Business Technology: An Unshakable Optimism - InformationWeek

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03:25 PM

Business Technology: An Unshakable Optimism

Late last year, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, I wrote some columns touching on the emergent connections across business, technology, security, terrorism, public policy, and the government's role across those various fields in the new reality we all faced. As often happens, I got a handful of letters saying things like "stick to computers." A couple of others said that a magazine focused on business technology has no business talking about things like public policy and risk and warfare and all the related implications. And a few others said things like "I get bombarded with stuff about Sept. 11 everywhere else--I don't want to see it in InformationWeek."

I wish it were that simple. But our mission at InformationWeek is to reflect your world--your issues and your interests, your dreams as well as your nightmares. And I doubt very much that the jobs of any of you, the 1 million people who use InformationWeek each week, have gotten simpler or less complex in the past year. Is physical security still separate from cybersecurity? Are privacy issues more or less time-consuming than they were a year ago, particularly when hiring people for positions that require extensive background checks? Are business-continuity plans the sort of thing you buy off the shelf, or must they be drawn up or enhanced or overhauled by the same people already working 55 or 60 hours a week? We're hearing about companies that are building backup sites to their backup sites--so should there be a new field of contingency planning for contingency planning? In this week's issue, Greg Burnham, CTO of the Port Authority of New York, talks about the need to balance the risk of micromanagement with the essential requirement for having disaster-recovery plans detailing chains of command (p. 36).

"He loved music--everything from Andrea Bocelli to the Beatles--and he was so handy that he could build a sukkah, a temporary hut for the festival of Sukkot, without using nails. In death, Mr. [Abe] Zelmanowitz has been celebrated by President Bush and people around the world for remaining with his quadriplegic friend and colleague, Edward Beyea, after the attack on the World Trade Center, where they worked as computer programmers at Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield. But to his family, this sacrifice was typical of Mr. Zelmanowitz's nature. "Had it been a casual acquaintance," his brother said, "he would have done the same thing."

-- From the extraordinary new book, "Portraits 9/11/01," the collected "Portraits of Grief" from The New York Times

(More at

(On a scale of 1-10, this book is a 12. -- Bob Evans)

And this year compared with last--how much more do you know about the grid systems of your telecom suppliers and your electricity suppliers? Do we even want to talk about airport security? Anybody out there eager to fly a lot later this year after hearing from The Wall Street Journal last week that the Transportation Security Administration, in order to meet its Dec. 31 deadline for having all bags screened for explosives, will by that date have to purchase and install "three times the number of detection machines currently deployed in the entire world"? How did your city respond? Do you feel it was as prepared as it should be? How did your children's schools respond? Did that response reassure you or concern you? Do you have to commute through tunnels or across bridges? How did you feel about that? Heck, how has your employer responded in the past 12 months? Is your company better prepared now to handle unexpected emergencies than it was a year ago? How deeply involved are you in those efforts?

Despite the flavor of some of these questions, I feel an unshakable sense of optimism about the ability of the people in the business-technology world to not just deal with these issues but indeed to hammer through them with unanticipated breakthroughs, valuable innovations, and newly created opportunities. Because that's what you people do, each day, each week, each project. Does the economy stink? Sure it does. Does the imminent anniversary of the murder of nearly 3,000 people drum up uncomfortable, unsettling feelings in most of us? Sure it does. But as a guy I used to work with liked to say, "Life today might not be perfect, but it sure beats the alternative." You are some of the most creative and high-achieving people in the world. You've revolutionized industries, created millions of jobs, improved the lives of many millions of people around the globe, brought new ways of learning to our children, and spawned waves of entrepreneurship that are our collective future. And all of us together, as we reflect on the attacks last Sept. 11 against freedom and the rule of law, must know that the same spirit that has driven and forged those achievements will surely bring us through these current difficult and immensely complex times. Because the alternative is unimaginable.

And this week, as always, may God bless America.

Bob Evans
[email protected]

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