Cloud, iPad, Facebook? But what issue bugs all CIOs?

There is one common cause that unites the CIOs of 2011...

Despite all the buzzwords the technology industry habitually throws up, the theme that unites IT leaders isn't as obvious as you might think, says Tim Ferguson.

Over the course of the past six months I've interviewed nearly 20 CIOs, discussing the big projects, technology priorities and challenges they're all dealing with every day.

A number of common threads about what CIOs are focusing on have emerged during these conversations but only one has appeared consistently on the agenda for all these IT leaders.

What is the cause that unites CIOs, whatever their business? Cloud computing, perhaps?

Well, many CIOs are thinking about how cloud could play a role in their business. Indeed some - such as News International's Paul Cheesbrough - are adopting cloud in a big way. Cheesbrough plans to move much of the organisation's operations into the cloud, much as he did previously at the Telegraph Media Group.

But views on cloud vary wildly among CIOs.

CIOs disagree on many things but one factor unites them all

CIOs have widely different views on cloud, social networking and tablets but appear united on another issuesPhoto: Shutterstock

BAE Systems has had an internal cloud capability for building and testing apps for several years. Cloud computing is therefore something CIO Chris Coupland has already addressed, allowing him to spend time tackling other issues.

But at the opposite end of the spectrum, some CIOs are shying away from cloud. Jewellery group Signet Trading is looking at cloud in "a conservative way", according to head of IT Alistair Fuller, due to concerns about the security of data.

Meanwhile, other IT chiefs just don't see cloud computing having a place in their organisation.

"I think it's like everything else in the computing world: it's what fits your business. If it fits the business model and there are distinct advantages, then great. If it's just today's buzzword, well, let's not play that game," Salford University CIO Derek Drury told

So if it's not cloud computing that's uniting CIOs, what about other technology that's getting the tech press excited. Social networking, maybe?

News International's Cheesbrough is testing business-networking tools with a view to rolling them out further if the trial proves successful. But Cheesbrough is very much an exception. Most conversations I've had with CIOs suggest social networking isn't something that's overly bothering them.

Apart from businesses that do a lot of marketing or customer interaction, social networking doesn't feature too prominently.

Tablets are another hot topic but, again, CIOs I've spoken to, while looking at what the iPad and similar devices could offer their business, are generally dealing with tablets from the point of view of employees bringing them into work rather than the organisation actively encouraging their use.

Most IT chiefs feel tablets are good in their own right but...