2008 was a year of rapid changes for Chief Technology Officers. We should expect 2009 to move even faster. Where will the biggest trends take us? I offer some considerations below. Please look these over and give me your thoughts. Push back if you have disagreement.
First, my overall advice for CTOs in 2009... Just like the new thin interfaces you will be testing in your lab... be flexible. Now here are some more thoughts on what's in store for CTO s in 2009:
Thoughts/comments/suggestions? Please let me know what you think.
Overdrive is a company that specializes in helping others leverage the social media landscape. They produced a great graphic that gives at least a high level overview of the key social media and web2.0 world. Click on the image here for a larger view download the PDF here: Download social-media-map.pdf (1330.3K)
I really like this graphic for a couple reasons. One is that like many other people I long for ways that can help me visualize and grasp things in this fast moving space. I know this does not capture all the social media sites and I know the categories are not as clean as depicted here. But still it is GREAT context and will be helpful to me in explaining to others some of the fast moving cloud based services out there (note to overdrive: please find room to add a section on cloud services, like cloud based office automation).
Another key reason I like this is it proves Overdrive's assertion that they are a company that can demystify online tools and help companies leverage these capabilities. The fact that they are letting any blogger anywhere post this graphic on their site is proof that they understand how these things work. Companies who want to make it in social spaces should give first then receive later.
How did I find this cool graphic? Friends at Facebook sent it to me. I found this cool social media reference through a cool social media site.
The idea of light-weight, low-cost, but very powerful laptops designed for a smaller feature set than traditional laptops has been around for a decade or so. But all indications are that something has changed in the market place. Due to a convergence of many factors, netbooks are growing in sales. These factors include the continual improvement in wireless speeds, the more widespread availability of wifi, the continued drop in cost of hardware, the continued increase in performance of open source operating systems and open source applications, the unstoppable move to more thin-client solutions, and the dramatically increased capabilities of cloud computing services (including the entire web2.0 megatrend and of course the continued innovations of Google in the cloud computing and online applications space).
I just did a few searches on Amazon and Bestbuy for netbooks devices, and pulled up entries for small notebooks like the Acer Aspire One, an 8.9-inch mini laptop that runs Linux Lite and sells for under $300.00. It has plenty of capability and is very lightweight. It comes loaded with applications, including open source office automation packages (I think I would want to download the most recent version of open office if I purchased this). It also comes with a built in camera and is ready for high end video chat.
Will I buy one? There are clearly some of these in my future, I just don't know when. I have a MacBook and I really like it for everything I need in a laptop. I use it around the house and on travel. And, although it is over a year old now, it doesn't need replacement. When it does, however, I'm going to be asking myself why I would want to pay $1000 more for a Mac instead of a couple hundered for a Netbook. So much of what I do I do on the cloud anyway, and the many things I do locally can be done using the free Open Office.
If we assume the same sort of trades are being considered by other buyers, a conclusion starts to emerge. Netbooks are going to be a very disruptive force in the market.
And what is the market saying so far about this trend? Acer is reporting huge success with their netbooks approach, their sales have been growing significantly. They just reported a 78.8 percent growth rate over the same quarter in 2007. And this is during a huge market downturn. HP and Dell are reporting unit sales growth of 13.5 percent and 10.7 percent, respectively. Apple is just about flat.
If you are an enterprise CTO, what should you do with this information? For one, you should consider how to use laptops/netbooks like these in your organization. If done right, you can enhance the security of your enterprise by moving more of your data and applications to secure clouds, and you can also add security features to your netbooks and field a significant enhancement to your security posture. And, since the cost of these devices is far less than traditional laptops you can equip more of your workforce and save money at the same time, which is a very virtuous thing in this economic environment.
Note: I've previously written about several devices that qualify as netbooks, including:
Thin Client Laptops: Functionality, Security, Mobility A review of high end, enterprise quality wireless stateless thin clients using the Sun Microsystems approach;
The Future Is Changing Again A review of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative.
I also recommend a recent article at Economist.com called Small is Beautiful.
I ran into so many friends at the AFCEA solutions conference this week. One guy I have not seen in person for years is Mike “Ziggy” Steinmetz. Ziggy is a great leader and thinker at Northrop Grumman. He is also a tremendous collector of wisdom and a teacher who helped prepare me for my position as CTO of DIA. Seeing him made me think I should share some of these lessons with you.
The lessons come from the true story of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team. The guys that did the impossible by defeating the Soviets. We all know the story. And there is a GREAT movie titled “Miracle” that captures it very very well. From the Amazon description of the movie: "Kurt Russell gives a brilliant performance as the dynamic and determined coach Herb Brooks, who had an impossible dream -- beat the seemingly unbeatable Soviets at their own game. Starting with a handpicked group of 26 undisciplined kids, Brooks coached them to play like they never played before, and turned 20 of them into a team that believed they could achieve the unachievable -- and in the process, united a nation with a new feeling of hope."
Think of the coach of that team, Herb Brooks, and his strategy for winning. He took players who once played for competing teams with long standing rivalries and forged a new team unlike any team that had ever played before. The way he did it has direct lessons for many areas of leadership, especially technology leadership.
Watch the movie and look for these lessons/thoughts:
A CTO needs to do more than watch a movie to be a great CTO. But this movie sure gives you things to think about. So, a big thumbs up from the CTOvision movie review team.