Trendlines: The New, The Hot, The Unexpected
- 31 May, 2000 12:01
BOSTON (05/31/2000) - HIGH-TECH MATCHMAKING - THE DATA GAME It's an old story, sort of. Boy meets girl. Boy realizes he and girl are completely incompatible. Boy has to find new girl.
"People waste a lot of time with people with whom they have nothing in common," says Ed White, an entrepreneur who imagines instead an uber-efficient dating world where potential couples use his infrared smart cards to determine their compatibility--without the small talk. After all, if that hottie at the bar doesn't appreciate museums, cigarettes and punctuality, why bother? "You look at this very attractive guy, you like what you see," White says, "but if the score is lousy, you say, 'Next!'" Ratings are based on each individual's answers to a quiz from a marriage compatibility course. The 96 questions--in categories such as habits, beliefs and sex--are organized into pairs, with the first question asking for an opinion and the second determining that opinion's importance. The more answers two people have in common, and the more weighty those answers, the higher their compatibility score. The average score is 75--just like in college--and it's up to individuals to decide who makes the grade.
Those who invest in the $29.99 MatchUp system, offered by Interactive Digital Corp. (www.matchupsingles.com), can take the test on their PCs, download the results to the one-ounce, credit-card-size smart card and then point their card at someone else's. When they are within about a foot of each other, the infrared cards can exchange data and then display the compatibility rating on the screens of both cards.
"My dream is very simple," says White, himself happily married. "I'd like every single person in the world to have one of these."
Of course, if things go well, every couple in the world may have a pair of MatchUp cards taking up space in the closet. -Sarah D. Scalet GOLF ADVICE KEEPING THE FAUX PAS BELOW PAR Wondering why nobody called you back after that recent "get-to-know-you" golf outing? Maybe it was something you said or did--or didn't say or do.
Now that golf courses have become a prime setting for cutting business and career deals, more CIOs are paying attention to their fairway etiquette--or lack thereof. For the manners-challenged, Mr. Golf Etiquette (www.mrgolf.com) has the answers.
The website, which averages 40,000 to 50,000 visitors a month, was founded by Jim Corbett, vice president of business development for VersusLaw, a law research company located in Redmond, Wash. Corbett has discussed more than a few business matters on the nonhyperlinks, but worries that many duffers are blowing potential opportunities. "Not everyone can be a great golfer in that they will hit a score below par. But everyone can be a great golfer in how they act on the course toward their fellow golfers, toward the course and toward the game itself," says Corbett.
There is no charge to visit Mr. Golf Etiquette or to submit questions. Here are a few tips from the site:
Be invisible (including your shadow) when someone is hitting.
If the caddie does a good job, you should reward him with a decent tip.
Walk, don't run.
If you are driving a motorized cart, proceed at a moderate speed and keep your eyes open for other golfers. -John Edwards BY THE NUMBERS Enterprise Application Projects Enterprise apps are the rage. But truly successful implementations of enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply chain management (SCM), customer relationship management (CRM) and e-commerce systems are hard to come by. A Boston Consulting Group (BCG) survey found that only a third of project outcomes could be called "positive" or "strong positive." The survey determined that the odds of success rise as project planners perform a more thorough analysis of corporate processes and project options. Not too shocking--unless you consider the number of companies that don't do it.
A thorough analysis of capabilities improved outcomes. Percent of PROJECTS with positive outcomes 8 Minimal analysis of capabilities 26 Process analysis 41 Process analysis and benchmarking 56 Process analysis benchmarking and customer interviews Analysis ACTIONS Many large initiatives were undertaken without thorough analysis.
PERCENT of Initiatives with Thorough Analysis of Capabilities 69 Less than $3 million 72 $3 million to $29.9 million 39 $30 million or more Size of project Percent of Initiatives with Thorough Analysis of Options 96 Less than $3 million 85 $3 million to $29.9 million 57 $30 million or more Size of project Source: A Boston Consulting Group survey of more than 100 executives. For more information, visit www.bcg.com.
Suggest future topics to numbers @cio.com.
BEST PRACTICES FOR IT 1. Carefully analyze the problems and potential solutions. Sometimes a software implementation is not the only answer, or even the correct answer, for improving corporate performance, according to the report. In many cases, simple upgrades to existing software are more effective than new systems implementations.
One participant company was under the gun to increase inventory turns, according to Hal Sirkin, a BCG senior vice president based in Chicago. Rather than buy a packaged SCM solution, however, the company found after careful analysis that it could achieve the goal by reworking a few critical work processes. Pre-project analysis should include competitor and best practice benchmarks.
2. Scrutinize vendors and costs. A third of the respondents to the BCG survey said they believed their vendor encouraged unnecessary spending. One in five respondents who had implemented ERP or SCM solutions said they could have achieved the same business value for much less cost.
3. Divide projects into manageable pieces. According to BCG's study, the average size of projects with a strong positive outcome was $10 million, while the average for negative outcomes was $90 million. Said one survey respondent, "Divide and conquer.... Do it piecemeal or none of it will be done right."
4. Know when to stop. Establishing clear metrics is one key to success. At the end of each step, "IS personnel have to work with business managers to figure out whether the next phase will add sufficient value," according to the report.
Twenty-three percent of respondents identified "lack of a well-defined endpoint"as a contributor to overspending.
EXPERTS ONLINE WHO YA GONNA CALL? You're in the middle of cooking a crme brle for the first time, and it's just not coming out right. No problem: Log on to Keen.com and get immediate advice from a baking aficionado who can speak with you live before your guests arrive.
Visitors to www.keen.com can search under a wealth of categories--home, health and fitness, computers, hobbies, personal advice, parenting and so on--to see if an expert is available to talk. For a fee set by the expert (an average of 80 cents per minute, but ranging up to $10 per minute or higher), you can click on an icon and Keen.com first calls you, and then conferences in the crme brle chef. To protect privacy, Keen.com does not release phone numbers, nor does it sit in on the call after connecting the parties.
The site also allows the experts (both professionals and amateurs looking to make a quick buck) to prerecord advice or send information by e-mail--for a fee. But the live calls are by far the most popular, says Karl Jacob, CEO for the San Francisco-based company, who thought up the idea while working for venture capital company Benchmark Capital. The site has users from Israel and Europe, and it offers a translation service that supports 10 foreign languages, Jacob says. At any given time, there are some 15,000 experts available to take your call, and one expert made $1,500 in February. This is good news for Keen.com, since it takes a 30 percent cut of every call.
Drawbacks: You can't be sure of the expert's qualifications unless the self-proclaimed lawyer or doctor has sent her credentials to Keen.com (not required); those are then verified by a third party called Backgrounds Online.
And the searching is a little clunky: The phrases "negotiating job benefits" and "buying a dog," for example, came up with nothing. Entering "Indian cuisine" brought up one individual named Rose whose bio reads: "I love Indian food but don't know how to make it." My thoughts, exactly! -Polly Schneider HOT TOPIC CAREER THE FIRING LINE By Mindy Blodgett It may be true that the economy is booming and qualified labor is in short supply, but that doesn't mean managers aren't still occasionally faced with the grim task of firing employees. It's never easy, but now there's help: The Employment Roundtable, a New York City-based nonprofit consortium of business, government and think tank leaders, recently released "Letting People Go with Dignity," a report on handling employment terminations.
Today's hot labor market makes it more imperative than ever that terminations be handled in a sensitive manner, says Richard Bayer, cochair of the Employment Roundtable and COO of The Five O'Clock Club, a New York City career counseling organization that started the roundtable in December 1998. "You need to be able to recruit and retain good people, and your ability to do that is facilitated by your reputation in the marketplace," he says. When disgruntled ex-employees complain about unfair treatment, that reputation can suffer. "You also have to be concerned with the morale of the remaining workforce," Bayer adds.
The roundtable offers a number of tips for the manager doing the firing, including the following:
Explain to the employee what went wrong. That information can make it easier for him or her to move on and leave the job behind.
Make sure to explain how the employee's departure will be publicized.
Let the employee return to his or her desk and share reactions with friends on staff. This allows him or her to gather some dignity and normalcy and to feel empowered, not railroaded.
For more information, visit www.5occ.com/roundtable.
FRAUD INVESTIGATOR AN ELECTRONIC GUMSHOE In this world of virtual communications and interaction, how do you ever really know who you're talking to? You don't, and therein lies a world of opportunity for con artists, scamsters, grifters and deadbeats. Indeed, identity fraud is the crime of the new millennium, says Ross Silverman, chairman of the antifraud counseling litigation department of Katten Muchin Zavis in Chicago.
One tool that can help uncover the crooks is InfoGlide Corp.'s Fraud Investigator software, which peers behind seemingly innocuous data to detect suspicious patterns that may indicate a person is posing under several different names or making up Social Security numbers, says Jay Valentine, CEO of the Austin, Texas-based company. "It identifies instances of fraud that escape traditional exact-match searches."
The XML Similarity Engine that powers Fraud Investigator discovers links between different data files and databases by making sure that slight variations in names, addresses, phone numbers or other identifying data won't be excluded from a search's end results. The engine then converts the data into a hierarchical format and compares it to likely matches, ranking it with user-defined attributes.
Fraud Investigator costs between $5,000 and $35,000 per month, de-pending on exact capabilities and usage. For more information, visit www.infoglide.com.
HOT TOPIC SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT IN-HOUSE OR OUTSOURCED? By Derek Slater One:
Most everybody knows that supply chains are ripe for transformation and are a critical strategic area for the inter-net economy.
Two: Many companies nevertheless don't know what their supply chain management strategy is, or even how well their operations perform.
Those are the common conclusions of two recent surveys of senior executives regarding supply chain management. One survey of 80 Fortune 500 executives--"Moving the Supply Chain into the Digital Age: Integrating Demand and Supply"--comes from London's Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), which is a member of global communications company Economist Group, and Meritus Consulting in New York City. The second poll--"The Millennium Manufacturing Supply Chain Survey"--is from Reston, Va.-based consultancy Compass America, with a response base of 258 senior supply chain executives in North America, Europe and Australia.
In the EIU survey, 82 percent of the respondents said they believe the internet will have a major impact--or even completely transform--supply chain performance over the next three years. Yet nearly a third of them were unable to estimate the supply chain performance of their own organizations. Similarly, 70 percent of the Compass respondents indicated that a supply chain strategy is necessary for achieving competitive advantage. However, nearly 60 percent said their own strategy is either nonexistent or lacking detail, and 50 percent described "limited formal means of measuring supply chain performance." The upshot, according to Andrew Johnson, head of Compass's practice for manufacturing, is that executives have trouble understanding what effect their strategy decisions truly have on supply chain performance.
What's even more interesting, of course, is how companies plan to solve that problem. Compass says many respondents are looking to IT for the solution; 60 percent anticipate rising technology expenditures to address SCM. That number matches up interestingly with the EIU finding that 40 percent of its respondents plan to outsource their distribution and transportation functions within the next three years.
For the EIU survey, visit www.eiu.com. More information on the Compass study can be found at www.compassamerica.com.
RECRUITING MOVE OVER, SILICON VALLEY High-techcompanies are flourishing, venture capital is flowing and spacious loft apartments are affordable and plentiful.
Sound like Shangri-la?
It's the latest pitch for Atlanta, where the local chamber of commerce has hired a full-time recruiter specifically to attract young technology workers with promises of jobs, a low cost of living, exciting night-life and sports events galore. "People think of Atlanta as a small, sleepy Southern town," says Rosita Smith, the new director of talent development for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. "We want people to know that it's a vibrant and diverse community and a cultural place."
The Atlanta area ranks 10th in the nation in high-tech jobs, according to Hans Gant, senior vice president of economic development for the Atlanta chamber.
But as in other technology-friendly cities, the workforce isn't meeting the demand. Under pressure from Atlanta's roughly 10,000 technology companies--led by AT&T, BellSouth and Lockheed Martin--the chamber launched a $4 million nationwide advertising and recruiting blitz last year to attract startups and fill the widening gap between technology jobs and workers. Just before hiring Smith in February, the chamber launched a slick new website complete with job listings and photos of loft interiors.
Smith, the former associate director of career services at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has been charged with spreading the good word about Atlanta by traveling to college campuses and recruiting fairs across the country. She also plans to bring local academics and industry leaders together to help find ways of better preparing students for the job market.
It's too early in the five-year effort to judge results, Smith and Gant say.
But traffic on www.atlantasmartcity.com rose 20 percent in its second month after receiving 200,000 hits in February. And other communities are taking note of the initiative and seeking advice from the Atlanta chamber. "So far, we've been pleasantly surprised," Smith says. "People are noticing us" -Susannah Patton ROLE MODELS WHOM DO YOU ADMIRE? Bill Gates may have his share of legal problems, but he's also got some loyal fans in the IT community. In a recent survey by RHI Consulting (www.rhic.com) in Menlo Park, California, 1,400 CIOs were asked who in the technology field they admire most, and Billy the Kid topped the list:
37 percent Bill Gates (chairman and chief software architect for Microsoft) 19 percent Michael Dell (chairman and CEO for Dell) 9 percent Steve Jobs (CEO of Apple Computer) 7 percent Linus Torvalds (Linux inventor) 5 percent William Hewlett (cofounder of Hewlett-Packard) 3 percent Scott McNealy (chairman and CEO of Sun Microsystems) 3 percent Larry Ellison (chairman and CEO for Oracle) 17 percent Other/Don't know In this category, survey respondents named Marc Andreeson, cofounder of Netscape; John Chambers, president and CEO of Cisco Systems; Eric Schmidt, chair-man and CEO of Novell and Andy Grove, chairman of Intel.
ON THE MOVE Compiled by Tom Field
RUBIN RETIRES FROM ELF ATOCHEM We catch Bob Rubin on his last day of work. It's Friday, March 31, and although his retirement isn't official until June, the 58-year-old senior vice president and CIO of Philadelphia-based Elf Atochem North America has decided to use his accumulated vacation time and just enjoy springtime in Pennsylvania. "I want to do things I haven't had time to do," Rubin says. "I want to sit outside, do some gardening, just read a book."
Not a bad way to unwind from an IT career that spans nearly four decades. In all, Rubin has spent 35 years in IT--the last 15 of them at global chemical company Elf, which is a pretty remarkable ride for a CIO. In his time at Elf, Rubin has been a part of mergers and acquisitions; he oversaw a swift and successful SAP rollout; and he managed his IT shop so well that he developed a national reputation as an IT leader. Rubin even served as a CIO editorial advisor.
Short term, Rubin will be replaced by Gerard Benetau, a senior business executive from Elf's French parent company, Elf Aquitaine. Benetau will serve as interim CIO for the rest of this calendar year, after which Rubin's lieutenant, David Seifert, currently vice president of strategic planning, will step up to be the permanent CIO.
Long term, Rubin hardly sees himself fading away in retirement. Once he's had a chance to unwind and recharge, he expects to pursue some ventures he's always been interested in but never had time for--namely, serving on corporate boards, doing some senior-level consulting as well as writing and teaching about IT management. "I think the skills I've learned and the scars I've earned over the years can be useful to people in each of those arenas," says Rubin. He also plans to be active in his wife Marilyn's home-based consultancy, Valley Management Consulting.
But before he gets back down to business, Rubin has some plans for his first week without work. "We're going to sleep a little later than normal, then go out for a very nice lunch--I've already got some restaurants in mind," Rubin says. "And then we'll just do whatever comes to mind."
Ray E. Greer Springs Industries
Formerly vice president and CIO at Philips Electronics China Group, Greer has been appointed senior vice president and CIO at Springs Industries, a Fort Mill, South Carolina-based home furnishings manufacturer.
Charles W. Johnson Louisville, Kentucky, The Courier-Journal A 20-year IT veteran, Johnson has been named the first-ever vice president of information technology at the Louisville, Kentucky, The Courier-Journal newspaper. Previously, Johnson was director of IS at The Courier & Press in Evansville, Ind.
Jeff von Gillern IronPlanet Inc.
has been named CIO of IronPlanet, a Palo Alto, California-based online
brokerage for used heavy-construction equipment. Formerly senior vice president
of processing services at Visa International, von Gillern is responsible for
managing IronPlanet's customer service/inside sales center, IS and all web
Paul B. Hutchison III FuelSpot.com
has been appointed COO and CIO at FuelSpot.com in Lowell, Massachusetts, an
e-commerce portal for the energy products industry. In this role, Hutchison
will oversee operations and customer service and will be responsible for
developing and implementing FuelSpot.com's web infrastructure, desktop
applications and integration with customers' back-office systems.
I.T. EDUCATION A MOLD FOR THE NEXT GENERATION You know the refrain by heart: We need qualified IS workers with business skills, and we need them now. Well cheer up: In a bid to quiet rumblings from industry leaders, a group of IS academics has published a model graduate curriculum they believe will help turn out business-proficient IT professionals at an exponential rate.
The new curriculum for the MS degree in IS brings the previous model, published in 1982, into the internet age with courses ranging from data networking to IT policy and strategy. "When we went out to talk to industry, the cry was relevance," says Paul Gray, professor at Claremont Graduate University's School of Information Science in Claremont, California, and cochair of the curriculum committee, made up of members of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Association for Information Systems (AIS).
The curriculum, published in January, is designed to tempt a diverse group of students. "If you attract only the normal techies, you don't add to the workforce,'' says John T. Gorgone, Rubin professor of computer information systems at Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts, and cochair of the curriculum committee.
Students new to the field start out with a series of IT and business foundation courses such as IT hardware and software, and financial accounting. Core courses include data management, project and change management, and data communications and networking, as well as systems integration. To finish up, students take career electives that can be tailored to the regional needs of industry.
Some schools are already using the curriculum, although officials don't know exactly how many. And more could be signing on soon: While 50 U.S. schools advertised a master's in IS program three years ago, more than 100 now offer the degree. -Susannah Patton TERABYTES TO THE MAX MY DATABASE CAN BEAT UP YOUR DATABASE If the press releases are any indication, there seems to be a heady competition among database vendors these days to see which can build the biggest, baddest database ever.
Take IBM, which announced this winter that in partnership with EMC and Oracle, it had built the world's largest single-system data warehouse--82 terabytes of deal-sealing proof that it could protect British Telecom on the customer playground. The system sounds pretty hefty. After all, it could hold enough information to fill three-drawer file cabinets lined up from Miami to Seattle.
But that's not so tough, say the folks at NCR, who lay claim to the world's largest data warehouse in operation. Wal-Mart's data warehouse (for the record, it uses parallel architecture rather than single-system) could hold a whopping 101 terabytes, enough to stuff those file cabinets from Miami to Juneau, Alaska. And Wal-Mart is just one of 166 customers with systems exceeding a terabyte, a spokesperson says. "NCR is the only company with more than 100 data warehouses of 1 terabyte or greater on a single platform."
Jabs back IBM: "IBM now counts 187 customers with more than a terabyte of data, eclipsing NCR's."
Of course, as everyone knows, size isn't everything. The volume of data actually stored is more significant, says Richard Winter of Waltham, Massachusetts-based Winter Corp. Toward that end, Winter Corp. will announce this month new winners of a contest for the world's largest database. Visit www.wintercorp.com. -Sarah D. Scalet "Why are I.S. organizations being forced to hire 13-year-old programmers?
Because all of the good 12-year-olds are taken!" -Frank Gens, senior vice president of internet research for IDC, speaking at IDC's recent Directions conference in Boston.