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It's a buyer's market

This much is true: US companies have slammed the brakes on IT spending in the past year and a half -- a fallout from the recession, 9/11 and a stock market suffering from an onslaught of questionable accounting methods, outright fraud and jittery investors.
The technology engorgement that commenced in the late 1990s has so satiated companies that requests by CIOs for even a few crumbs -- a new Java programmer, a desktop upgrade -- now get as much scrutiny as a request to fly first-class to the Cleveland office. "I don't think there will ever be a return to what happened -- the perfect storm of Y2K, ERP and the Internet," says Paul Hoogenboom, vice president of operations and CIO at Medina, Ohio-based RPM, the maker of Rust-Oleum and other specialty coatings.

Written by Todd Datz02 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

Underwriting knowledge

For Gordon Larson, telling stories is all in a day's work at his job as chief knowledge officer at CNA Financial Corp., and that's just fine with executives at the Chicago-based insurance giant.
Larson owes his job to a shift in corporate direction. Three years ago, under the direction of a new chairman, CNA set off on a new mission. The ultimate goal, says Karen Foley, CNA's executive vice president of corporate development, was "to get out of the distribution business and become a great underwriting company." And in order to do that, the company had to become more informed about the industries and customers it served.

Written by Megan Santosus02 Oct. 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

CIO-100: Strategic alignment

Today's IT executive is now tasked with having to make all these disparate systems work together because competitive pressures and the e-business environment demand it. And custom hardwiring one app to another -- with all the time, money and lack of flexibility that approach entails -- is not going to get you there.
That's why you need a holistic integration strategy, a big-picture view that doesn't focus on the trees, meandering from project to project, but gives you the 40,000-foot view from the skies. Piloting that strategy are the business drivers in your company --things such as speed, getting closer to your customers and collaborating with partners. Because an integration strategy that doesn't march in lockstep to your business strategy is a bit like imbibing too much at your high school reunion --it's going to come back to haunt you.

Written by Todd Datz02 Oct. 02 22:00

How's it going?

When an alarm goes off, George Tumas doesn't panic. The senior vice-president of Wells Fargo Bank's Internet Services Group faces potential catastrophe calmly, thanks to his investment in a performance management tool.
The latest such tools -- also known as component and service-level agreement management tools -- are designed to help IT departments keep a close eye on critical Web-enabled systems. As these systems grow larger and reach outside the enterprise to customers, partners and suppliers, the need to keep performance at the highest possible level becomes ever more pressing. That's not always easy, however. "The new Internet applications have multiple tiers -- they're distributive and complex," says Dennis Gaughan, a software industry analyst at AMR Research, a technology research company in Boston. "There's just an increased demand for tools to measure performance and to make sure that the applications are performing to meet the requirements of the business."

Written by John Edwards02 Oct. 02 22:00

CIO-100: The integration imperative

Back in the not-so-long-ago, when Internet-driven capital still flowed and new applications sprouted like dandelions on the corporate lawn, it took uncommon vision to pursue integration as a core business strategy. Many companies put new ERP, CRM and other software and systems in place to feed their growth and solve their immediate business problems, but few had either the time or the inclination to put much thought into how they would all work together in the future.
Sure, CIOs invested in tools that helped one application peek at the data in another. Lots of IT executives cobbled together systems and made business happen one way or another. But precious few could say they were integrated, with a big-picture view of their companies, customers and corporate collaborators.

Written by Lafe Low02 Oct. 02 22:00

The China syndrome

Companies hoping to do business in China will have to play by China's rules. The world's largest market hasn't changed, even with the country's joining the World Trade Organization last year. E-commerce business models in China must be at once technologically more sophisticated and operationally more basic than those at home.
On the technology side, companies entering China should consider investing in wireless Internet access. The Chinese Ministry of Information Industry has made wireless technology one of its top priorities. China's mobile Internet user base is expected to approach the number of traditional Internet users by 2005, according to BDA China, an IT market research company in Beijing. Companies setting up shop in China must also prepare to comply with China's homegrown IT standards.

Written by Shidong Xu and Elana Varon01 Oct. 02 22:00

Danger from within

Just when you thought that network security couldn't get any tougher, Moscow-based iNetPrivacy Software has released AntiFirewall. Taking advantage of a user's ability to browse web pages (something most companies don't completely restrict), the US$35 utility connects to external, anonymous proxy servers. Once connected to one of these servers, AntiFirewall users can establish FTP connections, use chat or instant messaging without restriction, and receive messages from external e-mail accounts, even if corporate security policies and firewalls would normally prevent such activities.
The product also screens the user's originating IP address, providing for anonymous communication from within corporate networks. (It does not, however, support the SMTP mail protocol, so users cannot send anonymous email messages.)

Written by Christopher Lindquist01 Oct. 02 22:00

Outsourcing in a nuclear hot zone

For the moment, tensions between India and Pakistan are subsiding, but the recent threat of war has forced many companies to reassess the risks of outsourcing work to India. The country's National Association of Software and Services Companies estimated the value of India's IT-enabled services industry at approximately US$13.5 billion during 2000. That translates into many companies maintaining investment in a country that has been teetering on the brink of war. Two-thirds of those companies are based in the United States.
Stephanie Moore, vice president and research leader for Giga Information Group Inc. based in Norwalk, Conn., predicts that more companies will diversify their outsourcing, especially to Canada, China, Mexico, Russia and the Ukraine. "There is a new level of risk in India right now," she says. "The only thing people can do is have valid contingency plans that are actionable and immediately usable. Besides developing backup resources nearby or in another location, a lot are considering cross-training in-house staff so they at least know where documentation is. That's a big step given the climate of cost containment we're in now."

Written by Sandy Kendall01 Oct. 02 22:00

Bowling for customers

Two years ago, reps at AMF Bowling Products had good reason to shudder at the very mention of sales-force automation (SFA). It is notoriously hard to get right, and the company's first attempt failed miserably.
AMF reps sell everything from shoe spray to the back-office software that runs a bowling center. They need a way to track their customers -- owners and managers of some 6000 U.S. bowling centers -- and the equipment they already own. Knowing which customers have ancient ball return machines or out-of-date automatic scoring systems helps them zero in on the best sales targets. The company's first major SFA effort -- a series of homegrown Lotus Software Group Notes databases of customer information -- didn't take long to earn the sales reps' ire. Reps couldn't take their laptop into bowling centers and enter customer data without looking like spies to the alley owners with whom they were trying to establish trusting relationships. So instead, they'd scribble notes on paper. But after schlepping through four to six bowling centers, the last thing reps wanted to do when they got to their hotel at night was fire up their laptop and spend up to an hour logging their sales calls into one database and entering data on what kind of equipment each center had into another. Because it usually took another 30 to 45 minutes and sometimes as much as two hours to replicate their notes, most reps gave up in frustration.

Written by Alice Dragoon01 Oct. 02 22:00

Uniting charities on the Web

FRAMINGHAM (09/05/2002) - With dozens of charities offering support to victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, figuring out what aid is available and how to apply it has been more hassle than help to would-be recipients. Each entity has its own criteria, paperwork and deadlines. It's so confusing, some survivors have opted to apply for no aid at all.
But in a tiny office on 51st Street in New York City, Richard Flynn has been making things a bit easier for those affected by the attacks. As CTO of the 9/11 United Services Group (USG), Flynn works with a consortium of 13 private human services organizations formed last December. He has led the IT effort to coordinate help being provided by member organizations to create a streamlined system for facilitating benefits.

Written by Stephanie Overby29 Sept. 02 22:00

Investing in Web services

Web services has sold the technology industry a promise: the potential to redefine the way software is written, delivered, managed and sold. For those who recall the epic battle between DCOM and Corba a decade ago, the arguments will sound familiar. Yet it's still unclear if the Web services model will actually become the promised industry revolution, or simply serve as a feature set for tomorrow's products from today's well-established players. It makes me think of a sage comment from the great Yogi Berra: "It's like déjà vu all over again."
Web services is an amorphous blob of business apps, and different players define it differently. Ultimately it can be described as any application delivered over the Internet and accessed by almost any device, from PCs to mobile phones. What Web services can offer is a set of shared protocols and standards that permit systems to share data and services without requiring humans to broker the conversation. The result promises to be "on-the-fly" links between the online processes of different companies.

Written by Steve Baloff29 Sept. 02 22:00

When bad viruses go good

Most biological viruses have a nasty reputation. But scientist Angela Belcher believes that some viruses can be guided into performing a useful task: building high-tech materials.

Written by John Edwards24 Sept. 02 14:59

It's the customer, stupid!

Alastair Hutchens has plenty to be upbeat about as general manager of Loyalty New Zealand, the Wellington-based company that manages the Fly Buys programme. Not only has Fly Buys just achieved the highest household penetration of any loyalty programme in the world, but the leader of its 50-seat Auckland call centre has been named call centre manager of the year.

Written by Patrick Smith31 Aug. 02 22:00

College on the move

BUSINESS Polytechnic Universal College of Learning (UCOL) has purchased JD Edwards’ OneWorld Xe enterprise software in a deal that will see a new financial system up and running in less than four months.
Set to go live in November, OneWorld Xe Financials and Procurement will replace a financial system called Real Time and will be accessed by up to 25 concurrent users across UCOL’s four lower North Island campuses.
UCOL financial controller Darryl Purdy says OneWorld Xe will provide UCOL with a single window into its enterprise information, by consolidating disparate accounting functions and providing better integration with its Progress-based student management system, Promis.
“We are running a number of finance functions outside the student management system and want to bring these functions — particularly programme costing, contribution analysis and purchase ordering, which is tightly controlled and linked to our forecasting — inside the system. We will now work faster, reduce double handling and seamlessly transition our commitments into financials.”
UCOL has grown on average 12% annually for the past five years and this year incorporated Wanganui Polytechnic, boosting its student enrolments to more than 13,000 and staff to 650.

Written by Don Hill31 Aug. 02 22:00

The foresight process

READING The technique of visualising the future, say, 10 years out, and then working out how to get there is hardly new. But what Nick Marsh, Mike McAllum and Dominique Purcell offer in Strategic Foresight: The Power Of Standing In The Future is a practical process guide on how to undertake what their case studies suggest is an increasingly important methodology for organisations to succeed in the post-industrial era.
McAllum, a New Zealander, is managing director and founder of Global Foresight Network. Marsh, who spent 20 years working in New Zealand, is the global network director of international consultancy Next Corporation. They have linked with Purcell, who is the director of Visioware, which facilitates foresight and innovation outcomes, to produce a lucidly written, up-to-date — the excesses of Enron are reviewed, for example — review of the foresight process.
McAllum and Marsh worked together in the 1990s at the Foresight Institute of New Zealand and had much to do with the government’s 1997-2000 Foresight Project, which focused on a major policy review of expenditure on all publicly funded research.
The book is designed to assist CEOs, policy and strategy managers, HR and training managers, change consultants and those who want to learn about managing foresightful change in their organisations.
Foresight is about integrating strategic planning, future studies and organisational development in the Knowledge Age. Of necessity, it encompasses rapidly changing societal mores: ageing populations, the dramatically different role of women, increasing focus on a “green” world.
The latter point is illustrated by the adoption of triple bottom-line (TBL) accounting methods by several multinationals. TBL accounts for environmental effects of economic policies and social development. It will probably become mainstream, the authors suggest.
They note also the performance of the Dow Jones Sustainability Global Index, launched in 1999 to create a global investment fund which includes only the top 10% of performers in sustainable value creation — companies analytically assessed to be managing their assets sustainably. Research shows that non-financial performance accounts for 35% of institutional investors’ valuation. That’s food for thought.
The authors have delivered a worthwhile addition to the plethora of management books, one that has applicability on a broader stage, given its down-to-earth approach. In 300 pages, the word “paradigm” appears only twice.
Strategic foresight: The power of standing in the future, by Nick Marsh, Mike McAllum, Dominique Purcell. Published by Crown Content. $39.50.

Written by Randal Jackson31 Aug. 02 22:00

The “e” thing

In reality, Datamail has been part of the e-business world for some time, as both an ASP and outsourcing bureau. It just hadn’t thought of itself that way. For Bone, the task was to get the management team to see the organisation as an e-business and to recognise that the internet is just another transport medium — but with special security issues surrounding it. Work is already being kept in electronic form for distribution and other information is archived for electronic access by outside organisations.
“We are already doing things like hosting archived repositories for large financial institutions and supplying the data back on demand via a private network to their helpdesk,” says Bone. “It was just a matter of expanding our thinking, saying this is what the internet is about. It’s got a whole bunch of new dimensions that we needed to manage because of the security exposure we now have.”

Written by Don Hill31 Aug. 02 22:00

Wiring the world

DEVELOPMENT If you think setting up IT strategy in your organisation is difficult, imagine doing it for a developing nation, where even basic electrical infrastructure may be scarce.
Twelve technologically and economically disadvantaged countries are working to construct their own development strategies. They have solicited the assistance of the Global Digital Opportunity Initiative (GDOI), a partnership established in February between the United Nations Development Programme and the Markle Foundation, a New York City-based non-profit organisation that focuses on IT policy issues. The initiative’s mission is to help developing countries identify ways to use information and communications technologies to reduce poverty, improve health care and education and establish democratic processes.
Frederick Tipson, a director at the Markle Foundation, says that GDOI workers feel it is urgent to reduce the disparity in wealth and technology between developed and underdeveloped nations. “The problem with the digital divide is that it’s getting worse even as we’re all working at it,” he says.
Technology companies such as AOL Time Warner, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems are providing personnel and equipment for the project. Consultants from those companies and the GDOI help government administrators include information and communications technologies in their development strategies. For example, if a country wants to set up distance-learning facilities to bring health-care education to remote villages, it must first determine the infrastructure and applications needed to support e-learning, the cost of that infrastructure and a way to fund it over time. That sounds like a job for Superman, or at least a super CIO.

Written by Don Hill31 Aug. 02 22:00

Stakeholder issues

Bone says Datamail does not have a clear demarcation of IT responsibility. His role is an infrastructure one and an aspect of strategy, plus the production side of IT. “That is where it blurs with my production colleagues and we both influence the outcomes there.”
This arrangement can occasionally lead to tensions but by and large it works. For Bone, the arrangement means he has the latitude to work in strategic special projects involving mergers, acquisitions and offshore business.

Written by Don Hill31 Aug. 02 22:00