CIO UK partners the CIO Executive Council held their European chapter regional meeting this morning at the London HQ of credit card company Capital One.

The meeting was well attended with 20 CIOs from across Europe attending, despite the conversation during the meeting addressing the fact that all corporations are cutting back on travel expenditure. That said there were CIOs from Dutch bankers, Irish property conglomerates and French manufacturers present.

The entire meeting was off the record, so we can't attribute any detail or quotes to the CIOs present, but the CIO Executive Council agreed that it would be useful to have the flavour of the meeting covered, which is below.

The meeting focussed on what CIOs can do to improve effectiveness during the recession and kicked off in an upbeat mood, despite the sombre topic. A CIO from a major entertainment group said the recession was an opportunity to simplify its business and the number of applications they use, others agreed and as a European chapter meeting there was a very global perspective to the discussions. A number agreed that the recession was a chance to bring together IT as a global organisation that all local IT shops reported to.

Inevitably the thorny issue of reducing headcount in the IT team arose. Alluding to hospital TV shows one of the CIOs said you have to be like the open-heart surgeons that talk about their Porsche whilst performing a life saving operation on a patient. The trick, he said, is to remove your emotions from the process.

Not everyone is taking the operating scalpel to their departments, in-sourcing, a term we are constantly hearing on CIO UK was mentioned. One said they had got rid of a swathe of consultants in order to pass the work to their team and keep talent in place for when the organisation has revenue to invest again. Others were measuring the value of keeping or bringing areas of service back in house such as network management.

For almost everyone present, the last two to three years have been as big a challenge as the recession as they constantly strived to keep pace with ever expanding businesses. Now, they say, there is a chance to introduce some best practice and to really prove the value of the IT by delivering quick RoIs, something that has been difficult of late. At the same time they plan to consolidate the number of vendors they have, which one pointed out has a knock on efficiency in that it reduces the management time needed to monitor contracts.

Talk of contract negotiation led to a discussion on the skills a CIO has to offer the overall organisation, including helping other departments negotiate deals. On their own negotiation needs, all agreed knowing when a vendor is coming up to its financial year end is priceless to get the best deal. Microsoft was considered the hardest to deal with, and Oracle came in for praise.