It’s been an interesting week on the front line with CIOs, first at PegaWorld in Philadelphia and later in Boston at a CIO Magazine roundtable. The CIO roundtable provided a really good view of the mega issues being faced, and the enthusiasm on display at PegaWorld for embracing new techniques in developing solutions to tackle these issues in a new way really surprised me.
The first clear change was the number and quality of CIOs who were prepared to get out of the office and go to a roundtable event. A couple of years ago, even before the credit crunch, attendance had dropped noticeably. CIOs simply didn’t think there was enough of value to spare precious time in going. IT was pretty mature, the challenges were all in internal execution and that wasn’t helped by roundtables promoting the problems they had already identified. Now the challenges and issues are fresh ones, important ones, and experience in how to deal with them is in short supply.

Lane Cooper from CIO Magazine did a great job of facilitating a really good discussion with every CIO actively contributing, and taking copious amounts of notes. At the end all thought it had been well worth their time and they had learnt useful information that they would be taking back to use. That’s a big big change! So what were the points and the outcomes?
Growth in the enterprise is clearly back on the agenda, and it’s equally clearly around external web based technology and operations. Keeping the lights on is an expectation that must be delivered but its not enough. There is a blitz of new moves using new technologies underway in the enterprise and most are taking place outside the current governance model that has been perfected for IT. As CIOs they think they are responsible, or at least will be held responsible, if something happens, even if they were not involved or even knew nothing about the matter. BUT and it’s a big BUT, it’s not acceptable to be seen to ‘cry wolf’ over the risks as these new moves are considered too important and necessary to be stopped.
What was clearly identified was it’s not the technologies themselves that are the issue – and yes, we did touch briefly on clouds and other hot technologies – it’s the governance of how they are used that is worrying them. In the current ‘as is’ situation the CIO is managing a governance structure based on the centralisation of process and resources. From this they are overseeing the integrity of data all of which is under their direct control and this has mostly been safely positioned within the firewall. What they are facing now is a decentralisation in the use of technology, often with an open firewall, and a very indistinct pattern of business managers running different things.
By the time the roundtable wrapped up there was clarity about the need to renegotiate the governance structure in the enterprise into a shared responsibility between managers, with the CIO driving the need for a fresh CEO-down look at how to redefine roles and responsibilities that allowed them to be enablers but not fall guys. If I didn’t get any of this right or there are builds I hope you guys who were there, and Lane in particular, will join in and post!
So what is it that ties this to PegaWorld? Firstly I have to say a wonderful feeling of people being there because they believe in what they can do with Pega as a Business Process Manager (BPM) and who are hungry to learn more, so that’s a common theme. Secondly the problem that they are solving relates to the issue of being agile in terms of what is needed to rapidly solve these new ‘edge of business’ or ‘front office’ business requirements in a manner that ensures managers get flexibility, but the organisation keeps its core governance and rule structures in place.
Wikipedia refers to BPM as business process optimisation and a holistic approach for aligning business and IT, but what was driving the connection for me was the combination of rules and policy linked to flexibility in being able to change or customise processes. Pega has been a big success in the financial industry, and in the healthcare sector, both notable for speed of change and competitive needs from technology coupled with strong governance requirements. I don’t normally put in plugs for vendors, but in this case I will, mainly as encouragement to look at exactly what is now happening in the BPM space and how it links to some of the current issues.
Two interesting events both linked by CIOs looking at changes in what they do and how they do it, and by a new sense of enthusiasm after a pretty grey period of lock down and cost focuses.