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8/16/2002
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IT Confidential

This is a tough one. It doesn't seem right to make too big a deal out of a business-technology exec moving into the CEO job. The enlightened world doesn't fall into IT or business camps anymore, and it's not like the CIO job's worth is measured by how close a stepping-stone it is to power. Still, it's sure fun to look at the career path of Chris Lofgren. He was recently named CEO and president of Schneider National, the family-owned trucking and logistics company (you can't miss its bright-orange trucks on the highway) that did $2.4 billion in sales last year. Lofgren, who has a doctorate in industrial engineering, joined Schneider in 1994 as VP of engineering and systems, leading development of logistics information systems and supply-chain reengineering. Then it was chief technology officer, then CIO and head of logistics, then chief operating officer in 2000. It was all part of Don Schneider's succession plan. Schneider, son of company founder A.J. Schneider, will remain as chairman. I'm not sure anyone still tells that tired, old "CIO stands for career is over" joke anymore, but Lofgren's name is a nice one to have handy, just in case.

Walt Ordway will certainly be living at the intersection of business and technology. Ordway's new job as chief technology officer of NDC involves no less than helping transform the movie industry by creating standards for digital cinema. While Star Wars: Episode II--Attack Of The Clones was an industry landmark because it was shot entirely digitally, it still arrived at most theaters as a roll of film, since few theaters are equipped to receive and show digital films. To change that, Disney, Fox, MGM, Paramount, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal, and Warner Brothers created NDC in March and named Charles Goldwater as CEO three weeks ago. Ordway, who had been in charge of the digital cinema project at Hughes Electronics, is part of NDC's effort to develop a digital cinema architecture that pleases the studios, theaters, and producers. Makes fighting off a swarm of storm troopers look easy.

Don't expect Louis D'Ambrosio to stay low-profile for long. The VP of worldwide sales and marketing for IBM's software business resigned unexpectedly last week. An industry source says the ambitious 38-year-old wanted a senior executive chair that just wasn't empty right now at IBM. He leaves at a time when IBM software, which did $3.3 billion in sales last quarter, is growing despite the industry slump, up almost 8% in its most-recent quarter without giving ground on margins. Look for D'Ambrosio's name to show up soon.

Tired of hearing nothing but stories about businesses on the decline lately? Here's one that's been booming: Fannie Mae, with operating income up 21% for the first six months of 2002 compared with last year. Fannie Mae is an IT-intensive business, with about a third of its workforce in IT, says William Pugh, Fannie Mae's senior VP of enterprise systems management. So what does a growing business spend on IT these days? Fannie Mae is replacing some older legacy systems built to support the classic 30-year fixed mortgage and simple variable rates with systems that can handle more individualized lending. The company is also spending on midsize projects such as Web-based bond-auctioning systems for the company's debt and a new "E-Committing" system to provide prices to lenders when they sell loans to Fannie Mae.

From Belgrade to Selma, history warns not to underestimate the power of people taking to the streets in protest. For the open-source movement, that defining moment hasn't quite arrived. Fewer than 50 LinuxWorld attendees made an hour-long march to San Francisco City Hall last week to back a California bill that would require the state to buy only software that toed the open-source line, such as offering unrestricted access to source code. Red Hat CTO Michael Tiemann knows the march won't change the world. "It was more about planting the seed," he says. Tiemann has his work cut out for him getting the IT community to overcome its natural revulsion to all things political. But it's high time it does, so bless him for trying.

John Soat will return to writing this column next week, so welcome him back with an industry insider tip. Send it to [email protected] or phone 516-562-5326 or fax 516-562-5036. Or meet him at Informationweek.com's Listening Post: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.

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