Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A View From the Top – Chevron CIO Profile

Last week I posted a topic on the CIO from Google, Doug Merrill. This week, I want to highlight the CIO from Chevron, Gary Masada. He was interviewed in the Wall Street Journal and there were a few comments I wanted to highlight and discuss.

Off the top, Mr. Masada discusses the information overload that organizations are facing. From the interview, Mr. Masada used the following analogy when responding to the question of the biggest challenge that he is facing as the CIO:

“Getting our arms around all the information we have. We’re basically creating the Library of Congress every day or so…”

The conversation continues on to discuss how Chevron addresses the exponential explosion of information and how users find what they need.

“People have to do something to help themselves, which is organize their information so that it can be found….But it’s a pain. And besides that, you’re probably just going to make another mess the minute it’s clean…what I really need is a disciplined way to make sure that I don’t repopulate it the very next day.”

The idea of “discipline” also relates to having governance processes in place to create the consistency needed. My question for the readers is how does this apply in an E2.0 environment? In examples of collaborative environments, are their governing groups or is the mass considered the governing body? Can we apply the models from areas like open-source development or Wikipedia internally to the organization?

“Another part of it is tagging the information in ways that make it easier to find [by adding so-called metadata that describes what’s in a file in more detail].”

The point about tagging is interesting and is happening as a first step in many organizations as they move to E2.0. Certainly the aspect of tagging information will help improve accessibility through enhanced meta-data. The concept of individuals helping themselves is a first step. Getting this to happen across the entire organization in a collaborative environment instead of just a few select individuals should keep the “house” clean.

On the topic of technology that is targeted for consumers and the impact on corporate technology, Mr. Masada responded with the following:

“Web 2.0 and Facebook and all of that are here there are real. The issues when you [start to bring these technologies into the workplace] are things like privacy, security and liability. The young generation doesn’t even know it’s an issue…these younger folks are more comfortable sharing information than older people.”

I actually chuckled when I read this…mainly because it is true. There is a considerable generation gap and I would say that all of the social platforms have taken off through high school and college students (I am proud to say that my 17 year old nephew didn’t know what I meant when I asked him for his Twitter username so I could send him a message). Is this a barrier for companies to adopt E2.0? Will it take a period of time to work out the generational gaps that exist or convince the “older” generation that E2.0 can create value? And how are organizations addressing privacy, security and liability issues? These are all questions that need to be addressed quickly to keep up the momentum with E2.0.

The final topic that Mr. Masada discusses is how Chevron matches technology investments with a business problem.

“We have a process that we call Everest…it’s a way of checking all of our IT projects against the major business strategies...A lot of projects come from the bottom up. They’re productivity-related and they may help. But if the core business strategy is not to invest in that sector of the business but to invest somewhere else…it’s not the best use of IT resources. Yet in many cases, IT resources just stay where they’ve always been.”

This is a perfect example of linking strategy to the resource allocation and initiative management activities. If organizations aren’t applying the appropriate stratex budgets and aligning initiatives to strategic objectives, opportunities will be missed. If resources and budgets are limited, reducing or eliminating initiatives that are not considered strategic or a core business function will free up resources to fund new strategy initiatives. It is good to see that organizations like Chevron have an IT governance process that aligns IT investments with the strategies of the business.

I would appreciate comments on the E2.0 questions, since these seem to be initial barriers for organizational adoption.

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