I found the most interesting part of Wednesday's TechExecs CIO Panel Forum to be, well, the panel forum. Moderated by Boeing System Analyst and University of Phoenix professor Bill Allen and comprised of Bill Peterson, CTO of Routh, Crabtree, Olsen PS, Washington Delta Dental CIO John Polti, and Columbia Bank VP and IT Manager Nathan Church, the panel discussed (and invited audience members to chime in on) their biggest current challenges, Social Network on Web 2.0 approaches in their organizations, and virtualization in the current economy.
Peterson dealt with the panel view on virtualization question in one quick sentence which seemed to sum it up for all participants: "Virtualization makes sense in any economy." There was no debate of the point. Most attendees were already implementing or exploring significant virtualization in their companies.
The discussion of social media and Web 2.0 in the enterprise was more nuanced. As I mentioned yesterday, I was somewhat surprised at the general level of agreement on just how inevitable these trends are, and at the depth of consideration which most attendees were putting into their social media strategies. The pushback that one hears about almost constantly online was nowhere in evidence; rather, the entire panel and most of the audience showed well-considered positions which balanced corporate needs against the advantages and individual freedoms tied up with the Web 2.0 concept. That's better than I have heard any of their detractors come up with.
There was a surprising amount of discussion on the generational aspects of the concept. Washington Delta Dental CIO John Polti introduced the thought that internal implementations of such tools might help prepare the workforce to make responsible use of them externally at some point in the future. There was considerable concern evinced about compliance in the Web 2.0 world, but Polti again posited that this might be as much a question for the organization's executive leadership as for IT specifically, and that IT's role is most appropriately in educating and informing the rest of the business as to what is possible and what is dangerous. The concept of implementing Web 2.0 tools internally in preparation for a more public-facing deployment wasn't one I had heard before, and it may seem stilted or unnecessary to the younger generation, but I think it makes a lot of sense for training both employees and management how to cope with the new world order. It may be that those who think they already know how to use social networks are most in need of training, judging by the distressing frequency of youthful indiscretions being exposed on Facebook these days. Sure, bro, it sucks that your beer bong pictures cost you that job at Lockheed, but it's a sign that you need to exercise a little more discipline before anyone should entrust you with, say, the plans to President Obama's new chopper.
On the whole, I was impressed with the approach that both panelists and attendees seemed to be taking in response to the challenges of bottom-up Web 2.0 technologies percolating in to the field. There was nothing reactionary to be seen, and a considerable amount of optimism as to the eventual applicability of the concepts… tempered with a healthy dose of the realities of corporate regulatory compliance and ROI calculations. If this group is representative of the general state of the American CIO, then perhaps I have been too pessimistic about their chances against the onslaught of virtualization and Web 2.0 philosophies. From what I heard Wednesday, they seem well-equipped to helm their departments successfully through the transitions.