The Multidimensional CIO

Chief Investigative Officer. IT is one of the most rapidly advancing business disciplines. Whereas Moore’s Law predicted a doubling of computing power every 18 months, multiprocessor core chips are now poised to increase throughput by 15-to-100 times within that same period.

The law of aerial density indicates that storage capacity is currently doubling every 12 months, but that’s without the movement to radically new storage technologies. Edholm’s Law reflects the doubling of communications capability every six-to-nine months.

Applications technology is innovating through wave after wave of change. New constructs around utility computing, pattern recognition, simulation, predictive technologies, complex-event processing, and event-stream processing technologies emerge from every page of the next IT journal.

The CIO must understand these new capabilities and, when economically appropriate, apply them to create high business value.

Innovation is rampant on the business side as well. It’s estimated that a new service emerges every five minutes. And each service must be considered as to whether it’s a new competitor or, perhaps, complementary.

Many of the new services will be delivered through the Internet and won’t be geographically bound like their predecessors. The CIO will be at least partially responsible for providing the conduit to this new business-intelligence content, even if the analysis responsibilities fall to other CXOs.

To accomplish this, the CIO must be aware of new opportunities, threats, and conduits for finding them, as well as how they’ve been used elsewhere and the commensurate risks—a process requiring strong investigative and analytic disciplines.

Chief Information Officer. Sure, you already knew this. But let’s focus on information, not information technology. A 2003 University of California-Berkeley study stated the amount of uniquely digitized information is “expected to double every year for the foreseeable future.” And a 2004 EMC study reported that “humankind will generate more original information over the next three years than in the previous 4,000 years combined.”

Some will argue this is “data,” not information. But it’s indisputable that the incredible increase in volume and types of content available to the average company is starting to overwhelm our systems—IT, business, and people—and strain current technologies.

As an example, consider that the entertainment and broadcasting industries alone are estimated to be using more than 6 zetabytes (1,021 bytes) of content that, if digitized onto single-density DVDs, would stack to the moon and back twice. As a result, holographic, 3-D, and molecular storage are being propelled forward in anticipation of this information explosion.

But what’s unique about much of this new information for most companies is that it’s designed to improve decision-making, not for more data-processing. Referred to as context content, the new information flow consists of metadata, or information about the information; collateral information, or what else was occurring; and environmental information, or the state of environments.

When properly processed, this information will provide clues as to the “why” of an event rather than just the “what,” and move the basis for corporate action from sense and respond, or reactive, to cause and effect, or proactive.