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  • Is your technology organization taking a "zero tolerance" position on unplanned downtime? If so, it's joining a very big club, as the vast majority of IT professionals feel that zero downtime is mission-critical. Unfortunately, most companies undergo an unexpected downtime at least several times a year, according to a recent survey from SUSE, the provider of the enterprise Linux distribution. And the stakes are very high: Among survey respondents at organizations that experienced unplanned downtime for their most important technology function, the average economic impact of the incident exceeded $800,000. "System downtime—particularly unplanned downtime—negatively affects organizations of all types and sizes, limiting growth, reducing revenue and affecting productivity," says Ralf Flaxa, vice president of engineering for SUSE. "CIOs and IT professionals recognize the need to reduce downtime, and they should work with software and hardware vendors that share their commitment to making near-zero downtime a reality." A total of 105 global IT professionals took part in the research.

  • As reported by Baseline numerous times, the competition to hire top tech talent is getting brutal. But if you do end up landing that special performer—as a manager, team leader, analyst, developer or programmer—you may face challenges that seldom come up with the majority of workers. And, be warned, the challenges may try your patience—and your sanity. Hotshot tech professionals are often very aware that they're much more skilled than the rest of the staff, and they may eventually conclude that they'd rather "do their own thing" than work as part of a team. They may even challenge your authority and be convinced that they can do your job better than you can. Even if a superstar has a team-oriented attitude, he or she might jump ship after a short time if a sweeter offer came along. In a section of the recent book, The 27 Challenges Managers Face: Step-by-Step Solutions to (Nearly) All of Your Management Problems (Jossey-Bass/available now), author Bruce Tulgan provides insights and best practices for supervising, engaging and retaining top-notch employees. What's important, he writes, is to demonstrate a sincere regard for a superstar's capabilities and value, while working together on an extended plan for his or her future success. Tulgan is founder of Rainmaker Thinking, a management training firm. The following takeaways about managing a superstar are adapted from his book and should help you deal with the challenges you're sure to face.

  • Not every IT employee can develop into a leader of technology transformation, but you're more likely to get to that level if you know which steps to take. The book Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation (Harvard Business Review Press/available now) offers a wide range of strategies and actions that professionals can pursue to become a digital authority. To further illustrate the best practices to follow, authors George Westerman, Didier Bonnet and Andrew McAfee feature real-life examples from organizations such as Burberry, Caesars Entertainment, Lloyds Banking Group and Nike. The book also includes original research that helps define a "digital master." In essence, the authors explain, digital masters excel at both the "what" of technology and the "how" of leading change. "Neither dimension is enough on its own," they write. "Taken together, they combine to give digital masters a clear advantage over their competitors." Westerman is a research scientist with the MIT Sloan Initiative on the Digital Economy. Bonnet is a global practice leader at Capgemini Consulting and executive sponsor for Capgemini Consulting's Digital Transformation program. McAfee is the associate director of the Center for Digital Business at the MIT Sloan School of Management. The following 11 ways to develop digital leadership are adapted from their book.

  • The world's deepest underwater observatory, the Aloha Cabled Observatory, relies on sophisticated IT systems to manage remote systems and a wave of data.

  • The majority of organizations today have transitioned at least some of their IT and business functions to an outsourcing and/or shared services model, according to a recent survey from KPMG LLP and HfS Research. And this trend is likely to grow over the next two years, findings indicate. The resulting report, "The State of Services & Outsourcing in 2014: Things Will Never Be the Same," states that enterprise leaders are seeking better, more standardized IT and business processes, improved automation and lower operating costs. In addition, the survey respondents are not pleased with their current state of innovation and digital sophistication. "The focus on digital outcomes has emerged, with many clients no longer viewing tactical success as their endgame," according to the report. "Whereas, in years gone by, the focus was slowly shifting from cost reduction to better global scale, the onus on clients is to move the conversation to one of better analytical capability, more savvy and creative support talent, and access to better tools and technology. These are the new stakes." More than 1,000 professionals took part in the research. They represent a cross-section of organizations, outsourcing and shared services advisors, consultants, and business and technology outsourcing providers.

  • Starting an information lifecycle governance program and improving your organization’s information economics will take time, commitment and resources. 

  • For companies to succeed in the future, they will have to meet the high standards and requirements that Millennials have for mobile technologies and functions. For example, a significant percentage of young adults in the workforce want to use their smartphone's camera to perform daily tasks, such as depositing checks, signing up for health insurance and paying bills, according to a recent survey from Mitek. Why wouldn't they, when they use cameras to record virtually every aspect of their lives? Given the dominance of image-driven capabilities on mobile tools, IT departments should start thinking—now, rather than later—about how to adapt their consumer-facing services to accommodate camera-based interactions, rather than asking customers to manually type information into a field. "While it shouldn't be surprising that [Millennials'] smartphones never leave their sides, we also found that the role of the camera on a mobile device cannot be minimized," says James DeBello, Mitek's president and CEO. "The love of snapping selfies could be written off as a fad, but Millennials are telling us that this is how they want to bank, shop, find health care and enroll in classes." More than 1,000 U.S. Millennials took part in the research.

  • A new study shows that most data scientists around the world believe a set of ethical standards should exist when it comes to data collection and research.

  • Organizations that go to the front of the line when it comes to new technology investments are positioning themselves for market growth and company expansion, according to a survey from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services and Verizon Enterprise Solutions. The accompanying report, "The Digital Dividend: First Mover Advantage," states that most business and IT executives view technology acquisitions as growth drivers, but a significant number of them think their leadership lacks the IT vision needed to fully exploit the potential of innovation. The survey participants identified their organizations as belonging to one of three categories: pioneers (open to change and the first to move), followers (invest in tech only after others have shown the benefits) or cautious organizations (wait until technology is well-established before making purchase decisions). The follower and cautious companies often find themselves stifled on the adoption of analytics and other technology solutions due to internal cultural resistance. "New technologies can provide a genuine competitive edge, but the organization has to make the commitment to use technology to build new processes and business models," says Angelia Herrin, research and special projects editor of the Harvard Business Review. "Companies need to become more flexible in terms of technology implementation and make innovation part of their culture in order to realize the real business value." More than 670 global business and technology leaders took part in the research.

  • CEOs and business owners are placing more faith in IT leaders and their contributions, but that faith hasn't yet translated into perceived financial impact or valued-advisor status. These are the findings of a recent survey from global staffing and HR services firm Adecco Group. The company polled 500 CEOs and business owners, and the results indicate that IT leaders are rising in stature with top executives, but they still have work to do if they are to have a more powerful voice when it comes to major business decisions. For now, CIOs can take encouragement from the increased recognition and appreciation of their contributions. "One of the striking points of the survey has to be the level of confidence today's CEO is placing in the CIO," says Jack Cullen, president of Modis, Adecco's IT staffing subsidiary, which released a portion of the findings. "This is a ringing endorsement for a company's CIO." Especially encouraging is the healthy outlook on IT spending, which Cullen said is "deemed critical to the company's bottom line." That said, CEOs still aren't equating IT department success with actual bottom-line results to the extent that they do with other departments. And they are not including CIOs among their most trusted advisors.