Stories by Ben Worthen

Supply chain management: A quick guide

Supply chain management (SCM) is the combination of art and science that goes into improving the way your company finds the raw components it needs to make a product or service and deliver it to customers. The following are five basic components of SCM
1. Plan – This is the strategic portion of SCM. You need a strategy for managing all the resources that go toward meeting customer demand for your product or service. A big piece of planning is developing a set of metrics to monitor the supply chain so that it is efficient, costs less and delivers high quality and value to customers.

Written by Ben Worthen08 Aug. 07 22:00

Beyond Vista

Every decade or so, a new platform emerges that reduces the cost of running an IT department to such an extent that vendors have no choice but to embrace it or die. In the 1990s, PCs with powerful operating systems spelled the end of mainframe development and ushered in the client/server era. Today, cheap servers and high-speed Internet connections are triggering a move away from traditional desktop PC software and to software as a service, hosted by a third party and delivered over the Internet.

Written by Ben Worthen17 Nov. 06 21:59

Case Study: EVA: Health Decisions - planning big

Everything about Health Decisions screams small company with big plans. Fancy new office-park headquarters fit the company like hand-me-downs on a kid brother. A half sheet of paper next to the glass front door lists every employee's name and extension, and people wander by would-be conference rooms in shorts or blue jeans. There's even a six-passenger corporate plane.
Yet there is something unmistakably special going on at the Chapel Hill, N.C.-based clinical research organization (CRO), which designs and runs clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies and government groups like the National Institutes of Health. Health Decisions, whose US$12 million annual revenue makes it the smallest Enterprise Value Award winner ever, is challenging a conservative industry's accepted drug trial process with the resolve of the Little Engine That Could, an appropriate comparison given founder and CEO Michael Rosenberg's favorite metaphor for his company.

Written by Ben Worthen10 July 03 22:00

Hot potato

The US West Coast port slowdown and eventual longshoreman lockout last October focused US attention on the delicate condition of America's supply chain. An estimated US$300 billion worth of goods flow through West Coast ports every year, and as the giant container ships that carry it all sat bobbing, anchored at sea and unable to off-load for 10 days, companies across the country started to run out of inventory and assembly lines began to grind to a halt.
Mitsubishi, out of engines and transmissions (which it imports from Japan), suspended production of Eclipse convertibles and Galant sedans at its plant in Normal, Ill. General Motors Corp. and Toyota Corp. ceased operations at a shared assembly facility in Fremont, Calif., for one week until parts could be flown in. The Boeing Co.'s production of 767 and 777 airliners was disrupted because Asian-built cargo doors and fuselage panels were delayed at sea.

Written by Ben Worthen08 May 03 22:00

Ideas 2003: VoIP speaks softly

If an automobile manufacturer sent you a notice touting a new diesel engine that performed just as well as the conventional one in your current car -- no better, no worse -- would you ask your mechanic to rip out the one under your hood in order to replace it? That's the dilemma facing voice over IP (VoIP). The advantages of an IP-voice network over traditional telephony are not staggering -- the per-call price is pretty much the same, and most people won't be persuaded by VoIP features like the ability to route voice mails to an e-mail inbox -- and, in this economy, the cost of replacing the copper phone lines with Ethernet cable just isn't worth it.

Written by Ben Worthen27 Jan. 03 22:00

Ideas 2003: The little tech engine that might

In 2002, Web services went from being little known and misunderstood to being well known and misunderstood, leaving CIOs with more questions than answers. How would Web services connections be secured? Whose standards would really become standards? It looks like the answers will come in 2003 as Web services ramps up for full-fledged adoption in 2004.

Written by Ben Worthen26 Jan. 03 22:00

Ideas 2003: Bar codes on steroids

Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are like bar codes on steroids; they're to traditional SKUs what Robocop was to your ordinary cop on the beat.

Written by Ben Worthen26 Jan. 03 22:00

Easy as A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H and I

While WI-FI is a branded certification for wireless LANs and wireless LAN products, it's also a catchy shorthand that's become synonymous with the products it certifies. And it's a lot easier than saying IEEE 802.11b, the technical term for conventional wireless LANs. But no matter what you call it, everything is coming up roses for Wi-Fi.

Written by Ben Worthen16 Jan. 03 22:00

How to meet tomorrow's privacy rules today

In late June 2000, Tom Martin made the bone-chilling discovery that no CIO ever wants to make: His network had been hacked. As CIO of the University of Washington Academic Medical Center in Seattle, Martin had good reason to be concerned; his hospital, like most, was moving toward electronic records and communication with patients. An anxious Martin investigated the breach immediately, and to his relief he concluded that for the past month the hacker had been using sniffer software to gain access to a computer in the pathology department -- not the core medical systems. Thankfully, no data was lost. Martin chalked it up to a learning experience and wisely upgraded the hospital's firewall.

Written by Ben Worthen06 Nov. 02 22:00

CIO-100: Mergers and acquisitions

Integration during a merger and acquisition (M&A) is a different beast from your typical internal system integration effort. The CIOs who have survived an M&A talk about it with the same heart-quickening cadence an adrenaline junkie uses to describe an extreme sport. If an integration project of the sort discussed in the rest of the CIO-100 issue is the IT equivalent of surfing -- requiring a CIO to stay on top of the project's breaking waves -- then integration during an M&A is like sky surfing: It's riskier and you're traveling much faster.
Integration during an M&A is not a simple IT project but part of a bigger business goal. Too often, companies engaging in mergers or acquisitions ignore the IT scalability of their new business partner or their own systems. It's not that companies should make or break business decisions based on the IT architecture of the company they plan to join or take over, but it is important to have up-front knowledge of how the IT merger is likely to go. A slow or poorly handled IT integration between merging companies can jeopardize the business goals. So once an M&A is set in motion, the CIO's role is to make sure that the IT integration happens fast and smoothly.

Written by Ben Worthen02 Oct. 02 22:00

All together for broadband

For many CIOs, implementing their company's wide area networks with broadband -- the superfast data transmission service available from DSL and cable Internet technology -- would be cheaper and less complicated than laying a dedicated T1 or T3 pipe. Neither high-speed service is available nationwide in the US, however, forcing CIOs with offices in non-urban locales to either pay through the nose or ignore users' requests for faster access.
Now, after years of debating whether the government should help the infrastructure along, lawmakers and the White House finally agree there should be a national policy to promote broadband service. But they can't agree on how to do it.

Written by Ben Worthen02 Oct. 02 22:00

Web services: Still not ready for prime time

Ah, the promise of Web services, the Internet-resident applications that have the major technology vendors united for the first time ever and consequently the entire sector abuzz with unbridled enthusiasm. According to its own rapidly spreading mythology, Web services -- where application can talk to application without messy human intervention -- is going to solve every lingering technical challenge. In the future, all your applications -- from the largest CRM system to the smallest utility -- will interact seamlessly, thanks to Web services.

Written by Ben Worthen05 Sept. 02 14:09

Cellular processing

The latest computer to come out of the University of Southern California isn't newsworthy for its small size or computational power. It's notable because it is made from DNA, the microscopic acids that reside in every cell and are responsible for all life.

Written by Ben Worthen12 July 02 12:47