Executive Briefs: September 2003

Leading Edge: The Julius Caesar Syndrome
By Warren Bennis
Organizations and their leaders thrive only when essential information reaches those who need it. But far too many leaders today fail to recognize and act on critical information. Just as Julius Caesar, in Shakespeare's play, ignored the famous warnings about the ides of March, many leaders—due to arrogance, hierarchical cultures, fear and isolation—ignore or never see critical information. Leadership expert Warren Bennis looks at recent examples of the Caesar Syndrome, such as the debacle at The New York Times, the Columbia disaster and last month's blackout, and discusses how CIOs and other leaders can avoid this trap.

Strong Signals: Tag! You're It!

By John Parkinson
Despite the technological challenges of RFID systems that can distinguish between 268 million companies, 16 million SKUs per company and 68 billion instances of every SKU, columnist John Parkinson believes they will be overcome. Key applications will include asset tracking (allowing hospitals and other big entities to account for the whereabouts of a variety of assets), RFID-equipped smart cards that enable personalized shopping, dynamic pricing and targeted cross-selling, and item lifecycle tracking, which will let companies track the manufacture, location, ownership and usage of anything forever.

Expert Voices: Michael Treacy Steady as it Grows
By Perry Glasser and Allan Alter
Any company can grow steadily and permanently at a double-digit growth rate, even in hard times, says strategist and entrepreneur Michael Treacy, author of Double-Digit Growth: How Great Companies Achieve It—No Matter What, and co-author of The Discipline of Market Leaders. But unlike the past decade, growth portfolios will be weighted more toward product innovation than process innovation. In a conversation with Contributing Editor Perry Glasser and Executive Editor Allan Alter, Treacy says CIOs and other executives need to understand how to grow companies as well as they understand how to cut costs.

Roundtable: Youth at the Gate
With Marcia Stepanek
The country's largest generation in history—the first truly digital generation, which numbers some 80 million in the U.S. alone—is just starting to enter the workplace, triggering changes in leadership, new types of relationships between managers and employees, and new cultures, products and workplace design. How are young people changing our notions of mobility? The idea that people must "work their way up the ladder"? The concept of listening far more than they interact? And how will the role of the CIO change when every new hire has a combination of business and technology skills. This month's CIO Insight roundtable takes a spirited and in-depth look at today's generation gap. Participating were young technology and business prodigies, leading authors and commentators, and CIOs young and old. Their opinions may surprise you.

Analysis: The Network Effect
By Mark Roberti
Wal-Mart's decision to force its top 100 suppliers to start slapping RFID tags on every case and pallet shipment of the diapers, kitchen goods and discount clothing products they truck to the giant retailer's distribution centers and stores represents a huge breakthrough for sensor technology. The promise: to whisk the hard work of RFID development out of its laboratory at MIT and into the mainstream of the business world. But the technology still poses some thorny cost and technology problems—and now, with experiments that put smart sensors on individual packages of razor blades and sweaters, privacy advocates are sitting up and taking notice. Will Wal-Mart's move to RFID tags help the sensor industry work out the kinks and bring a whole new wave of automation to the marketplace, or are the remaining challenges still too tough to work out?

Research: E-Business
By the editors of CIO Insight
The majority of the 500-plus CIOs we polled in this month's survey say they are moving more of their core business processes to the Web. It hasn't been easy: CIOs say e-business has made security a bigger problem, increased overall IT complexity, and forced companies to collaborate among departments and business units far more frequently than before. Still, CIOs generally report higher sales and reduced costs thanks to their e-business initiatives.

Strategic Technology: IT Optimization
By Gary A. Bolles
Caught between competing pressures to reduce costs and improve service delivery, IT departments are trying to transform themselves into leaner, more business-focused operations. At the same time, vendors are pushing a variety of technologies with fancy names such as "business technology management" designed to help optimize the IT department. It's a noble goal, says Contributing Editor Gary A. Bolles, but these technologies won't cure all your ills. Optimizing IT has to be approached as a strategy that goes from wringing extra packets out of existing WAN connections all the way up to tweaking the organization's business goals.

This article was originally published on 09-12-2003
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