Executive Briefs: November 2003

By CIOinsight  |  Posted 11-01-2003

Strong Signals: The Ultranet
By John Parkinson

Three trends—RFID tags, wireless mesh networks and ultracompact PCs—are converging and will soon transform the way people use computers, says columnist John Parkinson, who's also the chief technologist for the Americas at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young. The result: a pocket-size personal computer that will perform secure transactions over the Internet, allow for peer-to-peer collaboration, act as a personal Web site, and store immense amounts of personal data, from credit-card records to movies and music.

Organizational Behavior: The Enemy Next Door
By Robert I. Sutton

Can too much in-house rivalry among coworkers be a good thing? Not if your management style demands teamwork yet pits one employee against another, says columnist Robert I. Sutton, codirector for the Center for Work, Technology and Organization at Stanford University. One remedy: Reward people for supporting, not undermining, cooperation.

Case Study: Amazon.com
By Mary E. Behr

In October, for the first time in its eight-year history, Amazon.com Inc. reported a profitable quarter that wasn't driven by holiday shopping, and its shares are up 200 percent since the beginning of the year. Yet the online retailer is by no means home free, says technology journalist Mary E. Behr. Sales growth appears to be slowing, so going forward the company must make good on its promise of technological prowess—offering its back-end online capabilities to other retailers. Can Amazon pull it off? So far, Amazon appears to be much better at selling books than, say, apparel. The jury is still out on this trial, but the story holds lessons for every company eager to profit from IT.

Trend: Midsize Matters
By Jeffrey Rothfeder

Until recently, small and medium-size companies have lagged in the strategic use of IT. But now they're spending more money than their bigger brethren to catch up, despite the economic slowdown of the past three years. Companies that do this well, says Contributing Editor Jeffrey Rothfeder, carefully choose technologies for their ability to differentiate the adopter from rivals and then make sure they provide the business value they were designed to provide, measuring results every step of the way.

Research: Outsourcing
By the editors of CIO Insight

Outsourcing has become a mainstream practice, with 70 percent of companies sending their IT work outside the company. Even offshore outsourcing is now a fact of life for 25 percent of companies. But is the information technology work that's outsourced being done well? This month's survey indicates that all too often, it's not. Of the 663 IT executives we surveyed, about one-third are very satisfied, while more than 45 percent say they are, to some degree, satisfied with the performance of their vendors. Where is there room for improvement? Many respondents cite quality problems, missed deadlines and higher-than-expected costs. In fact, one out of 20 firms has sued an outsourcing vendor. Meanwhile, IT executives at large companies report disruptions among employees who fear that outsourcing will lead to fewer jobs.

Strategic Technology: Combating Spam
By Gary A. Bolles

It's unlikely that the plague of spam will ever go away completely. Sadly, there's no single technological cure. Software is available that will stem the flow of spam, but if the screws are turned too tightly, the risk of blocking out legitimate e-mails rises. Companies need to devise a comprehensive antispam strategy to make significant headway in the spam war, says Contributing Editor Gary A. Bolles. First, review your e-mail policies to keep company e-mails out of the hands of spammers and to stem the tide of internal spam. Then put together a security plan that not only addresses spam, but includes shields against viruses, worms and other network threats.