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8/9/2002
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IT Confidential

Whatever happened to the IT talent shortage? It reversed course. John Halamka, senior VP and CIO at CareGroup Healthcare System, which has six Boston-area hospitals, says it's still difficult to hire IT people, not because there aren't suitable candidates, but because "there's so much great talent to choose from." CareGroup is spot-hiring for positions it needs to fill now, but it isn't stockpiling talent because Halamka says the company "isn't going crazy with spending" and he's confident about finding talent as it's needed in the near future. A year or so ago, Halamka says, CareGroup might have received 10 resumés for an open IT job position. Now he gets 100 resumés for a job posting, "and out of those 100, 50 will be world-class talent." Halamka, who comes from the "Warren Buffett school" of investing--"Make strategic investments when prices are low"--is spending on IT capital, such as storage and infrastructure. "The economy is suffering, but strategic investments in IT can help reduce operational costs, making you a stronger organization," he says.

When the glory of the Games ends, Olympic athletes have to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. Same goes for the slightly less-famous stars of computer technology. David Busser, the CIO who led the $300 million IT system that supported the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, is moving to Southern California this week to become director of business development for ESRI, a privately held vendor of geographic information and mapping software. Busser is excited about the job, which gets him into management, reporting to ESRI president and founder Jack Dangermond, and also gets him back to his California roots and his old college town of Redlands. But nothing can compare with the past several years. "My work with the Olympics has to go down as the experience of a lifetime," he says. Skating scandals aside, the Games were a huge success. And Busser says he met his goal: IT systems that ran so well no one noticed them during the Games.

How easy is it to cough up E-mail records when regulators are breathing down your back? Easier than some financial firms have been letting on, says a source at an E-mail archiving vendor. The Securities and Exchange Commission is considering fining six Wall Street firms $1.7 million each for failing to turn over E-mail archives in connection with an SEC investigation into questionable conduct in the sale of shares of initial public offerings. The archiving software executive says the firms' claims that they can't easily comply with the request ring about as true as dot-com stock options these days, because the technology is readily available from multiple vendors and easy to use. It's possible that top execs at the firms in question have instructed their CIOs not to make the issue a priority, the source speculates, out of fear of what would be unearthed if they handed over their E-mail archives. "Nobody really wants their E-mail discovered." Maybe, the source suggests, firms see a $1.7 million fine as the lesser of two evils.

Like him or not, Oracle's irascible CEO, Larry Ellison, makes good sound bites. His interview in this month's Playboy magazine features more than its share of bon mots from the software mogul. "Remember, there used to be a PC software industry?" is typical Ellison Microsoft bashing. On privacy: "You've given it all up already." On business success: "The only way you can succeed in business big-time is to find places where conventional wisdom is wrong. ... You can't innovate by copying." Ellison also tries to lay to rest a rumor, apparently started by The New York Post, that his romance-novelist fiancee, Melanie Craft, is a figment of his imagination, made up to fend off spouse-hunting females, and that Ellison himself authored her book, A Hard-Hearted Man.

Not that I look at Playboy. I mean read it. Well, maybe sometimes, just to see what the competition has on display. I mean read what other writers have up their sleeves. If you want to get something off your chest, or have an industry tip, send it to [email protected] or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about the best time to buy software, ice dancing and the mob, or how much E-mail to keep around, meet me at InformationWeek.com's Listening Post: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.

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