Our October Issue, In Brief:

By CIOinsight  |  Posted 10-05-2005
Strong Signals: Does BPO Have a Future?
By John Parkinson
Organizational change is complex and painful, and effective automation can be difficult and expensive. So a lot of companies prefer to outsource the effort to business process outsourcing providers. It can be a very successful strategy if you choose the right partner. But in the view of columnist John Parkinson, BPO isn't so much a momentous shift in business operations as it is a movement toward something else entirely: a truly optimized and integrated set of business operations. BPO providers are already automating much of the low-hanging operational fruit, while the rest—the manual exception handling—is being brought back home.

Law of the Jungle: Patent (Reform) Pending
By Larry Downes
The pace of technological change and the nature of the global economy have strained the patent system to the breaking point. For IT, the problems are especially acute. Some experts still wonder whether software should be patentable at all. For CIOs, says columnist Larry Downes, the patent crisis leads to increased uncertainty, cost, and the need to rely more and more on legal experts for even the most basic vendor agreements and software licenses. Without some effort to stem the tide of growing complexity and frivolous lawsuits, those costs—for inventors, for high-tech companies, and most of all for innocent users—will soar ever higher.

Expert Voices: Don Tapscott
With Debra D'Agostino
Consultant Don Tapscott has spent the better part of the past two years imploring companies to transform their businesses by becoming more transparent, an idea espoused in his bestselling book The Naked Corporation: How the Age of Transparency Will Revolutionize Business. To support his theories, Tapscott recently completed a $4 million research project that looks at how an "open, networked enterprise" can succeed against "old-world" companies still trying to protect their human capital and intellectual property. In this interview with Reporter Debra D'Agostino, Tapscott discusses the power of transparency, and the growing competitive advantage it can provide.

Trend: Partner Power
By Rob Garretson
CIOs and their software vendors have always been co-dependents. But some tech executives are taking it a step further, jointly developing critical software packages to the mutual benefit of both. Vendor partnerships, which can provide anything from steep discounts to recurring revenue for clients, have been on the rise as CIOs look for cheap ways to customize the software on which their businesses run. Software makers, in return, get valuable experience in desirable vertical industries, and a product they may be able to sell to a broader market. Negotiating a fair deal in which both sides benefit equally is the key to making these partnerships work.

Case Study: Precious Moments Inc.
By Edward Cone
Precious Moments Inc. had to remake itself in a matter of weeks, going from a licensing firm with five employees to an operating company with a full range of systems and support—without compromising the unique bond it has with its customers. So in the heat of the company's 90-day build-a-company project, there was no thought of shortcuts, such as outsourcing the call center and customer service. As trucks full of merchandise started rolling into its still-unfinished warehouse, Precious Moments's solution was to go slow where it had to—and fast where it could.

Research: Business Intelligence
By Allan Alter
The old dream of making better decisions through IT has come closer to reality, judging by the nearly 300 respondents to this month's survey on business intelligence. Four out of five BI users say these systems have had a positive impact on the bottom line, and nearly 100 percent say BI is critical to their business strategy. Satisfaction with BI seems to follow a corollary of Metcalfe's Law: the more people who use BI systems, the happier they are with them. How to get BI to deliver still more value? Better data quality, closer alignment of BI systems with business strategy, and sophisticated results that are easy to use.

Strategic Technology:
Service-Oriented Architecture
By Karen S. Henrie
Most companies' application portfolios consist of a nightmarishly complex mishmash of redundant applications supporting similar business functions and processes. The goal of service--oriented architecture is to fix this problem by developing all the business functions that go into an application as independent "services" that can be strung together to address whatever processes the business requires. Beautiful as that sounds, however, Contributing Editor Karen S. Henrie notes that creating and managing the technology required is no easy task. And the people problems—finding IT people who can talk effectively with the business—can be even worse.