Michael Dell

We decided to take a look back at our choice of stories and try and find out how successfully we captured the prevailing zeitgeist, as well as seeing how things panned out after we had walked away…

January

CIO started 2013, as is traditional, with a forward looking piece triggered by an annual IT spending review and forecast report from Gartner. The report predicted an economic renaissance though the year and more IT spending from CIOs. Having spotted several green shoots ourselves, we took a cautiously positive position on the report, suggesting that “it feels as if we are on the cusp of a change”. This has proved to be the case, even if some observers are still not convinced that the UK’s encouraging economic position is anything other than the next nascent spending boom…

Bolder Britons to hike IT spending claims analyst

February

The cold winds of winter saw us contemplating the haemorrhaging retail scene on our high street: HMV, Jessops , Comet and Blockbuster were all recent casualties at that time, and though some attempted to implement survival plans, they have all gone on to wither and die.

Our thesis was that this was less about current economic conditions and more about the changing face of retail. We saw technology as a possible route for high street retailers to serve their customers better.  But aside from a few outlets using contactless payments systems, there isn’t much evidence that things have changed nearly a year later. That said, the nascent recovery may mean we don’t see quite such bloodshed on the high street this spring.

Something else has changed in retail since last year too. Some of the biggest online e-tailers are starting to be seen as too avaricious, too big. It’s not a customer view that has yet resulted in wholesale switching, but it might be the first indicator of a change in consumer sentiment. If it is, then our suggestion of looking at some of the innovations that might entice them back to the bricks and mortar would be timely…

High Street needs e-tail therapy

March

As winter drew to its close and those first small shoots of recovery started to pop up, CIO’s minds naturally turned to the question of recruitment.  And they found the UK education systems wanting – it seems the necessary skills for the next generation of IT professionals are going out of fashion at an unprecedented rate.  But although it suits us to blame this failure on the education system, we suggested that part of the blame lies with those of us currently recruiting.

In the rush to reduce IT overhead and on-costs, the 1990s saw a stampede to outsourcing.  Aside from the operations and management issues that this long distance organisation caused; sending all our money to another country to help build their skill base and expertise had an entirely predictable result: We lost the skills in our own country.

What was striking was that, even as some CIOs bemoaned this lack of IT skills, they were still unable to perceive the simple cause and effect. Not everyone however: Some have taken the concerns on board and are running exemplary apprenticeship schemes, like Steve Chambers at VISA.

Time for CIOs to take responsibility for IT skills shortage

April

No joke, in April Michael Dell (pictured) was about to re-acquire the PC manufacturer carrying his name from shareholders, taking the company back into private ownership. The $25 billion deal finally completed the following autumn after what Forbes dubbed ‘the nastiest tech buyout ever’.

Well maybe that’s to be expected. PCs are a tough business, but Dell (the man) is probably as well equipped as anyone to make it work – as long as he is able to understand the rush to mobile which Del (the company) so steadfastly ignored. Instead, the early signs are that Dell considers you, CIOs, his saviours. That means another company selling you more services and software.

Michael Dell taking direct action with private buy-out

July

Just one chapter in what could have been an epic work of its own about CIOs put in the firing line to cover for organisational bungling. In this case it was the story of the BBC’s CIO, John Linwood, who appeared to take the bullet for the failure of the BBCs flagship DMI project. We were most concerned that the write off, equivalent to the annual budget of Radio 4, seemed to yield absolutely no output of value to the corporation in spite of the many years of development proceeding it.

It’s time, we suggested, that the public sector worked out how to extract maximum and regular business value from all its projects, as many private sector companies have already done, through application of agile development techniques.  The more recent National Audit office revelation of at least £90 million in write-downs for Universal Credit software development suggests this is still not happening…

On Linwood there’s no more to report – he still appears on the BBC's site as being suspended, and we’ll just have to wait see what the investigations reveal. There seems to be no hurry…

BBC programming for failure?

September

As autumn leaves turn to brown, Steve Ballmer, the man that loved Microsoft so much and so loudly, finally announced his intention to bow out of the business. This was news accompanied by mixed reviews. Our take was both that he'd done a pretty good job of holding the shop together through terrible economic times, even if was at the expense of share price, and also that his product decisions weren't all bad. But that Windows Vista probably was…

Our other point was that Microsoft’s continued interest in hardware looks more and more irrelevant – we’ve all seen those overpriced Surface products sitting gathering dusk in Curry’s, and however good the Windows Nokia phone handsets are technically, are they capable of driving a wedge between Apple and Android? Unlikely.

Our suggestion was that Microsoft follows IBM’s lead, focusing on the kinds of products and solutions you, CIO’s readers, want to buy. Who cares who makes the handset or client device anyway?

Steve Ballmer's Microsoft legacy

October

Another month, another abject IT project failure. This time it was a report from the Mayor of London’s cross-party budget and performance committee, which found very little to be nice about in the Metropolitan Police’s approach to technology. In this case the CIO had made the wise decision to leave some time before the ordure hit the extraction system. And the Met’s interim replacement isn’t tainted with actually have implemented any of the stuff being criticised.

Rather than the BBC’s one huge whitewashed elephant, this story is one about a thousand baby white elephants; of complexity, and a lack of coherence and leadership. We reckon the number of stakeholders who feel compelled to express their option of the Met’s activities doesn’t help decision making: at least 14 at the last count.

It makes you wonder whether any CIO, however brilliant, could make progress in such a situation...

London’s Met needs smarter policing - Assembly report states

So what have we learned from our whirlwind review of 2013’s CIO Big Story topics? Well, that the green shoots haven’t died back yet; that the CIO’s role continues to be a demanding one; that both Dell and Microsoft will probably be knocking at your door selling you more software and services in 2014; that you should take care in investigating the development legacy and approach of any organisation that tries to hire you; and that it’s you who responsible for developing the skills of the next generation of IT specialists. Isn’t that enough?  

We decided to take a look back at our choice of stories and try and find out how successfully we captured the prevailing zeitgeist, as well as seeing how things panned out after we had walked away…