A view on 2016 IT budgets

Here is an article on the IT budgets that CIOs control, by  (@steveranger) on October 1, 2015 in ZDNET’s special feature on IT Budgets 2016.

My position?

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Florentin Albu, CIO at Rothamsted Research, said investment will vary by sector: “I believe that certain government-related sectors will have to adjust to budget reductions, and implicitly investment in IT in these areas will not be on the up. At the same time, I believe that the commercial sector shows an increased appetite for investing in IT solutions, and this will be reflected in more generous budgets in 2016.”

Another complication: deciding what is, and what isn’t, part of the IT budget is getting harder, he said.

“IT is used very loosely now, to cover everything from data and information management, to infrastructure, to enterprise systems etcetera, so the line between business budgets and IT budgets will become increasingly blurry,” he noted.

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Read the full article here:


Article re-published in the French edition of ZDNET:

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Florentin Albu, DSI chez Rothamsted Research, déclare ainsi que l’investissement diffèrera selon le secteur. “Je pense que certains secteurs liés au secteur public devront ajuster leur budget à la baisse, et implicitement l’investissement IT dans ces domaines ne sera pas orienté à la hausse. Dans le même temps, je pense que le secteur privé affiche un appétit croissant en termes d’investissement dans des solutions IT, et cela se traduira pas des budgets 2016 plus généreux.”

Une autre complication : décider de ce qui appartient ou non à un budget IT devient de plus en plus difficile, ajoute-t-il.

“L’IT est utilisée de façon très lâche maintenant, pour couvrir tout, des données à la gestion de l’information, l’infrastructure, en passant par les systèmes d’entreprise, etc., de sorte que la frontière entre les budgets métiers et les budgets informatiques deviendra de plus en plus floue” juge Florentin Albu.

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Read the full article here:


The challenge of storing large amounts of data

Here is an article on the challenges of storing large amounts of data, by  (@steveranger) on July 1, 2015 in ZDNET’s special feature on The Evolution of Enterprise Storage.

My position?

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And as Florentin Albu CIO Rothamsted Research, said: “Storing data is relatively cheap once the foundation of storage and backup infrastructure is in place. The headache comes from the side of data management, ensuring the data can be retrieved with a high degree of relevance and – specifically for large data sets – that its accuracy and integrity is maintained during processing.”

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Read the full article here:


Real Madrid & Microsoft: football and Business Intelligence

RealMadrid_Ra'ed QutenaWhat’s the link between football and digital transformation? Real Madrid announced back in November a strategic partnership with Microsoft, having in mind the digital transformation of the club.

Yesterday they have published an update, which shows that as with most digital transformation, this one focuses on the customers – that’s us, the fans – and it starts with data. The ambitious partnership looks at an evolution of the club’s data visualisation, making this a more immersive experience for the fans.

Access from any device (hopefully the Surface and Nokia gear in the video are not an indication of a platform lock-in) will be complemented by the ability to build statistics and comparisons between players and teams.

The notable point is Microsoft’s statement regarding the use of Office 365 Power BI (Business Intelligence) tool. This new cloud solution helped Microsoft achieve the “leader” title for agile BI in a Forrester ranking.

Watch the video here.

Further info re Power BI and Forrester here.

Photo published under Creative Commons by Raed qutena

Management: back to basics

mgmt basicsLet me tell you about something I call the “ER syndrome”. A few years back, a friend of mine in the medical profession jokingly said that if you go to the Emergency Room with a headache, chances are that you will get a Computer Tomography Scan before someone thinks to give you a regular painkiller. With everyone being in the “emergency mind-set”, common conditions can be overlooked. Of course, doctors are more professional than that, and the point that I am trying to make is that in the complex world in which we operate as managers, sometimes we tend to forget about the simple things. How do we avoid the “ER syndrome”? By being well-anchored to good management practice.

Here are my favourite resources on management basics and not-so-basics, available in three different media types (a traditional book, web articles and audio podcasts) to suit any moment of spare time. These can equally help junior as well as seasoned managers, as they bring tried-and-tested good practice examples, and also fresh perspectives on concepts that one might have learned about but not practiced.

What is your go-to management reference?


The Essential Drucker”, Peter Drucker, 2001 (book can be found at all major online book retailers)

Mind Tools

The Mind Tools is an initiative started by James Manktelow in 1996. The freely available Toolkit is an excellent resource where one can review a broad range of concepts, from strategy, to team management, to leadership. Each area is explained clearly, and in most cases short video presentations or tutorials are further supporting the points covered in text. A broad collection of management and analysis methods and tools is found here as well, explained and categorized. You can find pretty much everything from SWOT analysis, to the Hoshin planning system to the SCAMPER improvement technique. The Mind Tools were awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise (the UK’s top business award) in 2012.


This is a different type of resource and equally valuable: this is a collection of podcasts with managerial and career advice, from Michael Auzenne and Mark Horstman, from the management consultant company Manager-Tools. The podcasts can be downloaded, or you can listen to them on the site, and they cover a broad range of management issues (see their Universe Map), offering sound and down-to-earth advice. I would consider the Manager-Tools podcast “mandatory” listening for young managers, and a good reference point for more experienced ones. The separate stream on career advice (Career Tools) is simply just great, and had a positive impact in my personal development (so thank you, Mike & Mark).


Note: I am not affiliated in any way with the sites/companies mentioned above.


What’s your digital story saying about you?

digital_self_smallAre you in control of your digital self? Where do you stand on the issue of privacy in a digital society? Since you are likely reading this on a social network, do you understand the current privacy concerns?

Materials trying to answer these questions are usually known for curing insomnia, so notable exceptions are worth being brought to attention.

Al Jazeera had a refreshing approach to privacy, Big Data and Digital Society in a recent publication caled “Terms of Service”. To make it easier to follow the concepts, the authors Michael Keller and Josh Neufeld chose the format of a short comic book/novel. The approach worked on me: I simply could not put it down until reaching the end, and while I am not a fan of comic books, I considered it a rewarding 20 minutes read.

The authors write about privacy in the Digital Society, giving a useful short history of how the matter evolved to become a concern, and how this concern is accentuated by the Internet of Things and Big Data. The novel explains using Dan Geers’s framework of “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow Questions” how we tend to go down the slippery slope of trading off privacy for features and perceived cost savings. It also brings in the views of Prof. Scott Peppet on how peer pressure leads to more people revealing their private information on social networks.

By connecting all the digital dots that a person leaves in cyberspace, a “story” is formed. The authors stress how important it is to understand who gets to tell the story. If the story is told by someone else than its subject, it often leaves that person in the position of having to defend the truth. This can be a difficult task, and an example is given of an employer judging how well the prospective employee would fit based on their social media profile. The novel points out that particularly younger generations instinctively try to control their image through an affluent digital presence that allows them to tell their version of their digital story first.
Trading immaterial personal information for immediate tangible benefits (e.g. discounts or use of products) gradually builds up a digital profile. The Digital Society by its nature offers unprecedented access to data and enables companies and governments to draw conclusions about individuals based on these profiles. The examples given in the book (e.g. linking one’s social network to their fitness data to produce a credit score) show that such conclusions are not necessarily intuitive for, nor under the control of, the respective individual. However this doesn’t stop these conclusions from significantly impacting the person’s lifestyle, financial position, etc.

The novel concludes by highlighting the constant trade-off that we make in a Digital Society between privacy and convenience – with the latter winning most of the time.
The foundation of our Digital Society is being built at full speed. This evolution brings increased benefits and – no doubt – increased complexity and risks. The rules of the new game need to strike the right balance between convenience and privacy, and in order to do so, we as a society need to have a broader understanding of these concepts. This is why the timing and format of Al Jazeera’s publication seems to be just right.

What is your position on privacy and digital society? Are social networks a necessary evil, or have you already put on the tinfoil hat? How successful are you in mastering your digital self?

You can read Al Jazeera’s comic novel “Terms of Service” here:



Dawn of the data-centric computing

data-centric_computing In what seems to be a major step forward in solving big data problems and advancing research capabilities, IBM announced today that it was awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy a $325 million contract for building the world’s most advanced data-centric super-computer, by 2017.

The data-centric concept is explained by IBM as one which “moves much of the processing to the places where the data is stored, whether that’s within a single computing system, in a network of computers, or far away in sensors tracking the weather or monitoring an energy pipeline”. This is needed because, particularly in the context of big data, one of the main challenges is not the actual processing power, but the speed at which vast quantities of data can be transported to and from the processing facilities.

Until now, most hopes for revolutionizing big data processing were with quantum computing. Quantum computers are particularly suitable to tackle big data because of their ability to simultaneously process different approaches to the same problem. Progress in the area of quantum computing has been slower than expected, because among other issues, problems need to be defined in a whole new way in order to be solved using this technology.

For quantum computing, the Canadian company D-Wave leads the game with high profile clients such as Google, NASA and (reportedly) NSA

In the new contract with DoE, IBM brings the data-centric computing approach, and has joined efforts with NVidia (GPU and interconnectivity) and Mellanox Technologies (interconnectivity).

The level of investment, effort and risk situates these projects well out of reach for the majority of regular companies and research institutions. However, with more options developing, we are likely to see new methods and approaches for dealing with big data, which will will be gradually mainstreamed.

A few links:

– the concept of data-centric computing explained in (rather) simple terms:


– IBM’s data-centric design vision:


– a video (trying) to describe some quantum computing terms:


Focussing IT for strategic value in public sector organisations

While attending the interesting presentations at the Chief Strategy Officer Summit (#CSOLDN), it struck me that when applied to IT, strategy somIMG_0208.JPGetimes focuses on the wrong elements. Here is a short article on how to focus IT on bringing strategic value.
It is generally recognized that as a baseline, an organization’s overall IT budget (i.e. not just the IT function but also the shadow IT elements) can be split according to a 70-20-10 rule rule of thumb:
– 70% covers operations (“running” of infrastructure and information systems, with accountable, cost-focussed resources);
– 20% covers transformation of business processes (demand and process-improvement driven, competency centers,medium-term life-cycle);
– 10% covers innovation (digital business driven, fast, innovation focused partnering of IT & business).
One of the problems is that the better the 70% runs, the less visible the whole IT element becomes to top management creating the false impression that it can be safely ignored. “Why should one invest in IT if everything works?” If the answer to the question “Did we have any major downtime with IT services?” is yes, then the immediate priority should be on fixing operations (a no-brainier, really). If the answer is no, then the focus should be on investing in innovation & transformation of business processes. Being satisfied with the optimal running of existing services without investing in IT innovation and digitization of business processes creates a future handicap for the organization.
Considering that IT enables most of what an organization does these days, an indicator of how serious such organization is about the development of its future capability is the amount of budget spent on IT excluding operations (this means on transformation of business processes and innovation). A further indication is how much of this budget relates to the programmatic work (for public sector) or to the core revenue streams (private/commercial).
Current top IT priorities for public sector organisations are the focus on innovation and investment prioritization, data solutions, decision support and business intelligence, interoperability and architecture as strategic elements. All this requires additional investments, and the results can positively change the organization, enhancing capabilities & capacity. The danger is that if the increased budget is associated with administration or operations, and not associated with the budget for the core/substantive/programmatic activities, then these increases will be negatively perceived by stakeholders.
In the light of the rationale presented at the beginning of this article, organizations need to consider having IT budget distinctly associated with their programmatic one.
A strong leadership is needed at the top to recognize the comparative advantage that IT brings to the organization, and implement this type of budgetary changes.