The Friday Interview: Al Nugent, CA

18 May 2007

This week’s interviewee is Al Nugent (pictured), chief technology officer with CA, the world’s fifth-largest software company.

The modern mantra is that IT needs to be more aligned with the business. Are we there yet?

I don’t think the gap has widened, but no, we’re not there. Mature organisations are going from IT as a backroom function to making it an engine for growth.
We see pockets of collaboration between IT and the business organisation, but it’s nowhere near as widespread as it needs to be.

Are people inevitably an obstacle?

It sounds terrible to say, but they are at the root of a lot of the issues. Resistance to change is the biggest problem. People need a reason to change and it’s not because a CEO or the head of a ministry tells them to.

There have to be tangible benefits for the individual involved to make the leap.
We give people the tools – we know they don’t trust us because we’re IT – but if we can show them that we can add value, we will be able to close the gaps.

What is service oriented architecture (SOA) and why are CIOs cynical about it?

The first thing to say is that it is architecture and not a product. It’s a way of doing things with processes, structure and open standards.

Resistance from CIOs is because there still aren’t many examples of true SOA applications at scale.

But the underlying model, which is about IT being distributed and stateless, and having different levels of control, is the right model for the future.

I would never tell a CIO they’re wrong, but if they are not seriously looking at creating an SOA environment they are missing the boat.

As an industry we can’t keep developing software the way we are; it’s not sustainable so we have to start thinking differently.

You have a problem with Windows Vista. Explain.

The footprint of the desktop operating system over the past 10-15 years has grown from a few hundred kilobytes to 40GB. Do you really need all that complexity? It creates more opportunities for threats, not less. And there is nothing wrong with XP now that its problems have been solved.

What’s the next big thing for the IT industry?

There are the usual suspects like software as a service, but it’s not groundbreaking, it’s a natural extension of what we’ve all been doing.
It’s going to come down to the way we index and make available complex content.

The content explosion will continue unabated and we need an intelligent way to navigate it. There is no approach I’ve seen from existing vendors that will do this in a way that makes it truly usable.

It’s about being able to dynamically bring content to where you want it, based on something other than high-level attributes – finding a scene in a movie, for example, knowing only the actor and actress.

The company that figures it out will be huge. I don’t know how it will be done because if I did I’d do it!

By Ian Campbell

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