Internet, e-commerce key topics at Premier 100

Will only the paranoid IT leaders survive? For the most part, yes, said several high-level IT managers who are attending the first Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leaders Conference starting today in Palm Desert, California.

CIOs and others said in interviews that they want to compare notes with their peers on topics that cause them worry. Nearly 400 people are expected to attend, including 240 CIOs and other high-level information technology executives.

Priscilla Tate, executive director of the New York-based Technology Managers Forum, is moderating a panel titled, "Enterprise Security: Will Only the Paranoid Survive?" There's no such thing as Internet security, she says, which means IT leaders really do need to be paranoid and convene risk-management teams inside their companies to cope.

These teams need to throw together business managers, IT workers, auditors, human resources managers and even corporate lawyers to hammer out policies, Tate said.

To run the team meetings, IT leaders need to be prepared to explain technologies to non-IT personnel.

One attendee, Rick Nolle, vice president of systems at Reinsurance Group of America Inc. in Chesterfield, Missouri, said his company now uses the Internet for connections with hundreds of other insurance companies, but only after years of slow acceptance. "The insurance business has been called the Amish of technology, since we are old-fashioned and happy about it," he said.

But IT is changing rapidly for insurers, and Nolle said his biggest sleep-depriver is getting Internet standards to evolve faster. To help, he has set up a group of peers to build de facto Internet standards for the insurance trade.

Appearing on a conference panel titled "The Naked Truth About B2B E-Commerce" are Robert Schwartz, vice president at Matsushita Electric Corporation of America in Secaucus, New Jersey, and Kathy Brittain-White, CIO at Cardinal Health Inc. in Dublin, Ohio.

Schwartz and Brittain-White said the keys to their early success with business-to-business e-commerce come from building a business need and design before weighing technology factors. "There needs to be a clear definition of the business process," Schwartz said, "and if your back-office operations aren't optimized, all you do is hit the wall at high speed."

Nagging every IT leader is how to retain top workers, especially against the lure of stock options at dot-coms. A panel on Wednesday will be devoted to "How to Win the Hiring War Between the 'Dots' and the 'Nots.' "

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