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Upward and onward with outsourcing

Companies are expanding the range of IT services they outsource. Internal staff shortages and cost constraints are primary drivers of outsourcing decisions, but CIOs are finding that they can also improve quality and delivery time of IT projects with the right outsource provider.
Best Practices

Written by CIO Staff03 Oct. 02 22:00

First stop, Singapore

FRAMINGHAM (07/09/2002) - "The Gateway to Asia" is how the marketing brochures promote Singapore. But Brian Chen, CTO of the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), the government's own IT shop, offers a more practical description: "Singapore is Asia 101," he says.
Or Asia Lite. Or Asia for Beginners. As opposed to countries such as China and India, where large labor forces are at least partially compromised by creaky IT infrastructures or cranky governments, Singapore is the plug-and-play marketplace a super-wired country where, as the Singaporeans would have Westerners believe, the e-business is brisk and the living is easy.

Written by Tom Field03 Oct. 02 22:00

Rx for chicken scratch

Poor physician penmanship is the butt of many jokes, but illegible prescriptions are no laughing matter.
A widely publicized study done by the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C., in 1999 concluded that medication errors (many due to poorly scrawled doctors' orders) cause 7,000 deaths annually in the United States at a cost of US$7 billion. To improve accuracy and speed, Giant Food and Pharmacy is providing 35,000 doctors in the mid-Atlantic region with secure access to patient information and the ability to transmit prescriptions to any of the Landover, Md.-based grocery chain's 154 pharmacies--all via a desktop PC, handheld or cell phone.

Written by Stephanie Overby03 Oct. 02 22:00

Microsoft gets serious about consulting

You're getting another choice in the contest for your IT consulting dollars: Microsoft. In its move from supporting player to starring role, the software company has created a single consulting organization called Microsoft Worldwide Services that as of Memorial Day had about 12,000 employees.
According to Jim Wilson, group marketing manager for Microsoft Worldwide Services, IT consultants focusing on e-commerce, enterprise application planning and distributed network architectures make up a little more than a third of this group. The rest are IT analysts and a growing legion of customer service representatives.

Written by Geoffrey James03 Oct. 02 22:00

Nanotech revolution

When it comes to matter, size really does matter. The properties of materials that we notice color, hardness, electrical conductivity and so on all depend on the nature and structure of the constituent atoms and molecules. With increasing ability to design and build on an atomic and molecular scale a reasonable definition of nanotechnology we are becoming better and better at developing materials with entirely new properties. Those materials, in turn, become the building blocks for more complex systems and entirely new products.
But when an emerging technology is the subject of as much hype as nanotech, it's easy to tune out and stop listening. That would be a big mistake. If we ignore the unsupported claims and misguided speculation, especially about what might be achieved in the near term there remain solid reasons to expect significant long-term developments in what the National Science Foundation estimates to be a trillion-dollar-plus industry during the next 10 to 15 years.

Written by Thomas N. Theis03 Oct. 02 22:00

Knowledge management: The right way

When Tom Rossi, director of the Innovation Lab at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., began a knowledge management initiative in 1999, he thought he knew everything. Rossi and his team were charged with creating a futuristic environment for computerized war games. The games, held annually for more than 20 years, have about 500 senior military and civilian players who need to share real-time information about troop deployments, battle readiness and the battlefield environment. Prior to Rossi's KM project, the gamer commanders had to gather information via phone calls, memos, e-mails and game books none of which encouraged the kind of instantaneous decision-making necessary in combat situations.
Rossi and his team put together a KM system that integrated a collaborative software suite, a naval war games software tool and Microsoft Corp. Exchange's Conferencing Server for Internet video and chat capabilities. In the year between games, Rossi worked with engineers and a metrics team to fine-tune the system. They tailored the command and control databases so that various commanders had access to the same information; as one group of officers plotted troop positions and battle tactics, other participants lower down the chain of command could see the plans as they formed and anticipate what their own tasks would be.

Written by Simone Kaplan03 Oct. 02 22:00

Creative visualization

Dozens of information sources. Hundreds of thousands of data points. All of them critical to the future success of your company. But trying to analyze such massive amounts of information might even spin the number-happy head of A Beautiful Mind's John Nash.
That's where Spotfire steps in. The Somerville, Mass.-based company builds analytical tools designed to let corporations create on-the-fly visual representations of complex data sets, helping mere mortals pluck drops of gold from oceans of lead.

Written by Christopher Lindquist03 Oct. 02 22:00

Busting crime by decoding phone bills

Gabby criminals beware: There's a new technology out there to help the good guys catch you.
PatternTracer TCA, telephone call analysis software from Springfield, Va.-based i2 Technologies helps law enforcement agencies decipher complex relationships buried in billing records. The software identifies repetitive groups of calls to help establish patterns linking, for example, Butch the jewel thief, Lefty the safe-cracker and Wanda the getaway driver.

Written by Todd Datz03 Oct. 02 22:00

GIS goes worldwide

The modern citizens of the medieval, canal-dissected town of Brugge, Belgium, must have thought it strange to see packs of businesspeople following the dim green glow of cell phone screens through the city at twilight. What they were witnessing was a demonstration of one of the latest innovations in geographic information systems technology by Tele Atlas North America, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based digital data provider.
The first night in Brugge, the Tele Atlas conference participants divided into groups of 10 to 12 people, with each team given a cell phone into which they entered a code. What followed was dinner, entertainment and a tour of the city -- guided by the GPS-enabled cell phone. Instructions appeared on the screen, telling the participants to follow different streets and alleys as they made their way through the town. At certain destinations, the teams would enter location-specific information, such as the date on a 15th century guild house, to find out where the next course of their meal could be found.

Written by Daintry Duffy03 Oct. 02 22:00

Value added, value subtracted

By July 2003, if the European Union's finance ministers have their way, Internet sales of digital goods and services to European shoppers will be subject to a value-added tax (VAT). That means if you're selling online content to a consumer in Germany, you have to charge more to include the German VAT rate.
The rub here, according to U.S. officials, is that companies with offices in Europe pay the home-country rate. Vendors outside the E.U. pay the VAT rate based on where the consumer lives. U.S. officials argue these rules will put small U.S. companies seeking to grow global sales at a disadvantage. European online surfers already shopping U.S. websites probably won't be too pleased, either. Most U.S. companies selling digital products don't add VAT.

Written by Michael Goldberg03 Oct. 02 22:00

Terror transactions bedevil banks

Banks are keeping a careful eye on the money flowing in and out of their doors. In October 2001, President Bush signed the USA Patriot Act into law, a measure that introduces a new wave of regulations to fight money laundering and organizations funneling funds to terrorist groups. The burdens the new law places on banks and financial institutions are creating a surge of interest in technologies designed to help companies identify potentially suspicious activity. TowerGroup, a financial services research company based in Needham, Mass., estimates the increased demand for anti-money-laundering (AML) technology will extend well into 2003, and that spending by U.S. banking institutions on such technologies will reach US$60 million this year.
The AML provisions of the Patriot Act do not mandate the use of specific technologies, but banks and other financial institutions would be hard-pressed to obey the new laws without them. Among other things, banks face a greater responsibility to verify customer identity. They must also produce all documentation related to specific accounts within five days of a regulator's request. There's also the complex and critical task of identifying suspicious transactions that can occur across multiple accounts and over long periods of time, making it difficult for a human to detect any pattern.

Written by Daintry Duffy03 Oct. 02 22:00

Check it out

Despite the barrage of bank ads touting online bill paying and the ease of using debit cards, writing checks the old-fashioned way is still a popular method of parting with one's money. In the United States alone, about 50 billion paper cheques are processed each year at a cost of US$1 to $5 per check, according to the Federal Reserve Bank. Amar Gupta, for one, hopes to wring some of those processing costs out of the system.
As codirector of the Productivity from Information Technology initiative at MIT's Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Mass., Gupta has been researching ways to streamline the cheque payment process using IT. A few years ago, he and his team of researchers devised a technology to accurately scan and read handwritten characters. The WinBank Optical Character Recognition System relies on character recognition algorithms and neural networks to read handwritten numerals on checks.

Written by Megan Santosus03 Oct. 02 22:00

Marching in sync

Integration is difficult in the best of circumstances. When you're the U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) and your integration project involves four branches of the military and dozens of government agencies, it's an almost insurmountable challenge.
It helps when the mandate for integration comes from the U.S. secretary of Defense and the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. CIO-100 honoree JFCOM began its multipronged approach in 1998, when the secretary of Defense issued a charter mandating interoperability among the military branches. First, JFCOM created a governing body and drafted system standards to which all branches must adhere. The goal of the project, says David Ozolek, assistant director of joint experimentation for JFCOM, was to create a rapid response capability in which all branches of the military communicate via integrated systems.

Written by Simone Kaplan02 Oct. 02 22:00

CIO-100: Economies of scale

The austere bell-and-clock tower in which Metropolitan Life Insurance (MetLife) makes its home in Manhattan has been dwarfed by other skyscrapers since its completion in 1909, but it remains a monument in the Madison Square Park area. It looms as a symbol of theUS's second largest insurer, with $US2.1 trillion worth of insurance in force.
Last year, the MetLife companies served 9 million U.S. households, 4.1 million customers abroad, and 64,000 companies and institutions. It has 46,154 employees, and last year it amassed $32.5 billion in operating revenue. On the technology front, the company has five CIOs, one CTO and an executive vice-president of technology who oversees them all. During its 134-year history, CIO-100 honoree MetLife has grown not only in size but also in complexity, becoming so broad that Chuck Johnston, vice-president of insurance information strategies at Stamford, Conn.-based Meta Group, describes it as the "GE of the insurance industry."

Written by Stephanie Overby02 Oct. 02 22:00

Big picture

While not necessarily a must-have for every corporation, multiscreen video display systems do have their place both for videoconferencing and more esoteric pursuits, such as information walls (think the trading floor of the Nasdaq stock exchange, large-scale network monitoring centers or the military).
To enable such video operations, Imtech offers the Activu control system, a software suite that can securely connect multiple display devices across a network or in the same room. The software can "mirror" the same video data across multiple displays -- from desktop systems to enormous video walls, letting large numbers of users view and interact with identical information simultaneously. Unlike proprietary systems, the Activu software runs on standard servers over a company's existing network, reducing overall implementation costs.

Written by Christopher Lindquist02 Oct. 02 22:00

The prodigal dotcom spinoffs return

It's a theorem from dotcom history: That which a retailer spins off must eventually return to the parent company or crumble from its own lack of success.
That was one of Marco Iansiti's principal findings when he studied 30 national brick-and-mortar retailers that launched online ventures. Iansiti, a Harvard Business School professor (and an expert consulted for the US CIO-100 issue), together with PhD student George Westerman, conducted the study for five years and saw that 21 of the retailers eventually reintegrated those ventures back into the company, and the other nine shut down.

Written by Lafe Low02 Oct. 02 22:00

Check this out

It seems like anyone shopping at US retailer Home Depot always spends $US25 more than they planned by grabbing last minute items while waiting in line at the register. All that may change in the near future. Home Depot has joined US several grocery chains in piloting self-service checkouts in nine of its 1,400 stores. Using the self-service stations, customers scan and pay for their items at the kiosk.
The technology isn't new—it has been around since the late 1980s—but in the past year there has been an explosion in the number of installations. Kmart and Shaw's Supermarkets have both rolled out installations of FastLane technology from NCR in several of their stores. "These machines don't take sick days; they don't have good days and bad days," says Mike Webster, vice-president of NCR FastLane in Atlanta. Webster says a typical installation of four units and one attendant station is less than $US100,000. He says his customers see payback in terms of managed labor savings in 12 to 18 months. NCR is one of two vendors piloting Home Depot's installation.

Written by Tom Wailgum02 Oct. 02 22:00

StatShot

$US37.1 billion: Federal government's expenditures on IT and IT services this year.
$63.3 billion: Anticipated federal government expenditures on IT and IT services for the year 2007. Most of that $63.3 billion spent in 2007 (nearly 70 percent) will go to the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Treasury, NASA, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Justice as they focus on homeland security and e-government projects.

Written by CIO Staff02 Oct. 02 22:00

MasterCard vs. PayPal

Mastercard International has imposed a deadline on its member institutions to comply with rules aimed at protecting consumers from unscrupulous Internet merchants.
The credit card giant says it is merely enforcing its rules; that it's wary of merchants that link consumers to websites that aggregate transactions, then process them through MasterCard without identifying the merchant.

Written by Jon Surmacz02 Oct. 02 22:00