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John Soat
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IT Confidential: Productivity, Yes. But Profitability-Maybe

He wrote the book, he oughta know! The link between IT and corporate productivity is fairly well established, says Stephan Kudyba, an assistant professor in the Department of Management at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and co-author of Information Technology, Corporate Productivity, and the New Economy (Quorum Books, 2002). That equation is being questioned again, now that the New Economy isn't so, uh, new. "The real test of productivity is when the economy stagnates," Kudyba says. "IT enables firms to reduce costs and still maintain the same level of output, and that's productivity right there." The link between IT and profitability is more tenuous, Kudyba says-but it's there. One way that equation works is through better decision making: "With data, you better understand what's driving the business processes." Another way is through better communication. "It's the ability of organizations to operate across economic zones," Kudyba says. "If you can create a widget in China for one-tenth the cost, you're going to do that as much as you can."

Val Overson, a former Utah lieutenant governor who's been a managing director at PricewaterhouseCoopers for the past three years, will become the Beehive State's next CIO. Overson's success in addressing complex challenges was cited by Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt as the reason for his nomination, which requires senate confirmation.

Location, location, location. The Memec Group, a San Diego distributor of specialty semiconductors, has snagged a major technology talent. Gerald (Jerry) Corvino is the company's new CIO and group VP; he'll report to David Ashworth, president and CEO, and join the company's executive board. Most recently, Corvino served as CIO for embedded-chip manufacturer Zilog. Before that he was CIO and senior VP at Oracle.

Speaking of technology talent, the Computer History Museum on Feb. 10 will present a panel discussion on "How Databases Changed the World." The panel will feature some of the biggest names in database development, including Roger Sipple, formerly of Informix, and Michael Stonebraker, a pioneer in relational databases who developed the technology that went into the Ingres database and Postgres, which became IBM's Universal Database technology.

Steve Case, the man who drove America Online, is out at AOL Time Warner-but not all the way out. Case will remain a member of the board and co-chair of its strategy committee. "Steve's extraordinary vision and unique experience will remain important assets to our entire company," said new AOL Time Warner chairman Dick Parsons, in a companywide E-mail last week.

The old Vision Thing-that and a buck-fifty will get you on the subway these days. Got a vision or an industry tip? Send it to or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about IT as a corporate citizen or how databases changed the world, meet me at's Listening Post:

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit John Soat's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about John Soat, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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