Urgh – 2006 already

How did that happen? Last thing I remember we were all watching the Millennium Dome celebrations and now we’re in the second half of the decade. So another year, another set of challenges for CIOs.

Actually, most of the challenges are pretty much the same as they’ve always been. Do more with less. Produce ROI even when we’re not entirely sure how to measure it. Worry about security and spend lots of money that you really don’t want to spend on storage just because you have to. Like death and taxes, there is always storage to be bought.

So are there any particular 2006 trends that we should be looking out for? Personally I’d like to see more of a desire on the part of CIOs to make IT into a bottom-line enabler. Now I know that’s what they always say, but these things go in cycles.

We’ve just been through a first half of the decade when IT was used to cut costs. Perhaps in the second half we will switch over to its potential to generate profits?

There will be some new challenges. Most organisations are still struggling with compliance issues. Add to that the need to address the challenges of identity. Not identity cards – which we’re all rather tired of hearing about now – but identity at a B2B level. Identity theft has rightly become a hot topic, but the corporate aspects of identity management are just as important and likely to come more to the fore in 2006.

It would be good also to see CIOs standing up to their vendors a bit more, particularly about the matter of upgrades to basically unwanted new versions of software. If it ain’t broke, why ‘fix’ it? Too many vendors have been allowed to get away with forcing unnecessary new versions on to unsuspecting corporates. The only winners in this tend to be vendors themselves who find a new revenue stream. It’s certainly not being done for the benefit of the user in most cases. Let’s make 2006 the year that users learn to say ‘no thanks’ to the latest upgrade. (Actually, I’m not going to hold my breath on that one...)

Anyway with 2006, hold on tight, it’s going to be the usual bumpy ride.

Well that was lousy timing.

Just before Christmas Salesforce.com went down, leaving subscribers stranded and unable to use the system at one of the busiest times of the year. And of course from a PR point of view, it was one of the quietest times of the year so the story got all the more coverage.

Inevitably the nay-sayers of the on-demand model of delivery were quick to jump to their feet and shout: ‘we told you so’. In addition a number of rival on-demand vendors decided it was appropriate to crow over the outage and boast about their own uptime records.

Firstly, an outage like this does nothing in its own right invalidate the on-demand model. In this particular case, the problem appears to have come not from Salesforce.com itself, but from a failure with one of its databases – the company is being coy about the supplier of the database, but we’re guessing it starts with O – and as such was a basic infrastructure issue.

Of course that’s no comfort if you were unable to access your service, but such a fault hardly invalidates the on-demand delivery approach.

As for rival crowing, well pride comes before a fall. First up, it seems rather crazy to me for on-demand vendors to be adding weight to the nay-sayers of the model by criticising Salesforce.com, though taking a pop at the company must be incredibly attractive.

Also I can’t help feeling you’re tempting fate chaps. It happened to Salesforce this time, can you be 100 per cent confident that it’s not going to happen to you at some point? When it does, forgive us if we remind you of your glee on this occasion.

Some suggest that the thing to take from this is that a hybrid approach with both on-premises and on-demand elements is the safest bet. Not convinced?

This was an infrastructure failure, your own database server could go down just as easily. The real lesson from all this is the importance of having strong service level agreements in place. You need solid guarantees of service delivery levels. If you don’t have them, then you’re really playing with fire.

Interesting to hear that Apple CEO Steve Jobs supposedly dismissed the prototype iPod as crap when he first tried it in 2001.

According to a blog by former Apple exec Mike Evangelist, nearing debut, the mercurial Jobs was not happy with the iPod earphones. “This feels like crap!” he allegedly said before ordering them to be redone. My only comment is: the earphones are still crap, so what on earth were the originals like?