Editorial: February 2002

Has there ever been a new technology that succeeded in gaining acceptance in the business world without a great deal of muss and fuss? Even the ballpoint pen, introduced in 1945, took nine years of poor performance and patent squabbles before it finally achieved mass acceptance. The absorption of new technology into the life of the corporation has always been fraught with battles—which standards to adopt, who will control them and whether they really can produce measurable productivity gains. This month, CIO Insight introduces a new department, called “Strategic Architecture,” in which we hope to help CIOs put a variety of new technologies into the context of their value to the business by clearing away the smoke surrounding those ongoing battles.

This month, we cover XML, the lingua franca of the digital world. XML brings with it the promise of seamless communication between any number of IT systems, allowing for speedier internal communications, instant document exchange and much more flexible supply chains. XML is here to stay, we conclude, but adopting it is no picnic. Even in the most advanced industries, such as autos and electronics, standards are still being hashed out, wrangled over and adopted. (See “Language Lessons“.)

Technology adoption is at the heart of two other, very different stories in this month’s CIO Insight. In “Always On“, we look at how Japan’s Tsutaya, a video store chain, has taken advantage of i-Mode wireless technology to collect customer data and boost sales. It’s thanks to Tsutaya’s “marriage of the Net way of thinking and the telecom way of thinking,” says NTT DoCoMo’s Takeshi Natsuno, that fully 20 percent of Tsutaya’s customers use i-Mode—and it’s one of the first companies anywhere to prove the fledgling mobile Internet can bring gains to the bottom line.

The story of broadband Internet access doesn’t have such a happy ending. Sluggish consumer adoption has led to stalled corporate sales and marketing efforts dependent on broadband access. It has also slowed productivity, thanks to the drag on telecommuting. The Bush Administration may be on the verge of encouraging the adoption of high-speed Internet access, but without a “killer app” and the help of such big content players as Microsoft Corp. and AOL Time Warner Inc., consumer adoption is no sure bet. (See “Broadband Trouble on the Line“.)

On another note, we’re proud to announce that CIO Insight‘s “Expert Voices” department is one of the three finalists for the prestigious Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award in the “Best Regularly Featured Department or Column” category. This month’s “Expert Voices,” in which James Champy extends his groundbreaking concept of reengineering to include company’s customers, suppliers and business partners, continues the fine efforts of executive editors Edward H. Baker and Marcia Stepanek, and art director Laura Baer.

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