Executive Briefs: October 2001
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By Mark Kindley
Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor of management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management and the codirector of the Center for eBusiness@MIT, is a staunch believer in the long-term contribution of technology to productivity growth. But he also believes that investing in technology isn't as easy as buying a few computers, a server and some software. In this interview with longtime technology journalist Mark Kindley, Brynjolfsson argues for the importance of budgeting and accounting for the more intangible "organizational capital" that must accompany every investment in technology if it is to succeed. Companies traditionally haven't been very good at measuring organizational capital, but in Brynjolfsson's view, only by getting better at it will they be able to improve their use of technology and successfully manage ongoing change.
The Innovation Imperative
By Ken Yamada
A handful of progressive companies are battling the current business climate by building new business processes and systems aimed at making innovation, like quality, a core capability. The payoff, say advocates: profits with staying power. Silicon Valley writer Ken Yamada profiles the fledgling innovation movement and shows how, with the help of IT, some companies are creating in-house "idea markets" that use the Web to stimulate and manage innovationand quickly turn the brightest new ideas into products or new services. In a sidebar, management guru Gary Hamel compares this trend with the quality movement of the 1970s.
The Creativity Dilemma
By Robert I. Sutton
Is bringing innovation to your company worth the resulting discomfort, anxiety and change? Absolutelybut don't underestimate the difficulty. The innovation process is fraught with constant failure, difficult people, conflict, defiance, frustration and even deceptionespecially in the best companies, says Robert I. Sutton, professor of management science and engineering at the Stanford Engineering School and author of Weird Ideas That Work: 11 1/2 Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Innovation. Sutton's aim is not to discourage companies from doing innovative work, but rather to advise them that creative groups and companies are battlegrounds where people constantly fight about ideas.
By Dave Lindorff
On an average day in New York harbor, some 10 to 12 giant freighters ply their way to the piers to load and unload an average of 150,000 tons of goods. But Sept. 11 was not an average day, and for the New York Shipping Association, a cooperative that had been headquartered in the World Trade Center, it was the ultimate test of the group's disaster recovery plan. In 1993, when terrorists attempted to wreck the towers the first time, NYSA nearly went out of business. Not this time: NYSA now has off-site emergency offices and trains its workers how to actand who to listen toin any crisis. Reporter Dave Lindorff explains.
Research: Disaster Recovery
By Gary A. Bolles and Terry A. Kirkpatrick
It's something of a relief to know that CIOs at most companies79 percenthave an IT disaster recovery and contingency plan in place, according to a special survey commissioned by CIO Insight following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. But since only 30 percent of the 258 CIOs, CTOs and IT vice presidents who responded described themselves as "very prepared" before the attacks, more needs to be done. Staff training is clearly perceived as the greatest missing link in disaster recovery preparations. The findings also indicate that IT organizations must focus far more on involving partners, suppliers and executives and staffers from outside the IT group in any future plan. And while 87 percent have prepared for network failure and 84 percent for natural disasters, just 68 percent of respondents have planned for external security breaches.
By Michael D. Scott and Michael M. Krieger
Users of open source software such as Linux aren't free to use it any way they want, warn attorneys Michael D. Scott and Michael M. Krieger. The organizations that develop such software protect its open status through licenses and copyright law to ensure that commercial developers cannot usurp such code. That means firms that incorporate open source code into their own software risk breach of contract and copyright infringementand may even have to open up their own proprietary code to others. The authors describe the terms that govern the use of open source software and suggest precautions.