Stories by Allan E. Alter

A sign of doom: failing to listen to customers

Do entrepreneurs and venture capitalists get it? That there's more to starting a technology business than an idea and someone else's money? That you actually have to understand and serve customers?

Yet Another 'Chief'? Don't Roll Your Eyes

Recently, Computerworld's Patrick Thibodeau, reporting from the Global Privacy Summit in Washington, wrote that companies are creating a new "chief" role - that of chief privacy officer (CPO). CPOs are meant to be the executives on the front line of an issue that can affect the bottom line: establishing trust with customers by creating and executing data-privacy policies.

IT Leaders Require Strategy, Flexibility

Strategy is where IT leadership begins, Julia King reports in this week's Premier 100 special report. But where do you go from there? Jerry Miller, CIO Sears, Roebuck and Co., has it right: What distinguishes an IT leader is the ability to take the right chances.

Knowledge Management's 'Theory-Doing Gap'

Shell Oil Co.'s Scott Beaty is the kind of conference speaker who makes attendees feel they've gotten their thousand bucks' worth: the experienced, successful, seen-and-read-it-all manager that other managers admire. So when this knowledge manager told a Conference Board audience, "I've seen absolutely nothing new in theory for three years," something is wrong. What's wrong is the "theory-doing gap." I've borrowed the phrase from Stanford Business School professor Robert Sutton, whose book The Knowing-Doing Gap (Harvard Business School Press, 1999) discusses why managers don't do the things they know they should do. The theory-doing gap is the gap between academics who create theories, technologists who build systems and practitioners who try to make them work. It's a doozy.

Opinion: But in the present, top execs will be watching

With Y2K mostly behind us, e-commerce work before us and postponed IT projects pressing to the fore, today's arrival of Microsoft's Windows 2000 hardly looks like a barn-burner issue - especially outside the halls of IT. To a CEO, a chief operating officer, or a marketing vice president, upgrading from Windows NT 4.0 or switching from Unix doesn't look terribly strategic: It won't help build a brand, boost market share or grow your e-business. The alleged advantages of Windows 2000 - fewer crashes, greater scalability, better security - aren't the stuff of annual reports and Wall Street briefings.

But in the Present, Top Execs Will Be Watching

With Y2K mostly behind us, e-commerce work before us and postponed IT projects pressing to the fore, this week's arrival of Windows 2000 hardly looks like a barn-burner issue - especially outside the halls of IT. To a CEO, a chief operating officer, or a marketing vice president, upgrading from Windows NT 4.0 or switching from Unix doesn't look terribly strategic: It won't help build a brand, boost market share or grow your e-business. The alleged advantages of Windows 2000 - fewer crashes, greater scalability, better security - aren't the stuff of annual reports and Wall Street briefings.

If you lead you're damned, and if you don't you're damned

Just who are you supposed to be? General Patton or Jeeves the butler? IS managers are getting an earful lately about leadership -- from consultants, executives and the press -- and are snagged between two contradictory roles: the leaders they're now supposed to be and the service mentality they've always had. IS and line managers are confused, even soured, about IT leadership.