Executive Briefs: February 2004

Strong Signals: Budget Blacks and Blues

By John Parkinson

The most obvious finding from research regularly conducted by columnist John Parkinson, the chief technologist for the Americas at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, is that almost no one expects to be spending more on technology in 2004 than they did in 2003. Much more intriguing, however, is the fact that almost everyone expects to be starting up major new projects in 2004 after a couple of years of deep drought. Parkinson’s respondents point to infrastructure and application consolidation and rationalization, corporate portals and updated ERP systems—all with the expectation that their efforts will bring quicker measurable returns than in the past.

Behavior: The Best-Practices Trap

By Robert I. Sutton

The argument for adopting “best practices” seems irrefutable: If you want your company to get better, look at what great companies do. But don’t jump to conclusions, says management expert and CIO Insight columnist Robert Sutton. There’s no guarantee that management practices that worked wonders in other firms will translate successfully to very different environments; indeed, the attempt can harm, and even kill, a company. Before importing someone else’s best practice, look for more solid evidence, perhaps in the form of controlled studies of other companies or pilot programs at your own firm, before you make the conversion.

Expert Voices: Richard L. Nolan A Committee of One’s Own
With Allan Alter

The accounting scandals that dragged down Enron Corp., WorldCom Inc. and others in recent years have led to a variety of fixes to shore up investor confidence. But Harvard Business School Professor Emeritus Richard L. Nolan doesn’t think it will be enough to avoid the next corporate calamity. Boards of directors must now extend their oversight to information technology by establishing board-level IT committees, similar to the audit and compensation committees most companies have. Nolan, who has sat on the boards of eight different companies, describes how these committees should work, who the members ought to be, and how they can help companies gain strategic advantage.

Supply and Demand

By Jeffrey Rothfeder

Big changes are afoot in the software industry. The perpetual license is inexorably
giving way to yearly or even monthly subscriptions as well as more radical fee
plans in which companies pay for software based on how much they use, like they
purchase electricity from a utility. And more and more companies are acquiring
their programs from vendors who manage and maintain the software on their own
computers and deliver it via the Web. Delivery options will only grow more complex,
says Contributing Editor Jeffrey Rothfeder, as corporations demand greater cost
variability and user flexibility from the vendors they buy from.

Case Study:
Blue Rhino Corp.

By Jeffrey Rothfeder

For a company whose prime strategic advantage is its built-for-speed corporate
culture, the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act has served to slow down the processes
that made it what it was. That may not significantly affect market share, notes
Contributing Editor Jeffrey Rothfeder in his analysis of how Blue Rhino is revamping
much of its IT systems as it ensures compliance with the act. After all, Blue
Rhino’s competitors are bound by the same restrictions. But it will certainly
force Blue Rhino to be less aggressive in its relationships with customers.

Research: IT Spending
By the editors of CIO Insight

The IT spending freeze is over now that the economy is improving, but the thaw
will be gradual, judging by the results of our annual survey on IT spending.
IT budgets for 2004 are 2.2 percent higher on average than in 2003, with budgets
rising most in the service sector and in companies with revenues below $100
million. Spending on mobile and security technologies, along with web services,
should be up 15 percent or more over 2003. Still, 35 percent of IT executives
worry that their company isn’t spending enough on IT to benefit from the economic

Technology: Product Lifecycle Management

By Debra D’Agostino

Product lifecycle management—the process of tracking products from creation through retirement in order to generate greater business value—has been touted as the next great enterprise cure-all by hundreds of vendors prowling for mid-market customers. PLM is meant to organize your product data and deliver it to serve specific functions, whether it’s optimizing the supply chain, speeding up R&D or arming your sales force with better selling tools. But implementing PLM is a tricky process that stretches across many departments and requires support from the executive team as well as line-of-business managers. Before you commit, advises Reporter Debra D’Agostino, it’s imperative to have an ironclad strategy in place.

CIO Insight Staff
CIO Insight Staff
CIO Insight offers thought leadership and best practices in the IT security and management industry while providing expert recommendations on software solutions for IT leaders. It is the trusted resource for security professionals who need network monitoring technology and solutions to maintain regulatory compliance for their teams and organizations.

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