Executive Briefs: January 2002

By CIOinsight  |  Posted 01-01-2002

Whiteboard: The Collaboration Triangle
By Steven Alter

Getting IT and technology users to collaborate effectively has never been easy. Often, IT people focus too much on technology, while failing to understand how users work. And users often don't make their needs clear. University of San Francisco Professor Steven Alter offers a tool to boost collaboration. His three-checkpoint methodology helps the two sides hold a structured dialogue that focuses on how users do their work. The goal: mutual understanding and better collaboration that will lead to creating work processes supported by information systems that meet the needs of the business.

Rethinking Risk: Geography Lessons
By Anne Field

The third in an occasional series on rethinking risk looks at how the events of Sept. 11 have forced many companies, from Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. to Empire BlueCross BlueShield, to reconsider their strategies of place—and how information technology might help bridge the distance gaps posed by decentralized offices. Writer Anne Field shows how some companies are beefing up their use of intranets and are pushing ahead projects aimed at better gathering, keeping and harvesting intellectual assets. The story also examines the challenges inherent in decentralized decision-making, and includes a brief commentary by MIT architecture professor William Mitchell, who cautions companies against decentralizing too much in the name of improved security.

Case Study: Royal Caribbean
By Laura Q. Hughes

This month's case study profiles Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. CIO Thomas Murphy and his on-again, off-again push to digitize the company as part of its $1 billion expansion strategy. Writer Laura Q. Hughes traces Murphy's efforts to salvage the project, navigate change, and weather a weakening economy, the post Sept. 11 malaise and merger uncertainties. In a sidebar Q&A, Murphy discusses managing IT in a downturn and his use of microstrategy—breaking up planning and budget cycles into weeks-long segments to adapt more readily to rapid change.

Expert Voices: Born Again
By Richard L. Nolan, David C. Croson and Robert Johansen

Three prominent management experts set forth their definition of the "Renaissance CIO," whose combination of technology skills, organizational abilities, leadership qualities and strategic vision equip them superbly for the task of helping guide the successful IT-driven corporations of the 21st century. The result of discussions with 17 CIOs on the critical requirements for the IT leader of the future, the article places the CIO at the epicenter of corporate change in the coming years. Perhaps most important, according to Harvard Business School's Richard L. Nolan, The Wharton School's David C. Croson, and Robert Johansen, president of the Institute for the Future, CIOs must lead their companies toward a new vision of the organization itself—one that sees the corporation as an IT-enabled network designed to exploit resources through the free flow of information to create business value.

Research: Mobility
By Gary A. Bolles and Terry A. Kirkpatrick

CIOs report that mobile technologies—ranging from PDAs and laptops to wireless technology and mobile phones—are bringing some important benefits to their companies. About 82 percent said they had achieved improved communications, and 79 percent said they had increased employee productivity. But other benefits have been harder to achieve. As many as half of the companies hoping to boost revenues, speed products to market and cut customer acquisition costs were disappointed. The bottom line: While most companies judged their investments to be either somewhat or highly valuable—76 percent for employee-focused investments, 68 percent for customer-focused ones—only 16 and 17 percent, respectively, claimed a hard ROI. Clearly, the jury is still out for many mobile investments.

Legal: Buggy Code Blues
By Diane Savage

The case of M.A. Mortenson Co. Inc. vs. Timberline Software Corp. reveals how little recourse CIOs have if the software they buy and use is bound by "shrink-wrap" licenses, writes Diane Savage, a lecturer in technology law at Stanford University. Despite Mortenson's allegations that it suffered a nearly $2 million injury—and a "smoking gun" memo showing prior knowledge of a software bug that afflicted Mortenson—the courts found that a "shrink-wrap" license protected Timberline against claims. Mortenson also could not sue for negligence: Under liability laws, software is not considered a product. Savage discusses how the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act could further limit users' rights.