H&R Block's (HRB) virtualization project -- a CIO 100 Award winner this year -- is putting thin clients in the tax preparer's thousands of retail stores in an effort to simplify its operating environment and cut expenses. The change should also help it to better compete with chains such as Jackson Hewitt, as well as with independent tax preparers and software-only rivals such as TurboTax and Intuit (INTU).
Stories by Kim S. Nash
It's wrong to view leadership ability as something you have or you don't, say IT executives known for cultivating leaders among their staff. If a person has the potential to lead, a skillful CIO can recognize this, refine that potential through a set of carefully chosen experiences, and produce a strong leader.
While 20-something employees are often a catalyst for bringing new technologies, such as social media, into the corporate world, entry-level workers may lack the decision-making skills necessary for using such tools effectively. It's a deficit that CIOs have to consider when deploying IT, says Tom Murphy, CIO of AmerisourceBergen.
Consumers check in on Foursquare. Your employees chat with customers on Facebook. Everyone tweets. Social media is everywhere, right? Not quite.
Remember knowledge management? In the 1990s, KM emerged as a way to collect and share expertise across a company. Employees would fill out profiles for a database about their skills and knowledge. Colleagues could query the system to find the best person to help with a project.
Actions reveal more than words, we know, and companies are watching carefully, using <a href="http://www.cio.com/article/523013/Using_Predictive_Analytics_to_Tap_More_Profitable_Customers">business intelligence and analytics</a> tools to figure out what's happening in their markets. But it isn't just what makes a consumer buy a product or respond to an e-mail promotion that companies want to understand. They're also putting business operations-where efficiency can make the difference between profit and loss-under the microscope.
The promise of cost savings derived from cloud computing is attractive, but concrete financial returns are not always quickly achieved. Except, perhaps, when it comes to disaster recovery.
Decreasing expenses isn't Genworth Financial CIO Scott McKay's top priority when he evaluates new IT. Rather, he says, it's how the new technology can improve Genworth's competitive position. When, in 2008, the company spent about US$500,000 on videoconferencing systems to cut down on travel, it wasn't just trying to save money. Executives wanted to make business decisions faster.
Pamela Rucker doesn't want to spend money with IT vendors that waste water or energy, or that have large carbon footprints. After all, she says, as vice president of IT for environmental services firm PSC, it would be hypocritical to not hold vendors to high standards.
Sometimes you take a chance on technology even when you can't predict hard returns, hoping that an educated experiment will create business opportunities.
As with paper and plastic, "reduce, reuse, recycle" works for software. Especially when you're a small company in a cutthroat business, where squeezing as much life as you can out of an IT infrastructure can mean the difference between breathing easy and landing on the garbage heap.
Years before she helped Franklin D. Roosevelt win four presidential campaigns and became "reluctant First Lady" in the 1930s and 1940s, Eleanor Roosevelt was an outspoken social reformer. Her legacy includes fighting for women's, civil and human rights in the U.S. and, via the fledgling United Nations, the world. J. Edgar Hoover considered her dangerous; the FBI file on Roosevelt is one of its thickest.