Business & Finance
Commentary
6/21/2002
04:54 PM
Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl
Commentary
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Editor's Note: Looking For Clarity In A Confusing Marketplace

Well, the end of the quarter is nearly here, the economy continues to have multiple personalities, IT confidence is leveling off after a bunch of ups and downs, and humidity has settled into Washington like a mushy couch potato. Those are just a few facts I'll throw out as I begin this column. But I've got to tell you, the past week or so has been less of a straight-fact kind of week and more like one big paradox.

First, I attended one of several recent conferences in Washington that teach companies better ways of doing business with the federal government. About the same time, Home Depot issues a memo to its stores nationwide telling employees to refuse all business with the federal government. Second, two well-known hosting companies throw in the towel, while others are alive and kicking and customer appetite for their services is seemingly healthy. Go figure. Rather, go to page 20 to read more about that. Third, practically every day I hear about at least one successful IT project. Yet, I also saw a figure that indicates IT failures amounted to as much as $145 billion last year.

There are reasons for all of these things to be happening, and my column space doesn't let me get too deep into explanations, opinions, and theories. Suffice it to say, Home Depot has a long-standing policy against federal contracts and probably gets enough business from the commercial world anyway. And hosting requires a combination of sizable capital investment, innovation, and the guts to stay the course in a tough economy. Not everyone has all the ingredients necessary for success. This cost of IT failure figure, however, has me a little more perplexed. Haven't I been hearing numbers like that for years? Why isn't it getting better? Why isn't it changing? Again, I'm sure there are reasons for these things--poor management, technology glitches, throwing technology at bad processes, and more. In fact, an upcoming article in our sister publication, Optimize, explains some of these pitfalls as well as some tangible ways to avoid, or at least lessen, failure. Still, a figure like $145 billion has me shaking my head.

It makes me think of a friend of mine, a senior-level manager known by employees to frequently use the phrase "I'm confused." But it's not because he really doesn't understand something. He's quite a smart guy. No, that phrase loosely translates into "What I'm hearing is not acceptable."

So, are IT failures confusing to you?

InformationWeek has won two Gold Awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for its feature series on E-business Ethics ("A Question Of Ethics," Feb. 19, 2001, p. 39) and its Web feature on DeCSS ("DeCSS Case Could Change Your IT Shop," July 16, 2001). Also, our sister publication, Optimize, won a Silver Award for its Web site. Hey, we love getting awards, but more important, we do our best each day to be a valuable and relevant information source for you, our readers.

Stephanie Stahl
Editor
sstahl@cmp.com

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