Our December Issue, In Brief

By CIOinsight  |  Posted 12-05-2005
Strong Signals:
Big Companies in Small Markets
By John Parkinson
There's an elite club in Corporate America. Call it the $50 billion club—the 26 publicly traded U.S. companies with revenues of more than $50 billion in 2004. Powerful as they are, these companies are not well served by the mainstream IT industry, says columnist John Parkinson. Why not? Because they are a small and highly diverse market, and because their IT needs are highly specialized. Is it inevitable that this club must go it alone? No, says Parkinson. The technology, tools and processes are there; all that's needed is someone with the vision and imagination to go after the solution.

Edgewise: Conversation Starter
By Dan Gillmor
Companies that communicate effectively with their stakeholders will have a competitive advantage, says columnist Dan Gillmor, and "edge-in" applications such as blogs and wikis will make those conversations easier to manage. The rules have changed—for executives, media relations people, and workers who used to be hidden behind the firewall, says Gillmor, founder of Bayosphere, a San Francisco-area Web community. The unstructured data shared via such conversations, he argues, is as valuable as the information held in corporate databases, and tapping that wealth of knowledge is worth the risk posed by the increase in the free flow of information.

Case Study: Kimberly-Clark
By Michael Fitzgerald
With all the buzz swirling around RFID, it's hard to separate fact from fiction. But that hasn't deterred the folks at Kimberly-Clark, the $15 billion consumer goods behemoth, from charging into the emerging technology at full speed. Impervious to the naysayers, Kimberly-Clark is leaping to the bleeding edge of RFID research, and has learned some hard lessons along the way. Still, the company firmly believes that RFID is more than just a glorified bar code—it's a retail revolution. Business writer Michael Fitzgerald details the company's approach to RFID, the wide budgeting berth it is giving the project, and the many stumbles along the way.

Trend: Trolling for Dollars
By Rob Garretson
The staggering rise in the value of intellectual property of all kinds has become a double-edged sword for Corporate America. Legitimately patentable inventions are booming, but so are such dubious inventions as the business-method patent—and the dreaded "patent troll." What's a beleaguered CIO to do? The best defense is a good offense, says business journalist Rob Garretson. Building a solid patent portfolio of your own is key, and so is careful documentation of all your systems, old and new, both to assist in prosecuting patent applications and to defend against infringement claims.

Expert Voices: Jeanne Ross
With Edward Baker
The business environment is moving faster and faster, and corporate strategy must struggle to keep up. So how do you align IT with strategy when strategic plans become a quickly moving target? In the view of Jeanne Ross, principal research scientist at the Center for Information Systems Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, you can't. A better alignment goal is your company's operating model, which should be built around what's not going to change, rather than every new opportunity. Editor Edward Baker recently chatted with Ross about her latest efforts to understand the relationship between corporate strategy, operational models and enterprise architecture.

Strategic Technology:
Research: Vendor Value Survey
By Allan Alter
Red Hat, Apple, Cisco Systems and Dell once again top the list in CIO Insight's third annual Vendor Value survey, in which nearly 900 IT executives rated their vendors for delivering business value and reliability. News of note: The scores of three companies—Symantec, Oracle and AT&T (formerly SBC Communications)—sharply declined following high-profile mergers, while Indian outsourcing firms rate as well as or better than their U.S. competitors. However, several U.S. outsourcing and telecom companies—Accenture, BellSouth, Deloitte and Sprint Nextel—significantly improved their scores.

Speech Recognition
By Debra D'Agostino,
Software that recognizes human speech has long been the purview of science-
fiction writers. And while real-world technology has made significant leaps forward in recent years, speech recognition is still all talk, no action. Companies that have implemented the software do so mostly in call centers, and experience a range of technical difficulties, from background noise to indecipherable speech. Senior Reporter Debra D'Agostino did find, however, that speech recognition has a place. It is ideal for fielding relatively complex service calls from customers who don't have access to a PC. And someday this promising but vexing technology should live up to expectations.