Editorial: August 2004

By Ellen Pearlman  |  Posted 08-01-2004

Jim Wall has what many CIOs might consider their dream job. He's the manager of the engineering group at Hendrick Motorsports in Charlotte, N.C., and the guy who's been credited with bringing information technology to the high-speed chase for the checkered flag in one of the fastest growing sports—and businesses—in the U.S. That's why we chose him as the subject of this month's entry in our occasional series entitled "Catalysts." A catalyst, says Webster's, is "any substance that enables a chemical reaction to proceed at a faster rate"; Jim Wall deserves the title thanks to his willingness to revolutionize the tradition-bound business of stock-car racing, by bringing technology and discipline to the art of building and maintaining faster racing engines—in the face, initially, of resistance from the people in his own company. (See page 36.)

In IT as in stock-car racing, speed is of the essence. The primary goal of every IT initiative is to speed up the transfer of information so that business processes can happen faster and critical decisions can be made as soon as they're needed. Sometimes IT is put to the straightforward task of making race cars run faster, but sometimes it's called into service in matters of life and death. André Spatz, the CIO of UNICEF, has spent the past five years revamping how the children's relief organization gets critical information from the field on war, famine, and disasters affecting the lives of children around the world, and bringing aid to them as quickly as possible. (See page 56.)

Speed is also important in the world of publishing. We send the pages of CIO Insight to the printing plant electronically to give us the latest deadlines possible. While many of our in-depth analysis articles take time to research and develop in order to provide you with the insight you have come to expect from this magazine, we also believe there is a place in the magazine for a section that can get valuable information to our readers quickly and in a shorter form. Therefore, this month we've redesigned and expanded the opening section. In a nod to the term used for IT programs and systems in their final testing phase, we've called the section "Beta." (See page 19.) It will include a variety of short news pieces, interviews with IT thought leaders, analyses of successful efforts to apply IT in tactical business situations, and graphics laying out new IT/business ideas. We're rather proud of the speed with which, under the direction of Executive Editor Brad Wieners, we put the section together, and we hope our readers will find it useful. We look forward to hearing from you.