Executive Briefs: September 2001

Close to 40 percent of it projects fail or are abandoned before completion, and many of them wind up wasting millions of dollars before the plug is finally pulled.

How to Kill a Troubled Project
By Gopal K. Kapur

Close to 40 percent of it projects fail or are abandoned before completion, and many of them wind up wasting millions of dollars before the plug is finally pulled. Gopal K. Kapur, founder and president of the Center for Project Management, provides a methodology for determining the health of a project and, if necessary, for shutting it down. The process is presented in a removable four-page foldout chart. It includes questions for ascertaining if a project has the appropriate backing, a quantitative way to measure a project's "vital signs" and a process for winding up a project after it has been discontinued. The method is meant to be used by CIOs, project managers, sponsors and steering committees.

Balancing Act
By Sam Douglas

What does a new CIO do with a $2 billion IT budget? When Don Haile became Fidelity Investments' new CIO three years ago, he chose to do a balancing act: on one hand, foster innovative ways to serve customers; on the other, improve the performance, efficiency and capabilities of its huge back-office operations. Haile, a 34-year IBM veteran, has brought new prominence to the firm's skunk works, the Fidelity Center for Applied Technologies, where applications using such technologies as wireless, biometrics and voice recognition are being developed and tested. At the same time, he has launched a two-year initiative to convert the firm's 300 middle-tier servers to XML. This conversion aims to help Fidelity make adjustments faster to its online service offerings while speeding up transactions. Haile is increasing spending in both of these areas by a total of nearly $200 million this year.

Internet Chernobyl?
By Keith Epstein

The nation's fragile data infrastructure is becoming increasingly vulnerable to an explosion of new software bugs, viruses and ever-increasing systems complexity. But efforts to shore up the grid are far from adequate. Government auditors say Washington's repair efforts are being hampered by a dearth of qualified personnel, infighting among agencies, lack of cooperation by the private sector and bureaucratic red tape. Surveys of CIOs on the threat reveal false optimism about the security of corporate data systems and firewalls. Some of the nation's top security experts discuss the problem and offer potential remedies. Included is a list of 31 major software- and hacker-spurred failures of the past decade.

House of Cards
Interview with Peter G. Neumann By Marcia Stepanek

Peter G. Neumann, a leading computer systems security expert and the principal scientist at SRI International's elite Computer Science Laboratory, says no computer or networking system is fully secure. The "abysmal state" of software engineering, he says, is a major reason why corporate, government and global data grids are becoming increasingly vulnerable to wide-reaching outages or collapse. In a conversation with CIO Insight Executive Editor Marcia Stepanek, Neumann urges CIOs to demand stiffer contracts from vendors that contain penalties for failure to deliver secure systems and software. Neumann also talks about his involvement in a new initiative by DARPA to ease the threat for future generations.

Research: Project Management
By Edward H. Baker and Anne Field

With tighter IT budgets and greater pressure to get new technology to end users more quickly, CIOs are under the gun to complete their projects on time and on budget. But this month's survey of 1,077 CIOs and senior IT strategists indicates that few organizations have mastered project management. Only 10 percent of the respondents indicated that their organizations' most important recent IT initiative had been completed both on time and on budget. Meanwhile, respondents gave themselves a success rating of 3.7 (on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being most successful) in their ability to bring in their projects on time and on budget. The discrepancy, say Executive Editor Edward H. Baker and freelance writer Anne Field, suggests that CIOs do not have high expectations for the efficient completion of their projects.

The Risk of Risqué
By Michael D. Scott

A recent ruling underscores the importance of ensuring that no one—including contractors—uses your company's computers to indulge in X-rated material. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, companies can be sued for permitting "hostile work environments" arising from conduct of a sexual nature. This can include sending sexually explicit e-mails and displaying pornography on a computer screen. To date, lawsuits stemming from the legislation have involved the conduct of employees, but a recent ruling indicates that companies can be held responsible for the conduct of third parties using computers in their workplace. Michael D. Scott, an attorney with Perkins Coie LLP, suggests several steps that CIOs and other executives should take.

This article was originally published on 09-01-2001
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