CIOs now openly admit that they need to reconsider their strategy if their respective organisations are to survive the emergent credit crisis without suffering the ignominy of cancelled projects or enforced retrenchment .

As I listened to the various vendor presentations and panels at the summit, it was fascinating to note which subjects drew the interest of attendees. For example, a discussion of service-oriented architecture by an IBM representative attracted significant praise.

If you think about it, it actually makes perfect sense. Most organisations will in all likelihood be looking at the current situation as an opportunity to reorganise the core services provided to end users, so taking advantage of the best practice offered by SOA providers is clearly a no-brainer.

Other topics were not greeted with as much enthusiasm. I am unlikely to forget in a hurry the scene that transpired when the Green IT panel discussion began. Virtually half the roomful of CIOs simply got up and left the room to have a cup of tea outside and get in an extra half hour of networking.

It seems indicative of the general contempt with which CIOs treat the concept of green IT in the region and the relative importance they assign it within their overall portfolio. In my later meetings, many said that they are just tired of hearing about it year after year expressed in grandiose terms but with little in the way of practical execution detail. Vendors are quick to trot out figures that show massive costs savings, they said, but are unwilling to accept that these savings are arrived at only often after a significant investment has made to refit internal strategy and infrastructure.

Few would argue that going green has the potential to provide significant cost savings for enterprises, but until vendors do a better job of translating that beyond, “You’ll use less power,” it will continue to be a hard sell for CIOs now pressed to justify every investment they make.

As the summit progressed, it became clear that most of the presenting vendors had had the same imperative when preparing the presentations: somehow work a ‘how to deal with the credit crisis’ angle into the proceedings.

To be honest, it’s a tack that didn’t seem to work. More than one CIO privately expressed to me that they were frankly tired of repeatedly hearing about how negative the overall situation is. What they came to discuss with their peers was how to keep moving forward with projects – downsized or otherwise – and retain staff, not wallow in an ocean of self-pity.

In fact, I can’t recalling meeting a single CIO at the event who wasn’t net-positive about his individual situation. Despite the fact that most budgets report some element of downsizing, and while major projects will likely be delayed, most of the IT management present reported a strong commitment to protecting their staff and continuing to do as much as possible in-house, rather than resorting to outsourcing the majority of their services and cutting headcount.

Indeed, it seems that the developing recession will not sort the chaff from the wheat – as many seem to expect it will – but will actually allow regional CIOs the opportunity to finally show management the true value of their department to the overall business.

By my reckoning, the glass is most certainly full.

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RAJEEV BAJPAI 11 years ago

"Everyone’s heard that old saw about the glass of water being either half full or half empty, depending on which side of the optimist/pessimist debate you fall on. " - long time this was used as a epitome of pessimism or optimism - though the fact remains that the glass is half full or half empty largely depends on the event - whether One is pouring or whether one is drinking. Cheers !