Oracle co-CEO Hurd: CIO is toughest job in enterprise IT

CIOs from Walgreens and Procter & Gamble discuss some of the current challenges and opportunities available in enterprise IT today.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO---The IT agenda at each country is a little different, but the fundamental problems are all the same, according to Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd.

Picking up the baton from chairman and CTO Larry Ellison after his SaaS product unveilings on Sunday, Hurd launched his Oracle OpenWorld keynote by breaking down the tech giant's perspective on the reality of the IT landscape today.

Hurd cited that 75 percent of enterprise apps today are more than 20 years old, most of which are apps unique to each company, meaning they aren't flexible or standards-based.

Furthermore, Hurd lamented that over 80 percent of IT spend today is dedicated toward maintaining these legacy apps rather than innovating.

"Being a CIO is the toughest job out there," Hurd remarked, hinting at the conundrum and harsh reality presented by these statistics.

Walgreens CIO Timothy Theriault spoke to those challenges on stage, admitting "some of our systems are older," and those need to be upgraded quick.

Theriault listed some of the major developments on the way for the national drug store brand, including more vaccinations and lab tests for local pharmacies as well as global expansion thanks to a new deal with UK-based Boots.

"While we're retooling our core systems, we need to be mindful of the basics," Theriault stressed, noting that includes both performance and uptime reliability as well as the security of sensitive personal data such as health insurance information.

"We don't want to be in the business of connecting things," Theriault added.

"We don't want to be in the business of connecting things," Theriault added, speaking to Hurd's earlier point that these CIOs should be more focused on innovating rather than being boggled down with each step on moving toward the cloud.

Procter and Gamble CIO Filippo Passerini posited that the global conglomerate has "made a lot of progress" in this regard.

When Hurd asked if IT spending at P&G has gone up or down in the last few years, Passerini replied it's actually more of a mixture. When it comes to selling the cloud, most advocates are quick to jump to boasting only the cloud savings rather than the costs that inevitably come wih any change.

Nevertheless, Passerini conveyed these costs in a positive manner, describing the shift more in terms of investing in solutions to fuel its global supply chain serving more than four billion consumers worldwide.

Quite simply, Passerini postulated that the worst thing that could happen in P&G's line of business occurs when a consumer shows up to a store looking for a given product only to find an empty shelf.

P&G has also been making a big social push to generate more consumer data, tracking the trajectory of reception on varying home and food products.

Overall, Passerini said one of the primary objectives is to use all of these investments and innovations to accellerate the business decision-making process.

Passerini quipped, "Literally, we can come to a conclusion within a minute rather than having all this back and forth."

Stevenson concluded, "Everything is becoming smart and connected. If you're not a tech company, the best people to do that is the IT team."

Xerox CIO Stephen Little was more forthcoming in admitting to answering IT challenges, joking that the "legacy market is not the most dynamic market."

Being a maker of what could be construed as a legacy medium of technology, Xerox is only just now embarking on a journey to link up its more than 150 HR and payroll systems worldwide by replacing these fragmented legacy apps with a cloud-based, standardized model.

Little admitted that Xerox is "basically taking the best apps we have" as a starting point and building from those.

Intel CIO Kim Stevenson observed that every business and industry is in some kind of "disruptive state" right now.

At Intel, Stevenson traced the processor maker's own disruption, boiling down to the transition from a PC-centric to a mobile-first marketplace. She highlighted recent developments in wearables, such as a collaboration with high fashion brand Opening Ceremony, to building platforms for connected cars.

"We're a B2B company. It's interesting to think how fast this has moved from just consumer companies to a B2B company," Stevenson reflected.

Intel has a few other big transformation projects on the way, as Stevenson reiterated that this is only the beginning in moving traditional enterprise workloads to Software-as-a-Service offerings.

Stevenson concluded, "Everything is becoming smart and connected. If you're not a tech company, the best people to do that is the IT team."

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