Power in the People

Opinion: Amid the top CIO concerns, finding the right personnel is key

What is top of mind for today's chief information officer? The CIO has many issues contending for top slot. There is the economy, which is uncertain at best. There are compliance issues, which can undo the best-laid corporate plans. There is the environmental movement. And, of course, there is the rapid pace of technology development.

I was at the Ziff Davis Enterprise CIO Summit in early May at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay, Calif., which afforded the chance to have conversations with some of the top CIOs. There were plenty of lessons from the past, a few from the future and a good dose of simply sensible advice.

In a lesson about wringing savings and being a good green corporate citizen, Russ Thyret, director of global end-user support for Coca-Cola Enterprises, outlined an aggressive plan he used to attack printing costs. Coca-Cola, like many businesses, prints a lot of paper for internal use. In Coke's case, the printing added up to about 250 million sheets of paper per year. By managing the printing costs, educating users and emphasizing recycling, Thyret is on course to cut that amount by about 30 percent while saving 8,000 trees in the process. Russ, the trees will thank you for taking a hard look at ongoing costs and creating a plan to save money and paper.

A panel that included Bill Letcher, vice president of enterprise intranet development at Wachovia, looked at something new and in the future for most CIOs. The topic was Web 2.0, social networks and what all that means to the modern enterprise. For Wachovia, it meant adding the right amounts of discussion groups, blogging and other social networks to tie together the many pieces of a far-flung company.

Charlene Li, principal analyst for Forrester Research, provided some of the best advice on the panel. Li noted that the old standbys of return on investment analysis and business strategy are still stalwarts in deciding how much Web 2.0 technology a company should undertake.

But the top-of-mind issue? My scientific analysis conducted over wine tastings and sumptuous dinners found the following. Remember the need to find and hire good employees? Technology that also understands business basics and specifics geared for your company? Employees who know how to walk around an organization to find out what is going on and who are willing to sit and listen to users rather than retreat to e-mail and phone messages? Employees who recognize we now live in an international global community that includes in-house development, offshore sourcing and technology services being offered from a computing cloud? Finding the right people who can help their company become a business success is still the CIO's top issue.

Editorial Director Eric Lundquist can be reached at elundquist@eweek.com.