Global CIO: The Top 50 Tech Quotes From 2009

What were the most-memorable, confrontational, insightful, and valuable comments in 2009? We've pulled together 50 of the best.

Bob Evans, Contributor

December 5, 2009

14 Min Read

I can confidently say that most of us will not be sorry to say farewell to 2009, a year of bitter struggles, some retrenchment, and some very ugly reality checks. But it was also a year, I think, in which the CIO profession went through a bit of spurt evolution in throwing off a lot of the traditional restraints that have kept CIOs and their IT teams isolated, passive, and far from expressing their full potential. And most folks I talk to are expecting 2010 to be a significant improvement.

And like most years, 2009 was a year filled with opinions and ideas, comments and wisecracks—some more wise than others, to be sure. So we at Global CIO have tried to capture some of the essence of the past year via a series of 50 memorable quotations from the tech business, highlighting some of the key developments that shaped this tumultuous period. We hope this gives you some things to think about, some fresh perspectives on where we've been, some ideas about where we're headed, and maybe a laugh or two.

Listed in chronological order, these top 50 soundbites will be rolled out in two parts: 1-25 today, and 26-50 tomorrow. For anyone interested in digging into some of these comments and the larger stories they represent, we've got links for each to the full articles, most of which take the shape of Global CIO columns and blogs.

Global CIO Global CIOs: A Site Just For You Visit InformationWeek's Global CIO -- our new online community and information resource for CIOs operating in the global economy.

If anyone's got any questions or would like more information about any of our Top 50 Tech Quotes for 2009, please feel free to drop me a note at [email protected], and feel free to send in your nominations as well.

January 17: Management consultant Ram Charan on CIO priorities amid an economic downturn: "You have to look at your budgets in three buckets: First, the utility, keep the lights on, keep the computers working. Two is compliance. There will be more regulation. Do the benchmarking, be more efficient, try to standardize. Third is the discretionary projects. The thing I want to caution every CIO about: What criteria you were using in the fall of 2008 to call something transformational may have become irrelevant."

From Ram Charan On The CIO's Role


Feb. 1: Former Chase CIO Denis O'Leary on what he thinks the first priority of the newly appointed federal CIO should be: "The core architecture of government services needs to be remodeled as essentially 'self-serve.' Instead, we have a hairball of convoluted systems with a One or Two Sigma model, enormous labor costs, and horrific response time. While there are steps heading in this direction (see the N.Y. State Motor Vehicle Department site), they are one-offs without an underlying architecture. Consider each American getting their own government Web page or URL . . . . "

From Tech Leaders' Advice To The Federal CIO


Feb 14: And when asked what in the world she was thinking when she decided 13 months ago to jump into California's wildly disconnected and out-of-control IT circus as the state's first CIO, [Teri Takai] lets loose a first-rate belly laugh and says, "You know, to tell you the truth, there are some days when I wonder that myself!"

(Same column:) A CIO colleague on California's first state-wide CIO, Teri Takai: "She's the bravest woman -- well, man or woman -- on the planet."

From Disaster Recovery: Can California CIO Defy Odds And Fix State's IT Mess?


Feb. 21: Why would a global executive-search firm say that "few IT executives have the business qualifications or capitalist's killer instinct for making money"?

(Same column:) Why would CIO magazine's Web site—ostensibly in business to enlighten CIOs—make the irresponsible and preposterous claim that the only way each and every one of you became a CIO was through political scheming, back-stabbing, and "butt-kissing"?

From Global CIO: Why Do CIOs Get No Respect? March 12: Wipro's ability to help $3.5B JohnsonDiversey significantly reduce IT costs on everything from applications maintenance to its data center was a "significant achievement" for the company, [CIO Matt] Peterson said, and gave him and his team the ability to change "from efficient order-takers to actual strategic business enablers" in the company's growth and development.

From CIO Says Outsourcing Helps His Team Become Strategic


March 18: Infosys CEO and founder S Gopalakrishnan: "In the IT revolution, we are at the centre. We are underinvested, but that is an opportunity. A lot of investment is being done in R&D here because of the availability of talent. Our education system provides for that."

From India To Have More IT Pros Than U.S., Infosys CEO Says


April 1: A ConocoPhillips spokeswoman said that while the company has not permanently eliminated the CIO role/position, "We don't plan to have one for now. The IT function remains whole in its functionality and retains its long-term leadership."

From ConocoPhillips And Harrah's Put CIO Positions On Ice


April 8: CEO Marc Benioff: "Larry [Ellison] is my mentor—he's really smart—but Oracle just doesn't understand cloud computing. One day they want to be the cloud leader, the next they don't want to have it at all. One day cloud computing is ridiculous, the next day they're saying that they're the dominant player. They're just having a hard time in articulating the vision for the company in general. They don't know how cloud computing fits with its foes in their world."

From Oracle Just Doesn't Understand Cloud Computing: Benioff


April 9, as California CIO Teri Takai continues to battle with the out-of-control state IT spending she inherited: Here's a link to the full list of approved IT projects, forecast to cost $7.62 billion, and for your misery-loves-company relief I have inserted below the top 14, which have an average price of (sit down) $446 million. While we covered some of these in January—listing several that would cost $3.6 billion—this updated list of 14 almost doubles the cost of those we noted in January, and comes after Takai and her team have begun to institute some controls."

From California Dreamin': 14 IT Projects for $6.24B


April 16: one of three software-vendor no-no's from Altimeter Group partner and enterprise-software expert Ray Wang: "Selling additional products that have no future road map because of post-acquisition roadmaps." The CIO at a North American manufacturing company said it has put a freeze on all future spending with this vendor for the next eight months because it felt forced to purchase additional licenses before the vendor completed an acquisition, only to be told after the acquisition that the product was being discontinued and that no credits would be given.

From Are Your Software Vendors Force-Feeding You Useless Stuff?


April 23: "I have no idea why a software company would buy a hardware company," Ballmer said Wednesday. Speaking to the American Chamber of Commerce in Cairo, Egypt, Ballmer added that Microsoft doesn't "want to buy any hardware companies," the Reuters news agency reported.

From Steve Ballmer Has 'No Idea' Why Oracle Is Buying Sun


April 28: Gen. Colin Powell on leadership during interview with InformationWeek editor-in-chief Rob Preston: "When I became a more senior officer, a general, and I was running wars and large military operations, I was surrounded by hundreds of people who were experts in their field-- communicators, artillery men, you name it--and I drew on their expertise. It was important for me to know what they think. But I was trained to be a general, and I was supposed to bring my 25, 30, 35 years of experience and my broader picture of the whole battlefield and environment. After listening to all the experts, I was supposed to use that expertise to inform my instinct. That is not a swag. It is an educated, informed instinct that is daily being shaped by my experts, but at the same time you've got to apply judgment to it. That's where the human dimension comes in. So if anyone tells me that they're just listening to their data guys and not applying judgment--have we seen how that helped us in the recent financial crisis?"

From Q&A: Gen. Colin Powell On Leadership In Times Of Change


May 6: Marcus Bost, CIO at Adena Health System, on moving to EHRs: "And since there's never a process change without a funeral, we've found that we've had to go through some of those, and some people just weren't able to make the adjustments."

From Global CIO: A Remarkable Story Of Health Care Success


May 7: Gartner e-Discovery expert Debra Logan advises, "you do need a Twitter policy, but that policy mostly consists of common sense." But after passing along that counsel, the Gartner expert quoting the law-firm expert then hedges a bit: "And of course, everyone is likely to act reasonably most of the time. But. The piece goes on to suggest that 'data needs to be preserved,' implying that we should all be saving Tweets, I guess. That's where the confusion comes in."

From While Your Workers Twitter, Does Your Legal Stance Fritter?


May 20: Bill McDermott, president of global field operations at SAP, makes no excuses for moving all of SAP's customers to a 22% maintenance contract within the next few years. "The real criticism you can make is, 'Gee, Bill, why did it take you guys so long to increase the cost of customer support, because you were five points below the industry benchmark of 22% all that time, and giving up shareholder value?' " McDermott says. "That's a fair criticism I'll accept with open arms."

(Same column:) Oracle co-president Safra Catz: "Our margins are less about costs than the mix of our business. As we've told you all for really a number of years, the large subscriber base—we have a large number of existing customers already using our software who pay for update rights so they don't have to rebuy the licenses, [and that] is a very profitable part of our business, and as the number gets bigger and bigger it is really impossible for us to actually spend our way through it, and so in general that is the sort of overriding thing that guides our margins."

From Global CIO: An Open Letter To SAP CEO Leo Apotheker


May 27: State Street CIO Chris Perretta on his breakthrough commitment to aligning the efforts of State Street's 5,300 IT employees with customers instead of "the business": "We are focused more than ever on ensuring that State Street's IT vision and business strategy are aligned with our clients' demands and needs." From Global CIO: How Do You Match Up Against 50 Of The World's Top CIOs? June 1: IBM CEO Sam Palmisano: "The other thing that was gonna drive all this in addition to the technology shifts was client behavior: They were gonna get more towards outcome and less toward 'I'll be the assembler of other people's parts.' More towards outcome, and 'I'm no longer an assembler.' Why? Economic pressure. When you're under budget pressure, you cannot afford to do other people's work for them, i.e., the industry. Alright? And buying at good prices in little pieces and then assembling them doesn't generate value for your enterprise. As soon as you're under budget pressure, behavior shifts. Guess what? We're here. We see that occurring today as more and more people want outcome, solutions, front-office transformational things versus just 'I'll assemble piece-parts better than somebody else.' "

From Global CIO: Sam Palmisano's Grand Strategy For IBM"


June 16: The Coca-Cola team calls Freestyle its "first software-driven dispenser." [My colleague Mary] Hayes Weier calls it "Coke's front-line robotic army for business intelligence." I call it a dazzling breakthrough in product co-creation. The important thing is, what will you call your first meeting with your peers to discuss pursuing similar breakthroughs at your company?

From Global CIO: Six Lessons CIOs Must Learn From Coke's Dazzling Innovation


June 17, from BusinessWeek: "There’s a wide gap among the paychecks of IT executives. The top 5 CIOs took home a base salary of $500,000 to $821,000 in 2008, according to Equilar. Yet, the mean salary of IT executives at large corporations was just $142,914 . . . . Do you think limits should be set for CIO pay?"

From Socialism Hits Home As BusinessWeek Asks, Should CIO Pay Be Limited?


June 20: Vineet Nayar, CEO of India-based outsourcing company HCL, on U.S. IT workers: "Most are unemployable."

From Down To Business: When National IT Pride Devolves Into IT Stereotypes


June 22, as a real-life CIO writes about the travails of trying to keep employees satisfied with Blackberries in the age of the iPhone: "… the gaps between the CIO and the must-haves, the I-wants and the give-it-to-me-or-I’ll-tell-the-chief-executives widened into a veritable chasm. The helpdesk was inundated with petulant request forms, death threats began appearing on the intranet and he tired of telling the company how the iPhone didn’t cut and paste, didn’t support the email environment and wasn’t security aware enough."

From The Apple iPhone And The CIO


June 29, as the always quotable Marc Benioff talks about the power of peer recommendations: "You've got to get your customers selling for you," he said. "I don't think customers listen to vendors anymore. I think they listen to each other. . . . If you get the customer references, and you can get that gravitas around customers talking about you and recommending you and referring you, you're in good shape," he added. "If you can't get that going, you're in trouble."

From CIOs Don't Listen To Vendors Anymore, Salesforce CEO Says


July 23, featuring an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal column on Apple and Steve Jobs: "Mr. Jobs isn't as important as he seems: He is more so. For ten years he has given Apple focus – the one thing that every organization desperately needs, and which very few executives provide. He has targeted Apple like a laser beam on a few brilliantly successful projects."

From Apple's Investment Star Wanes As iPhone Its Only Growth Area


Aug. 3: "Consumers own the brands as much as we do, and they want to share their interests and likes," says Bonin Bough, director of social and emerging media for PepsiCo. "Twitter is the only medium where we can have a two-way continuous dialogue about the brand."

From Global CIO: Why CIOs Need The Transformative Power Of Twitter


Aug. 6: "Do you believe it is the job of the CIO to align IT with the business? If so, then you also must believe that IT is not *a part* of the business: that it's a separate, detached, and reactive support department that others believe is poorly understood but richly overfunded and grades out, in the final analysis, as a tactical cost center. Alternatively, do you believe that the job of the CIO is to align IT with customers? If so, then you can play an indispensable role in leading new processes, new metrics, and new expectations and responsibilities for a new-wave IT organization that is driven by customer value and focused on business innovation. If you can't get past this "align IT with the business" dogma, then you're relegating yourself to a permanent back-bencher role in charge of a tactical cost center that will ultimately be outsouced or gradually ground into dust." – Bob Evans on the emerging role of the CIO

From Global CIO: Welcome To The CIO Revolution: A New IT Manifesto

That's it for the first 25—and tune in again tomorrow for some highlights (and lowlights?) from the second half of 2009.

See Part II here.

About the Author(s)

Bob Evans


Bob Evans is senior VP, communications, for Oracle Corp. He is a former InformationWeek editor.

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