Executive Briefs: October 2002

By CIOinsight  |  Posted 10-02-2002

Case Study: Eli Lilly and Co.
By Perry Glasser

Faced with an FDA investigation that has slowed its development of new drugs to a trickle, tough data complexity challenges and accelerating competition in the race to innovate, Eli Lilly is turning to the Net for help. This month's case study looks at CIO W. Roy Dunbar's push to develop new knowledge-sharing systems aimed at cutting new-drug discovery-to-market cycles down by months, if not years. Freelance writer Perry Glasser also talks to Dunbar about his effort to boost business-technology alignment, critical to Lilly's success in a race where only the fastest companies will stay the course.

Trends: Bill of Rights
By Susan J. Marks

Post-Napster, a growing number of companies are getting smarter about how they distribute their valuable knowledge assets, using new technologies to limit who gets what—and for how long. In the process, these firms, from Walt Disney Co. to Houston-based financial services firm Simmons & Company International, are finding new ways to market their wares—using digital content controls to give potential customers online samples of new books, music and research—without giving up the store to online pirates. Freelancer Susan J. Marks says non-entertainment companies are also getting into the act and sizes up key technologies aimed at catching pirates—and profits.

Expert Voices: David Gelernter
With Edward H. Baker

The standard Macintosh-Windows graphical user interface depends on a 30-year-old analogy with a physical desktop. Has the technology outrun its usefulness? David Gelernter thinks so. In this interview, the renowned Yale University computer scientist and entrepreneur discusses what's wrong with the current technology and what's right with his alternative: a human-computer interface that imitates the narrative structure of life itself.

Research: Can Strategy Thrive When Money Is Tight?
By Allan E. Alter and Terry A. Kirkpatrick

CIOs are under pressure to manage IT costs like never before. Our survey of 357 IT execs shows they've responded to the challenge, reducing the number of projects over budget and the percentage of IT spending over budget—without cutting muscle along with the fat. Comparing companies with greater and lesser success at managing costs reveals that the cost management techniques and technologies IT organizations use, the way they communicate and work with line management, and where the cuts are made can spell the difference between meeting and missing budget goals. The most important factor: improved ways of making spending decisions.

Strategic Technology: Savings on the Line
By Gary A. Bolles

Voice over IP is supposed to provide users more flexible communications services while saving companies money. But those promises have been around for years—without much real success. This month's Strategic Technology, written by Gary A. Bolles, asks: How likely is it that your company can benefit from VoIP today? Businesses rolling out new offices, or upgrading aging communications equipment, can see significant cost savings. But don't allow all the fancy new phone features to drive your decision without considering the cost.

Strong Signals: Is Your Cfo Happy?
By John Parkinson

Fully 63 percent of CFOs feel they are constrained in their ability to do their work and transform the finance function because of inadequate information systems, notes John Parkinson, chief technologist at CGE&Y. Given the tremendous amount of effort IT departments have devoted to rationalizing and automating finance, he wonders how CFOs can feel that way. Data quality, complex accounting rules, ongoing problems with transaction automation and the growing complexity of finance information systems all contribute to the woes of finance. Parkinson's advice: Suggest some recentralization and simplification plans, and get spending at your business units under control.

Organizational Behavior: Force of Habit
By Robert I. Sutton

Why do smart people do dumb things? Because it's easier, and because their organizations fail to reward new thinking. CIO Insight columnist Robert I. Sutton, codirector of Stanford University's Center for Work, Technology and Organization, questions Pentagon policies that still lead managers to build custom technology instead of cheaper, superior off-the-shelf commercial solutions. He cites the practice as an example of how managers in both public and private organizations reward the wrong behavior, settle for historical precedent over smarter strategies and fail to challenge the status quo in the absence of a crisis. Citing examples in private industry, Sutton suggests ways CIOs can fight such inertia in their own organizations by devising new purchasing, business and project management policies that reward new thinking.