Outsourcing, Value & Capabilities – Priorities for Small Business CIO’s

Small Business CIO SurveyOver the last few weeks I’ve been conducting a very unscientific survey of small business CIO’s, VP’s and Directors of IT.

Using LinkedIn, I gathered a list of fifty people in the US who had the title of Chief Information Officer (CIO), Vice President of IT, or Director of IT with small businesses.  Note:  My definition of a small business for the purposes of this survey is one with fewer than 500 employees per the Small Business Administration website.

I reached out to these fifty people.  I’ve met some before and talked with others…but I haven’t talked with the majority of them before. Out of the fifty, I received a response from 21 (42% response rate – not bad).  For those that responded, I sent a short email with some questions about background ,experience, team size, projects, strategy, etc and I received 18 responses.

The Survey

My questions:

  • How many years of experience do you have?
  • How long have you been in your current role?
  • How long have you been with your current company?
  • How many employees do you have in your company?
  • What is the size of your information technology staff?
  • What are your top 3 IT priorities in 2010?

So…from those 18 responses, I got the following information (I’ve rounded the numbers).

Responses:

  • Average Years of Experience in IT: 17 years
  • Average Tenure in Current Role: 3 years
  • Average Tenure at Current Company: 5 years
  • Average number of employees in company: 178
  • Average IT staff size: 8
  • Top 3 Priorities: Outsourcing, Driving Value, Growing capabilities

NOTE: The top three priorities I listed above are my interpretation of what was sent to me.

Let’s take a look at that last question in more detail.

Top three IT Priorities for 2010

As I noted above, the top three priorities for 2010 (as I interpreted them) are:

  • Outsourcing
  • Driving Value
  • Growing Capabilities

The responses from each respondent where obviously widely different in makeup, but the majority of responses could be classified into these three areas.

Outsourcing

Most of the respondents claimed that they are actively seeking to find ways  to outsource those things that create ‘busy work’.  Specifically,  the area most targeted for outsourcing was the IT Infrastructure area.

Driving Value

Most respondents told me that they’ve been tasked in 2010 with helping their company get ‘more’ from their current information technology assets.

I had 3 respondents actually say that their budgets for IT projects were completely taken away by the CEO until they (the CIO / IT Group) could show the value of their current investments.  Sounds like an interesting environment.

Growing Capabilities

At the same time that these leaders were telling me that they were looking at outsourcing some of the IT infrastructure, they also told me they were looking to grow the capabilities of their teams.

One important area that many hit on was to grow their information technology staff to be more business oriented. They were trying to focus more on being business analysts rather than technology implementers.  Very very interesting.

What does this survey tell us?

Very interesting results.

I’m excited that are senior IT leaders in the small business segment that understand how important a role that information technology can play for their organization.

These Small Business CIO’s, VP’s and Directors all understand that they can do more with less if they change their focus.  Unlike the past, it doesn’t seem like these small business IT leaders are focused on keeping the servers running any longer…they are more focused on being a business partner.

I’m going to try to make this survey a bit more formal for future work…check back soon.

Ramblings on Social Media

I’ve been lurking around the social web for quite some time experimenting with different systems and learning a tremendous amount from all of the ‘experts’ out there.

I’ve been on LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Technorati and many many other systems.  I liked some and didn’t like some.

I recently started using Twitter (@ericdbrown) and Friendfeed (find me here) to get a good feel for what these systems are all about. Twitter seems to be all the rage these days and has gone from a small-ish audience to a large mass-market audience.   I think Friendfeed has a lot of value but think it will take some time to catch on.

The more I interact on these systems, the more frustrated I get with the proclamations that “Social Media” is the answer to our problems. The first real issue that frustrates me is that we all have different problems…but let’s ignore that for now.

Let’s assume that we have a marketing problem and need a better way to reach our clients. This is a perfect use for the tools in the Social Media toolbox. But we need to remember that they are tools…not the answer to the problem.

Back to the use of SM in your marketing problem. You’ve heard about Facebook.  You’ve heard about Twitter.  So…you open a Facebook account and a Twitter account.

Now what?  Well…you’re on Facebook and Twitter. You’ve done what “they’ve” told you to do….you’ve opened an account.  You’ve made ‘friends’ and you’ve posted some things.  But you aren’t seeing much from your efforts.  Why aren’t your clients knocking your doors down?

Well…if you did it ‘right’, you would have people knocking down your door….but most organizations & people don’t do it right. Most people get on these platforms and post promotional material and links back to their websites or marketing-speak laden material.   If you are going to get on these platforms, you’ve got to be real and interactive.  You’ve got to embrace the community out there.

This blog post isn’t about ‘how to do it right’…lord knows I’m not a Social Media expert.  Go read Chris Brogan, Giovanni Gallucci or the many other experts out there.

This blog post is just a reminder to the few folks that stumble upon it that Social Media is a tool.  Social Media should be part of your overall strategy for reaching your clients. Social Media isn’t the answer.

Let’s look at Twitter and Friendfeed again as examples.

Twitter is fun. There are some great people on there and some great content being shared. Heck, Twitter has turned into a citizen journalism tool (note the recent US Airways crash in NYC…news first broke across Twitter with the first pic from the scene – more here).  Twitter is going mainstream fast.  If you aren’t on Twitter, you will probably will be before end of 2009.

Friendfeed may be the next ‘big’ SM tool but the jury is still out on it to see if the mainstream users pick it up.  Scoble loves Friendfeed, I like Friendfeed too but I still see a lot of people trying to grasp what it can be used for.

The thing that many people miss with Twitter and Friendfeed and all other Social Media is that they are tools.Tools to be used to communicate with people who wish to receive communication in that manner.  What about the millions of people that aren’t using those tools.  How will you reach them?  How will you reach through the noise on these platforms to reach your target(s)?

These tools, and all other tools, are great as long as we remember that they are tools.  Tools to be used to share your message.  Tools to build your brand and client base. Tools to communicate with your community.

Social Media isn’t the answer…its a tool to be used to find the answer.  Social Media is a tool to be used to share your message.  Just remember to make your message simple and honest.  Make your message authentic and it will connect with people regardless of what tools you use.  Authenticity will reach through the noise and connect.

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Information Technology Challenges

I asked the following question on LinkedIn earlier this week and received some very insightful responses:

What are the top challenges in IT organization’s today?

In reading the various magazines, blogs and websites out there (CIO.com, etc) on the subject, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are many many issues facing IT groups today. What are the top challenges that most IT organizations are facing today? What is keeping CIO’s up at night in today’s environment?

If you haven’t tried out LinkedIn yet, you should…there are some great folks over there as well as some excellent information available in the Questions / Answers Section.

I received some excellent responses…and most were on target with my own thoughts.  Prior to asking the question, I thought that the issues that were in the front of many IT leaders were:

  • Find and Keeping Talent
  • Business / IT Alignment
  • IT Strategy
  • Outsourcing

The responses received from other LinkedIn users seem to back up my original thoughts.  There were other issues listed (System integration, Merger and Acquisition Due Diligence, etc) that were very interesting to see as well.

It’s interesting to get the feedback from people in the field on what they see as huge issues.  An interesting point to note, none of the responses seemed to be from CIO’s of an organization…all were from people who seem to be at a more tactical level than strategic level.

Why is this important?  To me, it says that there are a lot of people in IT with the business savvy to see the challenges that is facing them and their organization.  Why then are these same IT folks being told that they aren’t “business savvy” and need to start speaking “like business people“?  It sounds to me like there are plenty of business savvy people in IT but very few people on the ‘business’ side of things that have really reached out to these folks to get their opinions.

Any additional challenges for IT groups that have been overlooked (either in my post or in the responses on LinkedIn)?

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