Global IT: The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming

Last fall, I was invited to be a keynote speaker at the Adam Smith Institute’s “Corporate IT Strategies in Russia” summit, which was held at the Le Meridien Moscow Country Club, from February 28 through March 2, 2006. In the months before I flew to Moscow, I spent some time learning about my audience.

I began to consider the mindset of the Russian business community, and how their daily practices might differ from those to which I’ve become accustomed. I wondered, Do businesspeople in Russia address business issues in the same way as Americans do? What means or processes do they employ to resolve issues, innovate and move initiatives forward? Is the Russian business community behind the U.S. conceptually, or are they aware of the latest advances in technology, techniques and tools? What interests them beyond the business world?

I landed in Moscow and was met by a driver who delivered me to Le Meridien Moscow Country Club, deep in a forest of birch trees many miles from the city center. I arrived in my room just after 11:00 p.m., only to find that the hotel’s wireless network was limited to . . . the lobby.

SMTP was blocked, making Web mail the only option, and at $25 for one day of access, it wasn’t exactly a bargain. My other option was dial-up in the room—but where would I dial, and how much would it cost? Frustrated, it seemed to me that technology hadn’t quite made its way to Le Meridien. But over the next few days, I would learn otherwise.

Day One

The conference started out like any other: registration, introductions, opening comments. But unlike other conferences I’ve attended, I had a clear mission for the next three days: to meet and understand my audience. One thing was quite apparent right away—the Russians have a thorough understanding of the past and present states of information technology in their business community, and a clear vision for where they are headed.

Our attention was grabbed by two teaser topics covered in the afternoon; the managing directors of both Gartner and Elashkin Research gave a sneak preview of what would be discussed in more detail on the final day of the conference:

  • IT organizational scenario: a consideration of past, present and future trends within Russian IT organizations. I was interested in the fact that more and more CIOs in Russia are reporting to the chief operating officer, or president. And while finance and CFOs are still heavily influential, the landscape is changing. We even learned of several CIOs sitting on boards of directors.

  • IT outsourcing scenario: an in-depth dialogue about outsourcing IT to national versus international service providers. Because a number of Russian service providers do exist, it was suggested that the same items that are currently outsourced might be brought back in-house in the future.

    Next page: Russian Take on CIO’s Concerns

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