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Most Disruptive Technology Trend Today? CIOs Make Their Pick

Many conference attendees chose social media over cybersecurity, Software-as-a-Service, open-source technologies, wireless and mobility, virtualization and videoconferencing.

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Rebecca Jacoby, senior vice president and CIO at Cisco Systems, said technologies such as virtualization and social media will change the way business is conducted globally.

"There is a strong productivity agenda in the current market. There's a lot of pressure in the private sector to reuse resources to achieve the company's goal. Social networking will bring a new way of thinking to the corporate environment. It will change the way the working environment operates," Jacoby said. "Almost everything is changing about technology. Virtualization is just the beginning. You talk about virtualizing servers and desktops, but we look at it as a basic infrastructure to people and their knowledge. We will virtualize that knowledge so that expertise is available anytime, anywhere."

Paul Bell, president of global public sector at Dell, said IT has become too complex over the last decade and will need to simplify and have a more global strategy in order to reach its full potential of solving any business problem.

"We [at Dell] grew when decentralized decision-making was the norm. We have a huge proliferation of technologies and infrastructures. When we want to adopt a new technology, it's difficult to deploy. When we want to add a new service or capability, it's incredibly difficult to do that 20 different ways," Bell said.

To simplify its infrastructure, Dell has greatly reduced its number of applications and servers, Bell said. Recently, Dell's employees used 9,000 different applications, which the company wants to reduce to 3,000.

"We're at 5,000 [applications] today," Bell said. "In addition, we're at 32,000 servers and we have 9,000 virtualized now. We are able to close data centers," Bell said.

It's also clear that many customers are more focused on green IT, at least in terms of reducing energy costs, Bell said.

"Three years ago, I asked a crowd of CIOs if they knew how much power IT consumed. Nobody raised his or her hands. In our most recent conferences, 50 to 60 percent raised their hands," Bell said.

Internally, new technology has allowed Dell to reduce power consumption, even as its number of compute cycles and storage requirements increase.

"That's not the distant future, but the near future. You can implement that today," Bell said.

Jack Dangermond, president and CEO of ESRI, a Redlands, Calif.-based geographic information systems (GIS) developer, said the IT industry has only scratched the surface in leveraging GPS and imagery data.

"It's all about seeing the world as a map. It's so powerful from a visualization perspective, but also from an analytic perspective, with special relationships and how things are related. GIS is becoming embedded within the fabric of government. It's being used for planning, monitoring and communicating with citizens," he said.

"People say the sharing of government data on the Web is the next step for democracy, Web 2.0 for government," he added. "The concept of data sharing is not new. But all of these efforts haven't resulted in a platform to build applications in a consistent way. That's beginning to change. "

Government is starting to change. There are models, analytics, workflows being worked up to connect together. Specifically, GIS is moving to the Web and integrating social networking functionality and realtime information to provide details and information not previously available, he said.

During the panel session, Peter Harkness, founder and publisher emeritus of Governing magazine, asked the state IT attendees a realtime poll question about their current virtualization initiatives. Fifty-two percent said they have current server initiatives and an additional 33 percent said they have virtualized both servers and desktops. Only 7 percent said they had no virtualization projects at least in the planning stages.

The audience was also asked to identify the three most significant returns on investment that technology can provide to their organization. Improved decision-making was the top choice, followed by boosting worker productivity and improving customer service. The results closely match a recent Input survey asking the same question, in which improved customer service and improved decision-making were the top responses.

Cisco's Jacoby agreed with the survey results.

"What we're looking at, and what we need conversations with business partners about, are the costs and the value you are bringing. Our focus is to have the IT investment create productivity for the rest of the corporation," Jacoby said.

Meanwhile, NASCIO attendees closely aligned with Input survey respondents to say that social media is the single most disruptive trend in business technology today. In both cases, more than 35 percent chose social media over cybersecurity, Software-as-a-Service, open-source technologies, wireless and mobility, virtualization and videoconferencing.

Dell's Bell was not surprised that community-type functionality tops the list.

"We have thrown up tools on the Internet the last few years and have been blown away. It's affecting the way we do product development now," he said. "One [technology] that is underappreciated on this list is open source, or I'll expand to open standards. That affects all the above."

Jacoby added that it's important to help customers figure out how to use disruptions to their advantage. "You don't want to be caught on your heels and not respond to competition. From a business standpoint, the collaboration technologies, such as social media plus video, will have a huge impact on the way we do business," she said.

Finally, the vendors were asked what advice they would give to governors, as CEOs of their states, regarding IT initiatives.

Dell's Bell said he'd say that IT infrastructure could be the part of anything government is trying to accomplish.

"We need to get out of our own way to implement collaboration platforms. It can be done and done a lot faster," he said.

Cisco's Jacoby said she'd tell governors that if they spent 10 percent of the time on IT as they do on the budget process, citizen satisfaction and productivity would improve. "Create a way for IT organizations to take on an investment strategy for the state. They can move down that path quickly and accelerate the time to [return] value for the state," she said.

Dangermond said it's important for states to focus on a cohesive vision that leverages IT. "Not on the wiring and bits and bytes, but what IT can drive. Say 'I can do something.' That's what we need in political leaders today. Wake up people and move them to make a better state."

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