Executive Briefs: March 2003
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Trends: Rogue IT
By Perry Glasser
With their credibility on the line and cost-cutting at fever pitch at many corporations, many CIOs are cracking down on "Ghost IT"those "shadow" technology projects that happen when a business unit goes off and starts spending its own money to get a tech project done, under the radar of the CIO and often without the green light, cooperation or knowledge of the rest of the company. Trouble is, the temptation for such rogue IT is rarely greater than in tight economic times. Writer Perry Glasser takes a close look at the problem of rogue IT, talks to CIOs and business leaders to assess the size and scope of the problem, and explains whydespite the obstaclesCIOs have little choice but to assert their leadership, and invite business units to help make the tough IT spending decisions that can impact the ability of companies to carry out business strategy.
Case Study: Leiner Health Products
By Jeffrey Rothfeder
Two years ago, Leiner Health Products, a maker of private-label vitamins, was in an information rut. The company had no plan for consistently delivering products on schedule to its customersand didn't know who its best customers were from one week to the next. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart, Leiner's largest customer, was threatening to pull its business because Leiner was repeatedly late restocking the giant retailer's shelves. The result: massive losses and a cash flow crisis that nearly brought Leiner to its knees. Business and technology journalist Jeffrey Rothfeder follows the story of how Leiner restructured its manufacturing, supply chain and finance technology to emerge from Chapter 11 with a new lease on life and an IT strategy for keeping ahead of the game.
Whiteboard: Pulling the Plug on a Legacy System
By William M. Ulrich
In this month's whiteboard, author and consultant William M. Ulrich offers a decision tree to help CIOs determine whether to keep, retire or change a legacy system. The whiteboard leads executives to consider business value, redundancy, and operating and migration risks and costs.
By the editors of CIO Insight
CIOs are under greater pressure to measure the payoff of their IT investments, but how valuable are the measurements they are using? According to our latest survey on ROI, which polled 378 CIOs and IT executives, many CIOs have serious doubts about the accuracy and objectivity of their ROI figures. Fully 70 percent of IT executives concede that their metrics don't adequately capture the business value of their projects, and half of them aren't sure their companies use the right approach. Respondents also rated 16 different technologies on how well they are meeting ROI expectations. Sales force automation fared significantly worse than other technologies, with 54 percent of respondents reporting less-than-expected returns.
Strategic Technology: Identity Management
By Gary A. Bolles
Long considered a mundane part of making IT systems secure, digital identity management strategy is rapidly gaining visibility as the linchpin around which companies should organize their risk management. But for most organizations, identity management isn't a matter of devising a simple process to make operations more secure. Instead, it's about tackling a host of ongoing challenges: Even the simplest forms of user identitynames and passwordsare often embedded so deeply into old technology systems and software that coordinating a "single sign-on" for computer users can be a nearly insurmountable task, says contributing editor Gary A. Bolles. Simplifying the many different processes for managing access to critical data can help.
Due Diligence: Follow the Bits
By Eric Nee
As U.S. corporations turn increasingly to outside companies to cut IT costs and concentrate internal efforts on strategic work, more overseas firms are getting the nod over familiar U.S. companies. The world's fastest-growing IT services providers today are India-based firms, and surveys show they are producing better products and services than their U.S. counterparts, doing it faster and charging less. That's good news for CIOs, notes columnist Eric Nee, but bad news for U.S. services firms.
Code Breaking: Spectrum for All
By Lawrence Lessig
Letting Uncle Sam decide who gets access to the wireless spectrum can chill innovation, but letting the marketplace decide limits allocation to the highest bidder. Why not let information technology create a kind of public "commons" in which many different kinds of users can share the spectrum, for freeand with minimum rules regulating use? Columnist Lawrence Lessig, author of The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World, explains the concept of a commons, and why he thinks FCC Chairman Michael Powell's push to change how the spectrum is regulated may trigger a new wave of wireless innovation.