From the Editor in Chief

SAN MATEO (05/15/2000) - One of the great privileges of being the editor in chief of InfoWorld is that you get to interact with a broad range of people from all spectrums on a daily basis. But one of the encounters I look forward to most is when we bring the InfoWorld Corporate Advisory Board (CAB) to visit the editors of our magazine.

In covering this industry and staying in touch with the concerns of the readership, there is no substitute for face-to-face contact. For us, that means spending quality time with IT folks from companies such as Colgate-Palmolive, General Electric Corp., Nestle SA, Gannett, and the Sentry Insurance Group.

As part of this effort, we at InfoWorld each year develop a top 10 list of reader concerns based on the input of the CAB and an array of reader surveys that we do all year long over the phone, through our Web site, and, finally, through old-fashioned U.S. mail.

In compiling this list, it became apparent that many of the items are directly related to one another. In fact, there is a direct cause and effect between the top four items on the list.

As many of you can personally testify, there are tons of open positions in just about every aspect of IT, and competition for IT people has never been keener.

So it's no surprise that retaining and attracting quality IT personnel is the top priority for most readers.

The reason for this has more to do with the rise of the second item on our list. With the advent of e-business models changing every aspect of the companies we all work for and with every day, keeping pace with the rapid rate of change in the world of e-business is now a full-time job in itself. In fact, a recent InfoWorld mail survey found that 50 percent of our readers have made improving their e-business skills a top personal priority. Meanwhile, a separate phone survey of 500 readers found that training was the major challenge they needed to overcome in order to implement their company's e-business vision.

Item three on our list is knowledge management, which refers to much more than just esoteric technologies that mine data. In this instance knowledge management refers to anything -- including databases, business intelligence applications, and Web tracking tools -- that helps a company retain its knowledge. What makes this category important is the fact that in the age of e-business, the need to do more with less is not a goal, but a requirement driven by the fact that not enough people are available to accomplish all the tasks at hand. So after years of talking about knowledge management theory, we're beginning to think about how we should apply existing technology to maximize all our available resources.

The fourth item on the list is a pretty straightforward proposition. The network infrastructure of our companies is the backbone of the digital economy.

So any effort to extend the reach of the Digital Economy requires a rock-solid network that can extend all the way out to individual customers. We're a long way from having bulletproof network architectures in place to support the digital economy, but the progress that has been made in this space over the last few years is nothing short of amazing.

Each of these four items is a world in itself. But if you think for a minute, it becomes apparent that they are all tightly related. For example, the existence of far flung networks (4) drives e-business (2), which in turn creates a situation where the demand for IT people outstrips supply (1), which in turn leads to renewed interest in knowledge management applications of all stripes and sizes (3).

The cause and effect relationship between these trends is likely to spark a wave of innovation in the coming years. This is because in order for new ideas to succeed, a climate must exist that is receptive to those new ideas. And one thing is certain: Now is a time when we need to think about new ideas, new approaches, and new ways of doing things as we struggle to keep pace with one of the hottest economies in the history of the world.

Michael Vizard is editor in chief at InfoWorld. Send him e-mail at michael_vizard@infoworld.com.

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