Up 200 points. Down 200 points. Real estate is a mess. The dollar is at an all time low. Canadians, Brits, Brazilians are coming the U.S. for bargains. And now, the R-word.
What gives me pause is the Fed and its actions. Just a few years ago the Fed was perceived as fairly cautious, stable, and easy to read. Now, one week it is worried about inflation, the next week inflation is not a problem. Last month a read my lips "No more rate cuts". This month: well MAYBE one more. One thing about Greenspan, you could see it coming - wrong or right. Bernanke seems to be in Bill Clinton mode - manage by headline or (worse yet) poll.
So what does this all mean to the CxO? Depending on industry - very stormy waters, for sure. Do CIO's need to begin to batten down the hatches and prepare for an extended period of expense cutting ( in the words of an old boss (Neil O'Connell) "expenses walk on two feet - don't ever forget that"). Cut early, cut deep. Another adage learned through pain.
In the past 10 years CIOs - especially F500 variety - have had to expand beyond the US and manage international shops. Does the state of the dollar make a difference? Will oil in euros have an impact?
I believe that it will, at least psychologically. I ran these thoughts by an eminent colleague at the NY Times, and one at the CIO magazine -- with interesting responses. Both were concerned, but split on its impact (from "not an issue for IT" to "yes, the tide could be turning; we are doom and gloom today, aren't we?").
The US , since World War II, has shown leadership on three fronts: moral, financial, and technological. The argument could be made that we have squandered good will, and our moral leadership (Obama seems to pick up on that theme). The devaluation of the dollar is not just a economic trend -- it's a heavy handed indicator of what the world things of us financially; the ultimate Moody's debt rating on countries, and we are rapidly approaching junk bond status...
Now, for the 64K question: Technological? The space situation is now international. On a line of code basis, the majority of computer code could now be getting written outside of the US; the Internet - once a purely US phenomena, is now as important to the rest of the world as it is to us. The EU has gotten it's act together and seems to be at the forefront of technology regulation --and in some cases even spurred innovation (cell service unbundling has helped that). EAP Director Chris Howard keeps asking "Is there a Chinese Bill Gates?". Or Steve Jobs. Or Alan Kay.
I would make the argument that innovation and technological advancement isn't based on one person or group of people. It's an interesting mix of academics, programmers and businessmen...many to be nameless throughout history, most of it based on basic raw research that was truly "embryonic". Some would build on that argument and say that innovation and technological leadership can only happen in a free, open, democratic society like ours. Hmmmm. I am not so sure.
But what I do know is that if we do hold the moral high ground, it's in our capacity as a people to share our innovations and ideas with others throughout the world, and expand the technological leadership to places like India, Ireland, Eastern Europe, Japan. Our free and open society has enabled us to do that., And they are smart too. and they can lead too.
So the question is: are we in the middle of the Greek-like Golden Era of technology, and just going thru a phase, or are we passing the baton off to a clear technological leader that carries on in a different way (like the Romans), or going through a period of major instability (like the middle ages) before another Renaissance? OK - I am not an ancient history buff, so the analogy may be off - but you get my drift.
And what will it mean to the CIO and a CIO's role? Does it all not matter, and the only thing that does matter now is the uber-company that is state-less, and transcends political-ideological boundaries? If that is the case, then that has profound implications for F500 CIOs that manage international companies. How they manage, and decisions they make. I'd be interested in hearing from CIOs that have an opinion - or see a trend.
Any takers? Does the current state of flux in the economy matter to IT? Does it have broader implications?