Saturday, June 13, 2015

"3 Years is a decade" says NASA's Soderstrom to a crowd of 500 top Chief Information Officers

In his presentation at the New Zealand CIO Summit, Tom Soderstrom (IT Chief Technology Officer, NASA Jet Propulsion Labs) talked about how quickly technology is changing. He shared a thought provoking statement "3 years is a decade in IT years."

Tom compared the difference in the way technology is used between a freshman and a senior college student (American education system). An example, is that the senior student used Facebook as a freshman but the freshmen of today may choose not to use Facebook. The attention span for a technology platform is on the rapid decline.

This creates a challenge for the corporate world. If you intend to deploy a technology within a duration of 3 years, by 'go live' you'll be no better off than you are today. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Failing to keep up with technology creates risk. An employee tries to email a large file to a customer. Your email service prohibits this usage by enforcing a size limitation. A few clicks and the employee is sharing the file using Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or some other "we'll give you 50GB of what your company won't provide" service.

Let's not ask if your corporate data is in someone else's cloud. The fact is, you know it is. Why? Maybe you were too busy working with HR on a policy full of disciplinary consequences while all this was going on.

My concern is that most companies I know of are more than just an "IT decade" behind. But it doesn't have to be this way. One of the most compelling reasons for considering cloud based technology is that it often provides a rapid path to deployment. Corporate offerings of Dropbox, Google Drive and others, address concerns around security, ownership and governance.

In the presentation prior to Tom, Jacki Johnson (CEO of IAG's New Zealand business) talked about the level of work that most people fail to ever get to, that of ‘strategic leadership’. It’s the place where you have 80% of the fact base with 20% being gut and intuition. People will not know if you have made the right decision for 3 - 5 years. This is pretty scary when strategic leadership intercepts with accelerated change.

If we are going to step up to the plate of strategic leadership, we must learn how to use the facts along with our gut and intuition. We must predict technological outcomes in line with rapidly changing customer demographics and workplaces of the future. We need to ensure that corporate governance enables the rapid adoption of new technology.

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