The HiPPO In The Room - InformationWeek

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Lorna Garey
Lorna Garey
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The HiPPO In The Room

I attended the MIT Sloan Symposium yesterday, which largely focused on the democratization and decentralization of IT. "You're no longer in control," says Frank Moss, former Tivoli CEO and now head of MIT's media lab. "Get over it."

I attended the MIT Sloan Symposium yesterday, which largely focused on the democratization and decentralization of IT. "You're no longer in control," says Frank Moss, former Tivoli CEO and now head of MIT's media lab. "Get over it."Factors cited in this anarchical state of affairs include the usual suspects: Baby boomers retiring and being replaced by younger and more technology-literate workers, cloud computing services pitched direct to business units, a shift from cap-ex to operational budgets, and more and more prescriptive regulations.

But the concept that stuck with me all day is the idea that we need to move from HiPPO-driven decision-making to basing our business choices on data, where HiPPO = Highest Paid Person's Opinion.

Who hasn't been in a decision-making situation where you could have gone out and compiled some numbers, maybe polled users or consulted surveys like the ones we do at InformationWeek Analytics, but instead you just took the easy road and let one or two senior people call the play?

And how much does this model have to do with the fact that the CIO ranks, judging by Symposium attendees anyway, is still overwhelmingly male? But I digress.

Now, a data-driven decision isn't the same as reaching consensus by committee; that's how horses turn into giraffes. But last time you as an IT leader faced a significant business choice -- Do we outsource our e-mail? Upgrade current hardware to Win7 or look at VDI? -- did hard data drive your decision, or was it a gut call? Why not use your company's wiki or other social networking system to ask end users for their opinions? You might be surprised at what you'd learn.

Other observations: > Ananth Krishnan, CTO of Tata Consultancy Services, suggested that the merits of frugality for its own sake might be growing on IT. Hey, there is a certain satisfaction in keeping XP alive for one more year, right? Krishnan also predicted that as the economy sees some green shoots, so too will green come back into CIOs' consciousness, and this time, just using some air cooling in the data center and shrinking default Word margins isn't going to cut it. Watch for balance sheets to reflect exactly how you account for energy savings; that will require new ways to measure.

> Plenty of cloud vendors in attendance. Top functions to go to the cloud: e-mail (no surprise), UC (makes sense), and enterprise search (makes even more sense, when you think about it). > Top CIOs said they want to see vendors make a paradigm shift from selling product to partnering with customers to solve long-term problems. This of course runs up against the quarterly booking period model, but companies that can be seen as willing to skip a quick profit to take a longer view will have a better welcome.

> Finally, please, security types, stop citing that example of Brits who gave up their e-mail passwords to people standing outside subway stops in exchange for chocolate. It was six years ago, first of all, and I'll bet that most of those polled simply lied about their passwords to get the candy. We're not as dumb as you think.

Speaking of security, check out our free report on getting and staying FISMA compliant -- even if you're not subject to FISMA, these five best practices are applicable across large and small companies in a huge range of industries.

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