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9/24/2004
06:05 PM
John Soat
John Soat
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IT Confidential: What Goes On In Vegas ... Trust Me

'People come [to vegas] who don't want people to know they came.'

Trust as a commodity is disappearing in vast quantities, and at an alarming rate. Now, this may not sound like a "stop the presses" type of news story, but I can't help but wonder if there isn't a point of no return here, a critical mass of mistrust that begins to undo what America has put together. Last week, we had the Dan Rather debacle, with his mythical documents concerning President Bush's National Guard service. But even before that story broke, the Gallup people had conducted a poll, the results of which were released last week (ironically), with a headline that tells the whole story: "Media Credibility Reaches Lowest Point In Three Decades." Maybe for you that's old news, but for me it hits home. I realize I have to labor mightily to earn and deserve the trust people have (hopefully) in the work I do.

I was reminded of this when I attended InformationWeek's Fall Conference last week in Rancho Mirage, Calif. At the Sunday night reception, I was speaking with a gentleman from a very large (read: global) public-sector financial institution (the gentleman shall remain nameless, given that his veritas was inspired by more than a bit of vino). He said the hardest task he had to accomplish when proposing new business-technology projects was to overcome the skepticism of the board. I was, perhaps naively, flabbergasted. How could the top execs of a company that basically runs on IT be skeptical of IT projects? Rigorous, yes. Hard-nosed, of course. But skeptical? The next day, at the conference's Monday morning keynote session, Don Tapscott, the author of The Naked Corporation and president of New Paradigm Learning, said almost exactly the same thing: "There's a lot of cynicism about IT." Does IT deserve this? Hasn't business technology earned a position of trust in the corporate environment?

The next day, at a session at the conference featuring executives from Caesars Entertainment, the casino company's VP of operations, Carlos Castro, mentioned that Caesars doesn't exploit the video-surveillance data it records as effectively as other companies do. "If we can leverage our existing surveillance systems, I'd love to do it," Castro said. That led to a heated debate with members of the audience on the privacy implications of customer data in the gambling industry. Caesars CIO Carol Pride defended her company's data practices, pointing out that regulators insist on scrupulous record keeping. "We need to keep track of where money is going," she said. Also, Caesars guards its customer data. "Only those people who need to have access to the data have access to it," Pride said. But if business-technology executives don't trust each other's data-collection practices, how is the general public going to?

I won't mention I saw you at the blackjack tables--trust me. And I trust you'll send me an industry tip, to jsoat@cmp.com or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about media accuracy, selling IT projects to the suits, or customer-data practices in the gambling industry, meet me at InformationWeek.com's Listening Post: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.


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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