Monday, April 12, 2010

Observations from Computerworld's Premier 100 Conference

It was quite a wake up call to attend a conference outside of legal and I was certainly woken up on several occasions at the Premier 100 conference put on by Computerworld Magazine. When you're in the same room with companies that have an IT budget that exceeds (gulp) 1 billion dollars, I knew I wasn't in Kansas anymore. It was awkward to walk around and not know many people, but I did manage to find Melvin Evins (an ILTA member), the only other person from a law firm that won an award.

There were a ton of good sessions and while not all of them were always relevant to law firm IT or KM, I did take away some interesting concepts:

Ken Korless, Executive Director, Business Applications, from Accenture:
They espouse a fail cheap/fail often mentality. This is not to say they want failure on major projects, 'cheap' meaning that it be low in both cost and risk.

One of his right hand folks is actually tasked with having 10 failed ideas/projects a year. Again, these aren't failures on major projects, but smaller ideas. Their goal is that if they push the envelope and fail, through those efforts, they will hit a home run.

The acceptance of 'cheap' failure, they claim, helps drive innovation and creativity with the IT group at Accenture.

An example of a cheap idea that took off was a simple application they created based on an idea from within Google. Google has this tool that let's you see how many people were hired after you and then gives you a percentage, the higher the percentage the more people were hired after you. Because of the hiring pace at Google, people were interested in where they stood. Accenture IT thought this might be interesting as well, they built it within a very short window (less than a week) and didn't do much to advertise it internally. Within the first month, it was one of the most frequently accessed applications around the globe.

Bruce Michelson from HP: (view presentation)
IT standards should not be unilateral, but based on role. Investment in innovation (however they define innovation at HP) delivers a 30% ROI, while investment in infrastructure delivers an 8-10% ROI

Author and former CIO of EDS, Frito-Lay and Delta Airlines, Charley Feld (view presentation)

  • IT has advanced, but the common language between IT and management hasn't

  • Innovation can't happen in a 3 year cycle, you need to deliver it now

  • The CIO role should stand for Chief Integration Officer, with a focus on end-user intimacy and global leverage

  • Many IT organizations play not to lose, rather than playing to win.

Glenn Noga, CIO from Polycom:
A slight sales pitch as Polycom was one of the sponsors, but still a few interesting tidbits
They are delivering new technology that will cut the bandwidth needed for good video conferencing by 50%, down to 512k. Polycom feels that they've finally got to the point with this breakthrough that desktop video conferencing is ready and won't be as huge a network burden as it has been in the past.

Looking ahead, he mentioned delivering a better experience through the 'communication ecosystem', which includes suppliers, partners and customers. He talked about establishing direct gateways with key suppliers to facilitate desktop based video conferencing. Interesting to think about how we could do the same thing with key clients to further foster relationships.

Jim Fortner, Vice President Information Technology Development & Operations from Proctor & Gamble: (view presentation)

  • Over 4,000 people and a 1 billion dollar budget in their IT organization, which they DON'T call IT, they call it IDS (Information, Decisions, Solutions).

  • I like their focus on decisions. We serve up all types of data, but what decisions or actions can we better facilitate?

  • They spend a lot of effort taking reports that senior management get in excel or in a list view and creating 'cockpits' which are very visual dashboards. These cockpits help drive decisions based on the data presented in a much better, faster way then the excel spreadsheets management used to get before

General observations

  • Since the conference was centered on innovation, lot's of ideas on how to drive innovation from within the organization. There may be existing people that are innovative, but have yet to be tapped into for that purpose. One group started using the Kolbe index to help gauge and indentify personalities that might best suited to help drive innovation. Kind of interesting to think about using that not only for your existing folks, but also during the interview process of potential candidates.
  • Lot's of talk about the new generation coming into the workforce and what changes need to be made to accommodate how they work and leverage their strengths. Many companies talked about building out better internal social networking tools for use within the company. Think of an internal version of Facebook. Accunture and Deloitte both have very popular and widely used systems like this. Seems corporate america is a bit more concerned about accomodating younger talent than law firms generally tend to.
  • 1 comment:

    Margaret Merrick, Knowledge Manager said...

    Interesting blog post. I think law firms in general rely a bit too much on precedent technology use within other law firms, in terms of their own technology development, and would greatly benefit from gaining insight into technology as used by related but non legal knowledge intensive organisations. For example, I found a visit some years ago to a legal publishing company to view their publication processes and it very beneficial in terms of better understanding how to manage intranet/extranet content. I can think of other industry sectors I'd also like to visit - large tech firms like Google, management consultancy firms, pharmaceutical companies etc.