Meeting Aussie CIOs

September 15 2006

Congratulations and thanks, mates, to my colleagues/mates here in Oz for doing a great job with my schedule this week.  The pace was almost unbearable at times, but I'd say every meeting I had this week was worthwhile -- and then some.

Looking at the stack of business cards collected from the week, I count ten with the title of CIO or CTO.  I have met more CIOs in one week than in the last several months.  In Australia, my exact title is less important than what I'm responsible for.  Very different than the US, much of Europe, or Japan, where CIOs tend to expect to meet with IBM vice presidents or general managers.  I found interaction with these chief executives quite challenging, but also enlightening and even fun.  Why?  Because so many of them are "switched on", to use the local slang....they get it.

For example, one CIO I met with this week expressed that he won't entertain a conversation about switching their mail system (Notes) to Exchange/Outlook.  Even before I had a chance to say it, he said that there was no value to his organization in doing such a switch, that those who were asking for it were doing so purely on emotion, and that he had no way to cost-justify such a thing.  All I could add to that is the notion that e-mail is yesterday's news, and that it was far more interesting at a strategic level for us to discuss SOA, activity-centric computing, real time business, or social networking.  Probably one of the best sales calls I've made in a long time (with no offense to anyone else I met this week!), because while he challenged IBM several times, he also showed quite a receptiveness to new ideas, and the tangible benefits of those new ideas for his organisation.

This afternoon, I had lunch with a group of CIOs in a round-table format.  No presentation slides, just a discussion that grew out of a high-level overview of the Lotus strategy, "Hannover", Sametime, and social networking.  The formal part of the meeting was declared over, yet the questions and brainstorming kept coming (as did the red wine...). I could see the light bulbs go on several times during the conversation, especially in the area of real-time collaboration.  The discussion was incredibly intense, and I was exhausted afterwards, but it was very insightful for both sides, and I came away with some new ideas and food for thought.

Whether a CIO, IT manager, architect, developer, admin, or whatever role (dominatrix, Richard?), every customer meeting and user group interaction this week has been enriching.  Don't get me wrong -- some of these meetings were challenging, and not every situation is rainbows and butterflies.  But when 250 people turn out for user group meetings, another 60 for partner discussions, and yet more customers apologise for missing the meetings, you have to think a lot of things are going right.  I know I'm going to do what I can to keep the Aussie (and New Zealand) Lotus machine moving, and making every effort to ensure that all those IBMers you saw this week are doing so, too.

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