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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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