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IT Confidential: No Time For Laggards Around Here

'I'm up to my ears in startups,' ex-Marimba chief exec Polese says.

Some of her contemporaries--Colin Powell, Tiger Woods, Dilbert--still have steady work. And former Marimba CEO and chairwoman Kim Polese--who, like these others, was one of Time magazine's 25 Most Influential Americans in 1997--believes she'll get back in a business soon. We caught up with Polese as she chatted with Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim at a rally in Palo Alto, Calif., against requiring the expensing of stock options. She says she's entertaining offers from a variety of unidentified companies to be anything from CEO to board member, for businesses ranging from enterprise infrastructure software to online consumer ventures. Polese's goals for the next five years are typically grand: help build several great companies. "This is a great entrepreneurial environment," she says. "You've got access to great teams, and you've got access to capital."

Cisco Systems has lured Dr. Jeffrey Rideout, CEO of Blue Shield of California Foundation and former chief medical officer for Blue Cross of California, to its consulting ranks. As chief medical officer, Rideout oversaw health-care programs for more than 2 million Blue Cross members and, as foundation executive, oversaw a program to fund research on health-care technology. Rideout joins Cisco's Internet Business Solutions Group, which does free consulting in seven industries to spur their use of business technology. Cisco, in disclosing the hire last week, described health care as a "laggard in the area of technology and business-process innovation."

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson hates how much a laggard health-care is in IT. He and national health-care IT coordinator David Brailer held a teleconference last Friday to pump up interest in a July 21 summit where they'll roll out a plan to speed private-sector adoption of interoperable electronic medical records. "We're moving a lot faster than any of you could've projected even six months ago," Thompson said. "... I told [President Bush] when we had a meeting Wednesday we're going to accelerate even faster."

North Carolina seems to be trying to avoid the dreaded "laggard" tag. It's created a job in its Office of State Budget and Management to make sure its IT efforts are "efficient and cost effective." Jonathan Womer takes the job, with the title of assistant state budget officer for information technology. Womer will work with state agencies and the Office of Information and Technology Services to help with buying hardware and software, scrutinize cost-benefit analyses, and make budget recommendations--a role he honed in the federal Office of Management and Budget, where he made final federal budget recommendations on IT projects for the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other agencies.

I'm no laggard. I'm just filling in until John Soat comes back next week. Hurry up and send him an industry tip at or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about leaders or laggards, meet him at's Listening Post:

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