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The Web I Know

From ON Magazine, Issue No. 4, 2009

Sanjay Mirchandani
EMC CIO Sanjay Mirchandani says IT professionals need to enable users to strike a balance between their personal and business lives. Photograph by Kathleen Dooher
From ON Magazine: The Web at 20

By Sanjay Mirchandani, Senior Vice President and CIO at EMC

I still remember when I first realized that the Web would be big. But I also sensed I would be “freedom with shackles.” Freedom, in getting information with exhilarating speed. Shackles, in the form of unpredictable access, limited dial-up ports, and tied-up phone lines.

The inconvenience of being shackled by immature technology was overshadowed by a collective excitement: We certainly became hooked quickly. And of course, anyone working in IT saw the Web’s potential. I was part of the team that helped create one of the Middle East’s first online banking solutions and was particularly excited by the “e-opportunity.” The convenience that e-business brought and the speed at which we were rolling out services for customers—it was mind-boggling and easy to feel passionate about.

The shackles evolve

But the shackles never disappeared. These days, they come not from undependable connectivity but from non-stop connectivity. We can be shackled to our workplaces every waking moment if we wish. On a personal level, though, I’m not sure it’s wise to be online 24x7. Everyone needs downtime, family time, balance. Our job in IT is to enable that balance.

My dad was in the shipping business. His two communication choices were the telephone and the Telex machine. He didn’t take that Telex home with him, however. Dad had downtime, knowing that in his office, in the morning, he’d find the previous night’s Telexed shipping assignments waiting.

Even just a few years ago, it was still perfectly acceptable to have your e-mailed question to someone answered 24 or 48 hours later. Today, the mindset is different. When people initiate contact, they expect a response right away and don’t care if you’re in Timbuktu at the time. If you don’t reply, they may throw a “Where are you?” message on your Facebook wall. Web 2.0 technology has blurred our consumer and business lives.

Merging our personas

Productivity and personal connectivity exemplify Web 2.0. Now, it’s the etiquette of business that needs to fold itself into the Web 2.0 product. That brings me to the non-productivity dangers of the Web. We don’t want to tell employees how to spend their day; they understand which tasks they must complete. Again, it’s a balance. If I’m having lunch in my office, I do go online to read what people are saying about EMC. That kind of web surfing enhances my productivity. It makes my day more relevant.

Similarly, if I’m prepping for a customer visit, I like to learn what the customer’s business priorities are. Online, it takes me five minutes to do that. And afterward, I am more attuned to what’s important to that customer. But checking tech blogs or corporate sites at lunch is not the same thing as spending half the day monitoring a ballgame online and chatting about it. Our job in IT is to give people the opportunity for productivity. The rest is left to the individual. With the social Web comes a responsibility to be sensible.

I think the next wave will center, in large part, on a balancing of our work and our personal personas. For example, a lot of us carry two mobile phones to keep our business and personal contacts and e-mail messages separated. At some point, technology will allow us to carry one device while maintaining our two personas.

Businesses will eventually bring the experiences that we have as consumers fully into our workplaces. It almost happened with Web 1.0, when we learned how to obtain information and transact commerce. Now, with Web 2.0, everyone is trying to figure out how to make social media work in a business environment. A lot of that script remains unwritten. I can’t wait to see what happens.

Seeing Patterns in the Cloud

From ON Magazine, Issue No. 4, 2009

There is a massive parallel in my mind between what happened in the early, potential-rich days of the World Wide Web and what cloud computing could offer us. We know we can take this very ambitious next step into the cloud—into the future of information technology—and not trip. We know it because we remember how our embracing of the Web changed everything. The Web’s early days centered on reading information. Then e-commerce made companies reachable worldwide. With cloud computing, businesses can achieve even more massive, secure scalability.

I sensed that the Web was going to be a big deal 20 years ago, but now, I realize, I had no idea just how big it could be. Inside the cloud, another next-generation experience awaits us. The technology parallels are there.

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