SoundOff: What's keeping CIOs awake at night

What were CIOs' biggest fears in 2012?
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The biggest monster lurking under the CIO's bed this season seems to be mobile security, and while infrastructure issues remain a constant challenge, there are plenty of other bugaboos rearing their ugly heads as well. How can organizations generate the capacity to innovate at a sufficient pace? How can IT and business alignment be sustained once it has been established? How can IT support the growing profusion of personal technologies brought into the workplace, and secure the network when employees are looking for ways to procure their own solutions? As the CIO's roles and responsibilities expand, the challenges expand along with them. With businesses increasingly turning to IT to find ways to create value, differentiation and competitive advantage, there is plenty to keep the IT leadership up at night. Here are a handful of eyewitness accounts.


ROGUE IT

I used to worry about servers crashing or network switches failing or power failures. I still have to deal with power failures, but infrastructure issues are no longer keeping me awake. These days, if I worry about anything, I worry about the solutions people might be building on their own. That might be a spreadsheet solution for a line of business operation that should be a lot less fragile than an Excel file, or a pile of documents moving from a network share drive into a rogue SharePoint site without the benefit of metadata. Of course, that could also be a $0.99 app that someone thinks is worthy of handling enterprise data or a cloud-based storage solution running on a server in a third-world country. Procuring and provisioning technology is easier today than it has been at any time in my career, but it's equally easy to make bad decisions while performing those tasks.

- Dan Antion, vice president of information services, American Nuclear Insurers


PASSWORD VULNERABILITY

The IT nightmare scenario that is keeping me up at night is a breach of passwords. There has been a flood of publicized password breaches this year, and I've read a number of articles lately that conclude that all of our passwords, even what we thought were secure, mixed character passwords are now easily cracked through a combination of recently advanced cracking tools and sophisticated social engineering. Just when I got my users to adopt the one upper-case, one lower-case, one number and one symbol protocol, that now appears to be inadequate. To deal with this new reality I have to start looking at passphrases, password recovery systems, single sign-on, encryption and, of course, say my daily silent prayer to the gods of technology.

- Mark Karnick, CIO, Glaser, Weil, Fink, Jacobs, Howard, Avchen & Shapiro LLP


MOBILITY

There is such a huge demand for mobility, and business leaders are demanding that CIOs provide solutions. Yet the technology is so new and so disruptive that nobody really has security solutions for it. There aren't many companies building them yet.

Solutions have got to be device agnostic. I think a lot of CIOs are a little bit risk-averse and will wait a year or two more to see who wins with an enterprise solution. It's hard to have any confidence right now that a solution out there will have legs.

- R. Scot Hopkins, Captain USN (Ret.) and former CIO for the Navy's HR and training activities

Image: LinkedIn


INNOVATION

We see a lot of innovation in the for-profit industries, but non-profit hasn't looked to it as much, and that's where we need to go. What keeps me awake is thinking about what is going to be the [disruptive technology] of human services. What can I come up with to drive our ability to help people in ways that technology is not being used today? Those who don't innovate are going to fail. Those who do more with less will succeed. Right now there are some great applications for taking notes on mobile devices that let you correlate back to your computer. We have a lot of employees who have their own smartphones, so this is a utility that's already in their hands. Often they don't have time to sit down and type something up because their client is in a crisis situation. There are some fantastic apps now that enable you to make a quick voice note and later access it at your computer. 

- Robinson Neidhardt, IT director, Volunteers of America Chesapeake


CLOUD COMPUTING & BYOD

We're starting to get our heads around cloud services and what they mean for us. We're also trying to get our heads around allowing people to bring their own devices. A lot of those concerns are related to security. We've got a lot of staff who have their own equipment and we'd like to leverage that so they can access our systems from anywhere on whatever devices they want. We want them to be able to have access to their own desktop or a university desktop with the applications they need. For students, we want to start looking at their really big applications and allow them to use them from other locations. 

- Steve Dashfield, IT chief, University of Derby

Image: LinkedIn


SUSTAINING ALIGNMENT

IT has to do more than just provide information technology. We really have to focus on business value. Sometimes we get projects that start out as good ideas but they aren't tied sufficiently to the business, and they end up disappointing. You start the project, and then some other priority comes up, and the business people start taking good people off the project. It turns out that they had asked you for something tangential. The trick is to figure out what it is they really want. When you go in and talk to business executives, they start talking about technologies. What you want to have is continuous conversations with them about their business strategy and their business priorities. You have a responsibility to teach your business and your peers about how to best use information.

- Donald Castle, vice president and CIO, SGS North America

Image: LinkedIn

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