Commentary
4/30/2004
03:02 PM
Commentary
Commentary
Commentary

Letters To Bob Evans



Here are just a "few" letters in response to Bob Evan's column from last week (April 26, 2004), Business Technology: The Readers Speak: Career Paths, Wish Lists:


I'd recommend my children pursue a career in my field on three conditions:

  1. I figure out just what my field is.
  2. My kids then figure out what my field is.
  3. By the time I have kids and they grow up, no one's talking about RFID at cocktail parties anymore. (For the record, we better have stopped talking about Trump then, too.)

David Berkowitz
eMarketer



Can we make it "least-favorite 100 people"?

Jim Ruble
Systems Administrator
Columbus Housing Partnership



The thought that came to my mind when I heard George Tenet needed five more years to get the CIA together came directly from Lee Iacocca (or was it Ross Perot?), who, upon hearing it took five years to design a new car, stated, "We won World War II in less time than that."

Go for it.

Troy Nichols



Least-favorite person: Darl McBride. Not only is he holding the penguin hostage, but he's being a real jerk about it.

Other least-favorite person: U.S. Patent Commissioner Nicholas P. Godici, for failing to hold the line on idiotic "conceptual" patents that will strangle innovation for decades to come (until we wise up).

(Or maybe it isn't his fault, but he should be making a lot of noise about it!)

I don't think Infosys cares what the U.S. public thinks of it, and 500 consultants is a drop in the bucket. That's probably how many U.S. consultants it was planning to hire in any normal year, so hey, don't do us any favors, jerks!

If I could change one thing about my job, it would be the fact that it's ending in June.

I told my kids to major in art, or music, or philosophy. Those things may never be big money-makers, but they won't be any more out of style than they are now, either.

George Wiman
Computer Support Specialist
Illinois State University: Extended University, InfoTech
Bloomington, Ill.



Who gets your vote for your least-favorite person: (a) SCO chief ambulance-chaser Darl McBride; (b) the hacker who created the MyDoom virus; (c) Donald Trump; or (d) the juror who tanked the Tyco trial?

(e) Sen. Kerry and the DNC. Support them and watch things toilet rapidly.

What do you think of Infosys' recent announcement of its plans to hire 500 U.S. consultants over the next three years? Is it (a) a move aimed at placating an American public that feels victimized by the rise of India as a business-technology power; (b) a sudden and unexpected indication that India's rapidly growing economy has pushed incomes in that country so high that Infosys can now find qualified talent in the United States at lower wages; or (c) another example of a highly efficient global economy aligning resources and capabilities with business opportunities?

A. Getting in on the ground-floor publicity to stop overseas hemorrhage and reap tax dollars.

From which line of business does IBM generate the most revenue: (a) hardware, including all servers, PCs, mainframes, storage, etc.; (b) services; (c) software? Is that leading revenue-generator in decline and likely to be supplanted soon, or in ascendancy and likely to become the company's dominant offering? Will this affect how the company goes to market? Will this affect how other companies--whether in category a, b, c, or all of the above--position themselves and relate to you? Do you care? Should you care?

Who cares? Big Blue will be with us for some time.

If you had the power to change one thing about your job--just one thing, no matter how large or small, grand or pedestrian--what would it be?

SOX mandates by the ultra paranoid.

At cocktail parties these days (that's a bit of a fib--I can't remember the last time I was at a cocktail party, and I hope it's at least as long until I have to go to the next one), everyone's talking about RFID. Is it a world-changer or a worthless and overhyped solution in search of a problem? Is your company thinking about it, exploring it, deploying it, or ignoring it? Do you care? Should you care?

Not any more of a world changer then bar coding. Good solution for some specific problems, but no more a magic bullet than any other ID/locator solution.

As the economy picks up, would you recommend to your children that they pursue a career in your field? Why or why not?

No. The pipeline is full for sometime into the future. I push biogenetics and alternative-energy engineering.

James L. Dines
Senior Analyst/Programmer



Who gets your vote for your least-favorite person?

Darl McBride is a close second to the Idiot Gates.

What do you think of Infosys' recent announcement of its plans to hire 500 U.S. consultants over the next three years?

Well, besides being the right thing to do, it's most likely another example of a highly efficient global economy aligning resources and capabilities with business opportunities.

From which line of business does IBM generate the most revenue?

I would have to guess (b) services. I should and do care about service, since that is what it is all about on the bottom line. The old WordPerfect is an outstanding example. You didn't buy it just because it was a good word processor, you bought it because you could call and someone could and would help you! Service is a critical component, and one we need to keep local...

If you had the power to change one thing about your job--just one thing, no matter how large or small, grand or pedestrian--what would it be?

I would give myself more time to do my job and less time playing administrativia!

RFID: Is it a world-changer, or a worthless and overhyped solution in search of a problem? Is your company thinking about it, exploring it, deploying it, or ignoring it? Do you care? Should you care?

Let Wal-Mart worry about it, then let the courts decide that it's a gross violation of privacy, then let one of the government boys hype it as a way to control drugs or terrorism, and then we will all have one embedded in our skulls at birth or sooner ... George Orwell, here we come! I feel it is a total violation of my privacy, but then I resent having to prove myself innocent of shoplifting each time I leave Wal-Mart, too. Thought we did the innocent-until-proven-guilty thing here in the United States, but I guess not.

As the economy picks up, would you recommend to your children that they pursue a career in your field? Why or why not?

As a college professor, I would be happy if my son decided that he didn't need a large income and wanted to get his rewards by enlightening people. I don't think they will outsource my job anytime soon, and I really don't want RFID tags on my students, so I am a happy camper. A poor happy camper, but a happy camper. Guess I should have answered the change question that I would like a living wage for the work I do, but less BS would be a reasonable request.

Dr. Tim Gottleber
North Lake College
Irving, Texas



I may be jeopardizing the tchotchke, but my least-favorite person is George W. Bush. If I must pick one of the choices offered by you, then I'll go with (d), the twit from the Tyco trial.

Did you know that tchotchke is pronounced differently in South Africa? Try tsatske.

For the Infosys question, I'll go with (a) placating the public. No doubt (b) and (c) will happen, but when our incomes align with those in India, the Chinese better have something for their workers to do.

I thought that IBM's revenue was approaching a pretty even distribution across hardware, software, and services, although software is the smallest component right now. I think I remember hearing that services had taken the lead in the most recent announcement. Certainly it's growing faster than the other two sectors. Competitors are well aware of IBM's major role in services and don't have to do anything differently. Similarly for consumers. IBM has been growing services for a decade or more.

I don't currently have a job, which is why I'm writing your column for you. If I had one, I'd want to see a more vibrant job market, especially in New Orleans. When the workers have the upper hand, they do certainly take some advantage of that, but the employers would roll us back to Dickensian conditions if they could.

RFIS is a certainty--it has been waiting for a decade for the cost of the technology to make it feasible on a massive scale.

I would not recommend to my children that they enter any field where the bulk of the labor can be sent overseas. That, by the way, eliminates accountancy along with computing. Invent stuff, face humans in a service or sales capacity, be a plumber or mechanic.

That is not to say that computing didn't treat me kindly in terms of making a good living and being mobile. I entered computing in 1965 in South Africa, I have been working in the United States for 20 years, and before that I had two periods in the United Kingdom, totaling 6.5 years. During that period, I had the privilege of delivering consulting and troubleshooting services in France, Holland, Switzerland, and the United States.

Thanks for the fun morning.

Charles Pinsky



In response to your question about Infosys' intent to hire 500 consultants in the United States, it's my understanding that these consultants will be employed to convince American executives to outsource their IT needs to India.

I see this as evidence that Infosys is concerned about a backlash against offshoring and an attempt to sidestep issues therein by having red, white, and blue advisers making the sales.

Some may consider those who become employed as a part of this scheme as traitors to the U.S. IT labor force. First the Indians use H-1B visas, then leading developers (IBM, Microsoft, etc.) shift work to India, then Infosys sells Indian services using American suits.

Where are the cowboys when you need them?

Steve Murray



I want to provide a write-in candidate for my least-favorite person:

Bob Evans, Editorial Director for InformationWeek. Bob has brought a Rush Limbaugh style of writing and commentary to an industry that doesn't need it.

Walter Ring



From recent discussions centered on giving our intelligence agencies the ability to share information seamlessly, we've heard that such projects could take several years to complete. Now, I know we're talking about the federal government here so I'm not expecting blazing speed, and I realize that within this system such elements as security, privacy, and authentication will have to be stupendously sophisticated, but "several years"? Might I suggest that the people who are coming up with these glacial time frames see if they can chop a century or two off those estimates by looking for some best practices employed by other large, complex, multidimensional, multidivisional, and economy-critical organizations? For starters, they might pay a few visits to financial-services companies that integrate vast global acquisitions in a matter of months while also coping with Sarbanes-Oxley and warding off thousands of hackers and delivering real-time services to customers. Several years? In today's world, that's absurd. Given the nature of the project and the stakes of the effort, can't the business-technology community--from the vendor and customer sides--somehow help the federal government figure out a better and faster way?

You're being unfair. Remember someone has to write up the RFP, get it approved up the line, announce the bid, wait for them to come in. After that is completed, they must be all evaluated and the top three vendors notified that there will be oral presentations. Well, need I go on? The only hopes of a speed up--but not really noticeable--is if the government contract officer is looking for a career change to a vendor's company. The one thing that would make it take longer is to have the FAA be the responsible agency.

Who gets your vote for your least-favorite person: (a) SCO chief ambulance-chaser Darl McBride; (b) the hacker who created the MyDoom virus; (c) Donald Trump; or (d) the juror who tanked the Tyco trial?

The second of two unfair questions. No matter which one you would pick, it would still leave the other three.

What do you think of Infosys' recent announcement of its plans to hire 500 U.S. consultants over the next three years? Is it (a) a move aimed at placating an American public that feels victimized by the rise of India as a business-technology power; (b) a sudden and unexpected indication that India's rapidly growing economy has pushed incomes in that country so high that Infosys can now find qualified talent in the United States at lower wages; or (c) another example of a highly efficient global economy aligning resources and capabilities with business opportunities?

None of the above. The press release was put out by a dissatisfied customer-service employee in India who has a Ph.D. in philosophy and can't find a better job.

From which line of business does IBM generate the most revenue: (a) hardware, including all servers, PCs, mainframes, storage, etc.; (b) services; (c) software? Is that leading revenue-generator in decline and likely to be supplanted soon, or in ascendancy and likely to become the company's dominant offering? Will this affect how the company goes to market? Will this affect how other companies--whether in category a, b, c, or all of the above--position themselves and relate to you? Do you care? Should you care?

The mainframe is dead! Long live the mainframe!

If you had the power to change one thing about your job--just one thing, no matter how large or small, grand or pedestrian--what would it be?

I would have all marketing and sales people (stellionates) take truth serum before making their product or service presentations. Definition: A stellionate is someone who sells something they don't have.

At cocktail parties these days (that's a bit of a fib--I can't remember the last time I was at a cocktail party, and I hope it's at least as long until I have to go to the next one), everyone's talking about RFID. Is it a world-changer, or a worthless and overhyped solution in search of a problem? Is your company thinking about it, exploring it, deploying it, or ignoring it? Do you care? Should you care?

RFID? Is that something like Rural Free Internet Delivery?

As the economy picks up, would you recommend to your children that they pursue a career in your field? Why or why not?

Since I have just read the book How To Die Broke, I'm going to let them make their own choice.

Please send your answers to some or all of these questions, and I'll select a bunch and run them in an upcoming column. And all of those selected will receive an official InformationWeek tchotchke. Thanks for your time--I've gotta go catch a hot-air balloon.

Wait for me, but if I win, only send me a gift certificate for a hot tchotchkelate

Joe De Natale



First, I would like to thank you for what I presume is the correct spelling of tchotchke and for having the chutzpah to use it in your column. I've wondered for more than 30 years about that one (not continuously).

I am in total agreement with your criticism of the snail's pace at which our government works (unless of course they're bombing Iraq or screwing all of us out of our wilderness/wildlife/resources). Perhaps a constitutional amendment stating that they outsource all IT projects...

Least-favorite person: It's a tough call, except for the Donald (I admire him), but I think it has to be SCO, in general, and McBride, in particular.

Pass on Infosys.

I assume services has been, is, and will continue to be IBM's biggest revenue-generator. I worked for the company for 12-plus years and admire the way it continually reinvents itself. I believe some of its CEOs have been geniuses (Watson Sr., in spite of help from his father-in-law over at NCR; Watson Jr.; and Gerstner, especially).

I would change my compensation plan.

RFID will be a MONSTER. It may end up being the single-most-ubiquitous technology ever. Don't take my predictions lightly. When I saw my first desktop computer, I became very excited and predicted that everyone would have one on their desk within 10 years. My timeframe might have been a little off, but I knew it would be a MONSTER. You heard it here first, well, second maybe.

I think my field (IT) will be around for a long time to come, and I would help my kids if they wanted to pursue an IT career, but I wouldn't push them in that direction.

Roger Faucher
Computer Networks of Northern Florida



One small thing. That "ubiquitous computing" was really here so I could have something under a pound in my hands that was always connected to the fastest possible connection available in its locale that would recognize my handwriting (flawlessly) because handwriting is still the only thing faster than touch typing for me.

RFID: I was just coming up the stairs and noticed one of those old watchman clock stations, the purpose of which is to make sure they get to every watch station. I thought, there's a good use of RFID. An RFID on each station with the reader on the watchperson. When s/he gets back, Bluetooth is used to read the collection device. No human intervention. There are a million ways RFID can be used, this is just one.

Juror. But all are huge wastes of money.

Infosys: Responding to complaints that their reps don't talk American English. They have a need to fill.

Career choice: Better would be something that makes good use of these tools instead of a career in the tools. I have invested in a B.A. in CS in '95 (yeah, I know, but that is what the school had) and an M.S. in CIS in 2000. It has worked for me, but just like my previous career (26 years as enlisted in the Air Force), I can't recommend it anymore. The casualties are mounting.

Terry May
Regional Systems Manager, Central Region
HDR
San Antonio, Texas



Least Favorite:
The least-favorite person has to be Darl McBride. The others are temporary annoyances, but he is trying to change the IT landscape for the worse on a permanent basis. I hope the investment firm trying to pull its money is successful.

Infosys:
It's a recognition that it has sufficient business opportunities in the United States to establish local resources to provide needed capabilities--plus the realization that in many cases trying to provide technical services from halfway across the world is counterproductive.

IBM:
Services is almost half of IBM's total revenue. Hardware is about 30% and software about 16%. Services as a sector is in ascendancy and is really the company's dominant offering right now. IBM's greatest strength is the ability to provide complete solutions (at a price), and the strength of its services sector provides additional leverage to both the hardware and software sectors. It definitely affects both its market strategy and its "trench-level" sales approach. It's a major consideration for other companies and does affect us. We care--and other companies should care as well.

Changing One Thing:
We provide Web-based ERP services. Part of my day is spent dealing with questions and issues from users who rarely know what they're asking or the details of their questions. We estimate that 75% of these questions could be resolved if THEY JUST LOOKED AT THE DOCUMENTATION!

RFID:
We have yet to see any demand from our users for RFID capabilities. These are medium-sized companies that typically deal in multilevel supply chains, and, based on the hype in the industry, I would expect some level of demand. None yet. Right now it seems to be a solution in search of a problem and in search of revenue generation--but we're watching it closely.

My children's future direction:
I tried to get them interested in IT as a career, but they had their own opinions.

Thanks for the opportunities to express opinions.

John Byrnes



Regarding the need to be "giving our intelligence agencies the ability to share information seamlessly":

Certainly things can always be improved, but any commercial "best practices" to be applied will have to address the realities of classified data processing, red/black separation, multilevel security, Type 1 cryptography, etc.

There's more involved than you might think.

An interesting example: Land Warrior (wearable computer/radio/etc for Rangers).

Ultimately, there are a million ways to do things better, but there are a trillion ways to do the same or worse.

Mike Stebnisky
Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology
Cherry Hill, N.J.



Who gets your vote for your least-favorite person: (a) SCO chief ambulance-chaser Darl McBride; (b) the hacker who created the MyDoom virus; (c) Donald Trump; or (d) the juror who tanked the Tyco trial?

(a) Darl McBride. Bad boy. If I can't be in business, neither can you! Such a bad precedence setter. Such a litigious society we live in. Is all fair in love and war? Apparently it is in the business world, but we knew that already (can anyone say Microsoft, Enron, MCI?). Nuf on that.

What do you think of Infosys' recent announcement of its plans to hire 500 U.S. consultants over the next three years? Is it (a) a move aimed at placating an American public that feels victimized by the rise of India as a business-technology power; (b) a sudden and unexpected indication that India's rapidly growing economy has pushed incomes in that country so high that Infosys can now find qualified talent in the United States at lower wages; or (c) another example of a highly efficient global economy aligning resources and capabilities with business opportunities?

(a) Perhaps. Have always thought, no matter what company or where the job went, that outsourcing customer service is a baaaaaad idea. The state of customer service throughout the industry is, well, pathetic. When will companies learn that if you take care of your customers they will bring you profit; if you treat them like dirt, sooner or later, they will walk?

From which line of business does IBM generate the most revenue: (a) hardware, including all servers, PCs, mainframes, storage, etc.; (b) services; (c) software? Is that leading revenue-generator in decline and likely to be supplanted soon, or in ascendancy and likely to become the company's dominant offering? Will this affect how the company goes to market? Will this affect how other companies--whether in category a, b, c, or all of the above--position themselves and relate to you? Do you care? Should you care?

(b) Services, if I remember correctly. Isn't that the Linux model? Yes, it sure is, though IBM has gone its own way in the past and did very well for itself. Nobody has yet gotten fired for buying IBM. Yup, I care, and yes, you should, too!

If you had the power to change one thing about your job--just one thing, no matter how large or small, grand or pedestrian--what would it be?

What would I change? This is a fickle spot to be in. As an independent consultant, it would be nice to not care as much. I watch those who do not, they still make the money and have less work. I care about my clients, so if they need me at 3 a.m., so be it, but it sure can wear you out after a while. However, one cannot do less than one's best.

At cocktail parties these days (that's a bit of a fib--I can't remember the last time I was at a cocktail party, and I hope it's at least as long until I have to go to the next one), everyone's talking about RFID. Is it a world-changer, or a worthless and overhyped solution in search of a problem? Is your company thinking about it, exploring it, deploying it, or ignoring it? Do you care? Should you care?

RFID is looming (coming, attacking?), whether we like it or not or care or not. I have no vested interest in it (yet), so I really don't care. I should care, because sooner or later it will affect me.

As the economy picks up, would you recommend to your children that they pursue a career in your field? Why or why not?

What I would recommend to my children is different than what I would say to a junior high class trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up.

To my children, I say, follow your heart. Your work must be a personal passion, to do otherwise is to betray yourself and accept mediocrity. If it is technology, great--there will always be a need for the passionate innovators, regardless of the economy. If it is being a janitor, great--be the best one ever.

To the junior high class, I would say the same about following the heart and personal passion but add that they should not choose it for the money, but for the contribution they can make. Choose their career carefully, not based on the current fad of the year (though security seems to have an extended life). I would also debunk the myth that it is glamorous work. It is not--it is tedious and extremely detailed, even if you are a hacker. To be able to succeed, you must be willing to fail.

Maybe I should have had a night's sleep before writing this, but it is what it is.

Chris Ridley
OnCall Solutions




You missed the real answer: (d) Infosys is hiring U.S. pimps to sell their services. After all, prostitutes do not cruise their own neighborhoods, they go where the money is.

Mark A. Hamilton



As the economy picks up, would you recommend to your children that they pursue a career in your field? Why or why not?

Yes, I would recommend a career in my field--MVS system programmer (or should that now be z/OS?). I love my job, and it, or at least a derivative of it, will be around for a long, long time. But don't go by me: My three children listened to me and then went their own ways to automation engineering, sales management, and risk management for banks. Go figure, not a sysprog in the bunch.

Lee McKnight
Senior System Programmer
Bandag



a. McBride by a country mile. This is strictly a ploy to save his faltering company, and he has enlisted Gates to go along for the ride out of Gates' fear that Linux will eventually clobber Windows (which it will). Shame on the board and shame on the stockholders for allowing this utter nonsense. They are the ultimate losers. McBride will crawl out from yet another rock in time.

b. The global economy is here to stay, whether we like it or not. High technology has shrunk this planet to the point where even the smallest country can belly up to the table. In relation to the world economy, we in this country are overpaid. We'll just have to learn to live with it.

c. IBM is merely gathering all the pieces together to dominate the business market (and doing a damn good job of it, too.) Anyone who thinks that it is scattering its shots will live to regret it. The sleeping giant is awakening!

d. Time, time, time!

e. While I'm not involved in RFID in any way, companies that are, particularly the small guy, are being asked to ante up large sums for implementation with little possibility of a return (except keeping the customer). I doubt very seriously that the numbers add up. They are also being asked--required--to implement the program at Mach IV speed, which will only lead to chaos and probably the eventual downfall of the entire scheme, resulting in huge economic loss to everyone.

f. No! We are in a very specialized field (mathematical profiling and prediction), which demands a love of reading equations and such for funsies, and I have not detected one whit of interest on the part of my kids to spend their time on such "odd" endeavors.

Duane C. Morton
Managing partner
Illiad Research LLC



Regarding vote for least-favorite person, I am surprised that the list is so short ... There are several other folks who I think might be solid candidates for most vilified and pilloried personality. Can I qualify my vote by saying not just Donald Trump, but specifically his hair? I mean, c'mon, anyone with that much money could afford to be better coiffed...

As to Infosys' announcement, it's probably (IMHO) a combination of A and C. Frankly, I'm not aware of India being a powerhouse of consulting experience, but rather of developers. There IS still a difference as far as I can tell (let the Peter principle be not forgotten).

If I could change one thing about my job, it'd be ... wait, I just turned a layoff into a transfer with a promotion and raise, and I get to keep my sixth-floor office window. Let me get back to you on that one.

As to RFID, my business unit is exploring the use of RFID in business-process-reengineering efforts for the Defense Department Military Health Systems--understanding where patients are and where they go between the time they check in for an appointment and when they leave the building, understanding where key resources are (from IV pumps to the physicians who are supposed to be seeing them) can help better streamline access to care in clinics, saving time, money and increasing productivity.

As to whether or not I'd tell my kids to get into my field ... well, I'm not even sure my field will still look the same, considering I don't have kids yet. If we bubble it up to a higher level, yeah, I'd tell them to get into program management--you get all kinds of free magazines. Transferable skills include public speaking, conflict resolution, decision analysis and critical thinking, financial and resource management, and a new level of anal retentiveness that can result in developing Microsoft project plans with resource-loaded networks, critical path analysis, and work breakdown structures for your wedding and honeymoon planning projects. (Yes, I really did it. At least I can laugh about it now, six months later.)

I'm not touching the IBM question with a 10-foot pole. Not enough insight, sorry.

But the bugaboo, the big one, the question du jour regarding the government's ability to develop a way of seamlessly sharing information across departmental boundaries, that one I can give some input to:

Overall, I think that you're right, the government has a clear impetus to move quickly. It certainly has the public support and, ostensibly, the funding. There are even precedents showing that the government is capable of moving relatively quickly to achieve critical goals. If we can mobilize several military divisions across the Joint Services, one would guess this kind of information integration would be doable, too. However, there has ALWAYS been an issue (at least in my opinion) in the government regarding the ability to standardize information and share it across organizations. Simply stating "it's the government" doesn't mean that it's one big, happy company.

Each department, administration, or organization has its own requirements, stakeholders, and associated agendas, and they don't always necessarily align. Also, the methodologies utilized to secure private-sector input or assistance (i.e., contracts) differ widely, and although I hate to say it, red tape really does seem to rule the day. Now, that red tape can be great in terms of oversight (a la the $400 hammers and $700 toilets we heard about in the '80s), but most companies, unless they are actually deeply aware of the Government Federal Acquisitions Regulations (which is itself an interpretive document), aren't likely to be familiar enough with the reporting requirements alone that go with having Uncle Sam as a customer.

Recently, I was facing a potential layoff because of downsizing (hence the comment above about changing my job--I already did), and most companies that I applied to and spoke with who weren't defense contractors didn't have a clue when I started talking about some of the level of management and reporting that I was doing. Granted, in some cases it was simply a matter of different paradigms or management tools that in essence provide similar outputs, but still, there's a level of understanding and infrastructure that most commercial, non-public-sector-serving organizations don't have.

It's a gargantuan task, considering the NSA and CIA alone process several terabytes of data on a weekly basis to try to track incognito communiqués between terrorist cells by scanning vast numbers of printed documents and Web sites, but it's not insurmountable. In a nutshell, it's going to take some very high-level mandates (congressional level or executive level, at least) to start the process and get the ball rolling, and that alone will take time.

Thomas J. Hobbs
Product Manager
Enterprise & Health Solutions Business Unit
SAIC
San Diego



Who gets your vote for your least-favorite person?

The hacker who created the MyDoom virus.

What do you think of Infosys' recent announcement of its plans to hire 500 U.S. consultants over the next three years?

A move aimed at placating an American public that feels victimized by the rise of India as a business-technology power

From which line of business does IBM generate the most revenue?

Hardware, including all servers, PCs, mainframes, storage, etc.

If you had the power to change one thing about your job, what would it be?

Project creep. I want to do the job I was hired for and not have a constant increase in all the "just this one more little thing(s)" that never goes away and causes the job tasks to become time overwhelming.

As the economy picks up, would you recommend to your children that they pursue a career in your field?

No! Not if they want a personal life. I'm on 7-24 support, and unless I vacation on a desert island (which I cannot afford), I never get time that's truly away from the job. I work for city government, and there is an ever-increasing lack of budget for personnel. I have yet to see "work smarter, not harder" actually pan out.

Jaci Gibson-Henrie, ISA
Aspect & Itron Systems Administrator
San Diego Water Department



Least-favorite person (a) McBride, close second (d). The others are heroes by comparison.

IBM is like the tide: it's there, it changes, it moves, and it is always easier to go with the flow than to fight it, but sometimes you just have to go the other direction.

Infosys (C). We Americans should learn not to analyze long-term thinking and planning with our short-term brains. It always leaves us guessing instead of learning.

Job changes: only one. Add more time, money, resources, customers, products, etc.

Thomas Bowen



Who gets your vote for your least-favorite person: (a) SCO chief ambulance-chaser Darl McBride; (b) the hacker who created the MyDoom virus; (c) Donald Trump; or (d) the juror who tanked the Tyco trial?

E) Any of many government officials who have made "doublespeak" an art beyond anything George Orwell envisioned.

What do you think of Infosys' recent announcement of its plans to hire 500 U.S. consultants over the next three years? Is it (a) a move aimed at placating an American public that feels victimized by the rise of India as a business-technology power; (b) a sudden and unexpected indication that India's rapidly growing economy has pushed incomes in that country so high that Infosys can now find qualified talent in the United States at lower wages; or (c) another example of a highly efficient global economy aligning resources and capabilities with business opportunities?

D) Marketing: A customer-relationship and channel-expansion strategy--i.e., it increases their visibility and their accessibility to potential and current U.S. customers.

From which line of business does IBM generate the most revenue: (a) hardware, including all servers, PCs, mainframes, storage, etc.; (b) services; (c) software? Is that leading revenue-generator in decline and likely to be supplanted soon, or in ascendancy and likely to become the company's dominant offering? Will this affect how the company goes to market? Will this affect how other companies-whether in category a, b, c, or all of the above-position themselves and relate to you? Do you care? Should you care?

B) Services. It's probably in the ascendancy, and I'd be surprised if it weren't already the dominant offering and that it is the way IBM is going to market. If it sells some hardware and software, too, so much the better.

If you had the power to change one thing about your job--just one thing, no matter how large or small, grand or pedestrian--what would it be?

Turns out to be the toughest question for me: I'd rather fly first class instead of coach, but these days my travel is pretty much within a 20-mile radius. The coffee is always good and the cafeteria does very well, chairs are comfortable, parking close. I think I'm counting my blessings here. We have some challenges, but that's what they pay us for, so I'm not sure I'd change that either. Ah, I did have that one issue where local technical support and corporate technical support never did agree on whose problem it was to solve. Let's change that.

At cocktail parties these days (that's a bit of a fib--I can't remember the last time I was at a cocktail party, and I hope it's at least as long until I have to go to the next one), everyone's talking about RFID. Is it a world-changer, or a worthless and overhyped solution in search of a problem? Is your company thinking about it, exploring it, deploying it, or ignoring it? Do you care? Should you care?

RFID is a tool and it does address a specific set of problems with a specific approach. Seems to me that it is already in the production use stage (security badges, EZPass, etc.) However, like all technical solutions, it will primarily make certain tasks easier and faster, certain data more routinely available in real or near-real time. It will catch on in a stepwise evolutionary fashion (steps 1 and 2: Wal-Mart and the government) and be commonplace in three to five years. It won't change the world, but will make inventory-intensive areas like retail, warehousing, transportation, etc., a step-change more efficient. There will also be other innovative uses. We are exploring and deploying.

As the economy picks up, would you recommend to your children that they pursue a career in your field? Why or why not?

My wife and I both studied math and ended up in the computer business, with no regrets about the choice. All three (now adult) children are fully capable users of computers, but not one would consider it (or math) for a career. I wouldn't push it on them either, not because of the economy or offshoring, but because they need to do what their hearts are into. The oldest is a philosopher and writer with an American history degree and definitely should make his living by writing. The middle one is studying film production with strengths in art and design; the youngest is in a liberal-arts program and plans to teach at the college level.

Paul Pinson
Accenture Wilmington Delivery Centre
Wilmington, Del.



Keep in mind that the work done by intelligence agencies is still mostly an art rather than an exact science. Financial-services companies perform basically the same work in almost the exact same manner, and they've got it all down to an exact science (out of necessity--a penny here and a penny there adds up over time). These intelligence agencies have, unfortunately, over the years crafted their skills in secrecy and shared little with each other. This is especially true in the area of intelligence, where they are asked to gather and then piece facts together to create a complete picture for a scenario. They can and will learn much from each other once the veils are taken off, but it will take time. The actual integration of their intelligence systems is but a small piece of the pie that can happen only after they decide how to best integrate them. They're working with an unbelievable amount of information that is comprised of bits of facts gathered in numerous ways. Simply looking at the ontology of the information doesn't work without factoring in the reliability, currency, and sensitivity of each piece. There's more to be lost by doing this effort incorrectly than there is to be gained by doing it in half the stated time.

Take it from someone who spent eight years helping the FBI design a couple of its national systems and give them a break on this one--they've got a huge task ahead.

Bradley R. Dunkle
Corporate Technology Planner
Office of Strategic Technology Planning
Business Support Services
City of Charlotte, North Carolina



Right answer in bold below:
What do you think of Infosys' recent announcement of its plans to hire 500 U.S. consultants over the next three years? Is it (a) a move aimed at placating an American public that feels victimized by the rise of India as a business-technology power; (b) a sudden and unexpected indication that India's rapidly growing economy has pushed incomes in that country so high that Infosys can now find qualified talent in the United States at lower wages; or (c) another example of a highly efficient global economy aligning resources and capabilities with business opportunities?

Anuj Setya



If you had the power to change one thing about your job--just one thing, no matter how large or small, grand or pedestrian--what would it be?

I would make it a tenured position.

As the economy picks up, would you recommend to your children that they pursue a career in your field? Why or why not?

I am a programmer analyst. I told my daughter to get a job that is unlikely to be outsourced to the Asia-Pacific, such as ski instructor. I didn't recommend stripping because there is so much competition on the Internet.

I am the "girl" no matter what I accomplish. So I told her to get a traditionally female job like teacher or cleaning woman so she does not have to fight stereotypes - just be one. Then you don't have that whole proper image for a businesswoman thing to worry about and you can have whatever hair color you want.

Unfortunately, she really likes working on her Web pages. I told her that there are 6 million English-speaking technical workers six seconds away who will work for peanuts.

That inspired her. She got a job correcting papers for an online English-as-a-second-language university-level class. She celebrated by buying a big bag of Reese's Pieces.

Deb Mathis



OK, Bob, I'll bite (he says, working through lunch):

Least fave: MyDoom dude (and his ilk)--I'm tired of technovandals. Close second: Those who litigate rather than innovate.

Infosys item: mostly c; a little a, perhaps, but that's part of the game.

IBM: Services (including consulting, etc.) leads revenue, and IBM should hope this doesn't change any time soon. IBM is in a winning groove for now, and if it ain't broke, the company won't likely fix it. I work for IBM's only major systems competitor, and we're very clear on how we position ourselves to customers versus IBM. I care, as I should.

Job change: Seems trivial, but I hate PCs and E-mail as they exist today. The human/machine interface is suboptimal, and don't get me started on lack of effective E-mail tools, including spam filtering ...

RFID: No cocktail parties ... Closer to retail-world changer, but until I can use it to, for example, find the lost tool that I know is somewhere in the garage, it won't transform my personal life. I have thought about several innovative uses for RFID technology that aren't retail but are very practical. It is being embraced at various levels in my company. I'm not personally affected yet, but I'm intrigued by the possibilities.

Kids: If they show aptitude in the basic skill sets required for various technology careers, I encourage them to check it out further. All four of my kids are tech users at some level (all are gamers, all use PCs, one has built a PC, most have taken various classes, etc.). Technology is not going away, and even if you don't work *in* the field, technology affects everything from music/art to banking to agriculture. Technological proficiency expands opportunities in all fields.

My $0.02, tchotchke or not.

Calvin Olsen



Your question:
As the economy picks up, would you recommend to your children that they pursue a career in your field? Why or why not?

My answer:
First, the field I'm in: On the outside, my resumé would be IT/help-desk manager. Under the covers, however, it's also contract negotiation, relationship management (with vendors), project management, R&D, PR, logistics, and, of course, cost control. What's great about technology is that it's constantly evolving. The help-desk-management aspect stays the same in that you'll always have to deal with people, problems, and the fact that things break and need to be fixed. I'm always playing Let's Make A Deal with some gray area of responsibility. I'm also in charge of leading 15 people and dealing with all of the incidentals, egos, and issues that accompany personnel management.

Some people say, "Geez, I could NEVER do that! People whining all the time, always dealing with people who don't want to help themselves!" Yes, I run into those, but that's just a very small price to pay. I think I have the best job for me. And why? To answer, let's look at what I actually do. Best put, I spin plates on sticks. I solve problems. But this is a good thing, as I'm intelligent and get bored easily. And technology is the perfect vehicle to keep the answers, ideas, and combinations thereof fresh and interesting. It's never the same job two days in a row.

But would I recommend it to my children? I think it depends on the child. While I don't think I'd recommend it for career aspirations for my kids, I think it's a GREAT starting place. In IT, you can have a great springboard for almost whatever else you want to do. Today, technology touches EVERYTHING. It has enabled me to have security, flexibility, and lack of boredom. Now that I have kids and my priorities have changed, I'm really seeing its merits. No one else wants my position because of erroneous perceptions of what it entails (above). However, I do a great job, the pay is pretty good, and I have a fantastic boss. The good thing is, my kids are 2-1/2 and 4, so by the time I am hearing of their dreams, IT will be totally different. Hopefully, there will be more women in technology by then! I know that the people-skills aspect of it will still be there, though. Although I started out studying biology and journalism and fell into IT, I'm really best categorized today as a businessperson who likes technology. Most of my co-workers are techies who have been forced into the business world, so it can make things VERY interesting. Of the 30 people in our segment of the organization, there are three women. We're quite outnumbered. One thing though: If my kids can get along with technologists, they can make it anywhere in business.

I sometimes think that landed short of my aspirations. It was a fine place to land though, and my career isn't over. Who knows what the future brings. I may be doing something totally different in another year, and still be in IT.

Judith A. Farrell
SEI INVESTMENTS
TSU-Corporate Information Technology



Who gets your vote for your least-favorite person: (a) SCO chief ambulance-chaser Darl McBride; (b) the hacker who created the MyDoom virus; (c) Donald Trump; or (d) the juror who tanked the Tyco trial?

A or B. I dislike people trying to get stuff they don't deserve, whether that's the SCO idiots who are trying to stop the open-systems movement for their own dubious reasons (and I don't think they own Unix) or unscrupulous executives who think they are above the law and the idiots there who agree with them.

The hacker isn't the first nor will be the last or greatest we'll see thanks to the wide openness of the Net and code from the west. Donald is just a Donald. He doesn't affect my life.

What do you think of Infosys' recent announcement of its plans to hire 500 U.S. consultants over the next three years? Is it (a) a move aimed at placating an American public that feels victimized by the rise of India as a business-technology power; (b) a sudden and unexpected indication that India's rapidly growing economy has pushed incomes in that country so high that Infosys can now find qualified talent in the United States at lower wages; or (c) another example of a highly efficient global economy aligning resources and capabilities with business opportunities?

I would hope (b), so that the flood of jobs going overseas because of cheaper labor would stop flowing, but I think it's more (a) to keep us happy and stupid until we have no jobs left here in the United States; (c) is what the businesses doing the offshoring are already telling us.

From which line of business does IBM generate the most revenue: (a) hardware, including all servers, PCs, mainframes, storage, etc.; (b) services; (c) software? Is that leading revenue-generator in decline and likely to be supplanted soon, or in ascendancy and likely to become the company's dominant offering? Will this affect how the company goes to market? Will this affect how other companies-whether in category a, b, c, or all of the above-position themselves and relate to you? Do you care? Should you care?

I don't know if (c) is their No. 1 generator yet, but I know it's growing and probably will be soon. I think it's a good direction for them since they don't dominate the hardware and operating-system markets any more, and hopefully with open source no one will. Services on how to get it all to work will be a valuable commodity.

If you had the power to change one thing about your job--just one thing, no matter how large or small, grand or pedestrian--what would it be?

For management to actually value and listen to the technical expertise they pay me to cultivate.

At cocktail parties these days (that's a bit of a fib--I can't remember the last time I was at a cocktail party, and I hope it's at least as long until I have to go to the next one), everyone's talking about RFID. Is it a world-changer, or a worthless and overhyped solution in search of a problem? Is your company thinking about it, exploring it, deploying it, or ignoring it? Do you care? Should you care?

We aren't dealing with RFID yet, but I think everyone eventually will.

As the economy picks up, would you recommend to your children that they pursue a career in your field? Why or why not?

No, with the current environment toward offshoring, I would not recommend my children go into a technical field, even though both I and my husband are in the tech industry. When I was in college, technical fields were the salvation of my generation and the place to go. Manufacturing jobs were going overseas to lower-paid labor, so you couldn't depend on having a union job all your life with which to support a family, as many in my parents' generation did. Now I would recommend management or government service. During layoff periods, they always get rid of more actual doers than managers, and we'll ALWAYS have government officials. They did in Rome and ancient China, and we will in the future.

Barbara Koenen



There is one risk of outsourcing that you don't hear enough about. A company loses vital experience in some of the business processes that are vital to its operation. Think about how a company is disrupted if a key individual in a department leaves. Now think about the disruption if that department was an outsourced service. Think about how corporate relationships can go sour over some perceived ill.

Now imagine how much knowledge of key business processes that American companies are "exporting" with those offshoring activities. What happens if one of those countries that we are offshoring to decides to nationalize businesses as happened in Portugal, Mexico, Saudi Arabia? Read the book Debt Of Honor by Tom Clancy. How much control does an offshored operation have over things that happen in "headquarters"? What kind of loss of core business knowledge can a company afford? What happens if a company has to restart those processes anew in its stateside operations?

I would love to see a column that explores these questions.

Michael F. Stanton
Unisys
Roseville, Minn.



Well now... let's just see what we have here.

Least favorite person: Assuming the "The Donald" and Darl are actual distinct individuals (have you ever seen them together?), I'll go with Darl (despite the Trump's worst haircut that obscene amounts of money can buy).

Infosys: Oh, please! While I'm sure that there are those that will lovingly attempt to convince us that what we have here is the investment in a global economy finally paying off, let's go with A.

IBM revenue: Services (more than hardware and software combined).

Harry Lewis



I'll start with two snide comments, then point out three simple philosophies behind three not-so-simple operating systems. I know certain words that have vague definitions are in vogue these days, but a shibboleth by any other name is still a shibboleth. Oops, I just got run through. I must have said cloodge instead of kludge.

Snide remark 1:
Speaking of tchotchkes. Gesundheit.

Snide remark 2:
You must also be a Unix, Linux aficionado, the operating system of shibboleths.

Operating-system philosophies:

Microsoft Windows:
Most users know nothing about computers. A user still needs to feel that he/she is in control of the computer and comfortable in the driver's seat. A good operating system should know the mistakes most users will make and correct them automatically. That way the user will not feel threatened by the computer and even think, "Hey, this computer understands me!"

Steven Jobs/Apple MAC:
Most users know nothing about computers. A good operating system should be intuitive and not allow the users to have any control over it. That way the user will not feel threatened by the computer and will think, "Hey, this computer understands me!" This illusion can be heightened by the use of cute pictures and smiley faces sprinkled generously throughout.

Unix/Linux:
Users should have maximum control over their computer. In order to operate one a user must enter into a deep dark chasm of kernels, troffs, and greps. To really be IN, a user should be willing to learn C, C++, and scripting languages for korns, bashes, and cshells, and others, often called Perls, ants, rexes, and Gnomes, go places where no user has gone before.

Given these three approaches to operating systems, I can see why Microsoft has little to worry about.

Jim Blastic
IMSD Network Applications Specialist
Milwaukee County Medical Examiner



"The future is already, here it's just unevenly distributed" is a saying I have used for years. Your analysis of the intelligence agencies government versus private ignores two central issues. The people we want information on do not participate in the technology society and assisting the United States is the act of a traitor. That it will take years to gain knowledge of a vicious nontechnological society should be no surprise.

The business world could help much better if it funded, via government agency, the purchase of the raw drug supply from the farmers. This sudden shortage would drive up the price of drugs and strain the networks that rely on steady cash flows and mark-ups along the distribution trail. A standing army of terrorists and narco-guards needs a steady flow of cash. Who knows what could be done with a few million tons of opium and cocaine?

Andy Johnson



Who gets your vote for your least-favorite person: (a) SCO chief ambulance-chaser Darl McBride; (b) the hacker who created the MyDoom virus; (c) Donald Trump; or (d) the juror who tanked the Tyco trial?

The juror in the Tyco trial stinks, but Donald Trump personifies what's truly wrong with this country. Our culture has deteriorated to a point where mindless TV blather has replaced any sense of common good. Yeah, I want to go on TV and have someone treat me like an idiot and insult me ...

What do you think of Infosys' recent announcement of its plans to hire 500 U.S. consultants over the next three years? Is it (a) a move aimed at placating an American public that feels victimized by the rise of India as a business-technology power; (b) a sudden and unexpected indication that India's rapidly growing economy has pushed incomes in that country so high that Infosys can now find qualified talent in the United States at lower wages; or (c) another example of a highly efficient global economy aligning resources and capabilities with business opportunities?

We already know that India places a much higher standard on education than this country does (unless you're an athlete). It has passed us and there isn't thing one that anyone wants to do about it, except ignore it, criticize it, and try to law it away. The announcement means nothing.

From which line of business does IBM generate the most revenue: (a) hardware, including all servers, PCs, mainframes, storage, etc.; (b) services; (c) software? Is that leading revenue-generator in decline and likely to be supplanted soon, or in ascendancy and likely to become the company's dominant offering? Will this affect how the company goes to market? Will this affect how other companies--whether in category a, b, c, or all of the above--position themselves and relate to you? Do you care? Should you care?

IBM always manages to survive. I do care. It is a good company.

If you had the power to change one thing about your job--just one thing, no matter how large or small, grand or pedestrian--what would it be?

I like my job and my company is one of the best to work for on the planet. But I need a new laptop.

At cocktail parties these days (that's a bit of a fib--I can't remember the last time I was at a cocktail party, and I hope it's at least as long until I have to go to the next one), everyone's talking about RFID. Is it a world-changer, or a worthless and overhyped solution in search of a problem? Is your company thinking about it, exploring it, deploying it, or ignoring it? Do you care? Should you care?

This one is tough. This is a good idea whose time has come. I don't think everyone is ready and it could spell disaster like some SAP implementations. Watch out.

As the economy picks up, would you recommend to your children that they pursue a career in your field? Why or why not?

No, I have told them to stay away from IT. Again, we as a nation are taking away the incentives to do anything in this field.

Michael J. Skiles



I'm between assignments at the moment, and have a few moments to muse on this week's "Between The Lines."

The Scarecrow from The Wizard Of Oz, after many adventures, had his head filled with cereal. It's never been clear to me why bran worked better than straw, but apparently filling your head with denser material can cause you to instantly learn the Pythagorean theorem. The rest of us, after our many adventures in business and IT, have apparently filled our heads with opinions; bran might be better. Our ideas are not likely to be better than the scarecrow's before he got his "bran new brain." Nevertheless, the questions raised are especially entertaining to consider.

Two short comments about why it will take years for our government to seamlessly integrate the many security agencies: It's not a technology problem, and most businesses aren't democracies.

The least-favorite-person survey includes some doozies. I am having a hard time choosing between those listed. However, I find it interesting that we are more likely to revile the juror rather than Dennis Kozlowski, Mark Swartz, and their cronies. Or the person who sent the letter threatening the 79-year-old juror. My write-in vote goes to the Tyco executives.

I think Infosys' announcement serves three purposes: Primarily, I think the global marketplace is balancing things out a bit. I'm also convinced the company's management thinks the move will placate some Americans. Finally, the move may be a response to recent news that some companies are pulling their support back onshore. A reasonable response to this threat is to hire "locals" specifically to improve coordination and communication.

Railroads have been using RFID for at least a decade. Universal "tagging" of rail equipment (locomotives, freight and passenger cars) was driven from within the industry, and financial incentives were employed (some roads actually made their tagging operations a profit center by applying tags to equipment belonging to other roads and billing them for it, as permitted by the agreement). The problems to be overcome were large and many: equipment not tagged, two cars with the same tag, placement of tags on equipment, spurious readings from nearby equipment, signal reflections, RFID equipment maintenance and failures, separating the meaningful events from those you are not interested in (such as someone moving a pallet to make room for a new shipment, and the inventory on that pallet being processed as new inventory), standards for communicating the scanned event, fallback procedures for RFID equipment failures, processing the massive amounts of input data, and integrating the information into the operational systems. In the long run, RFID produced significant operating efficiencies; more importantly, it helped with customer service. There were fewer errors in reporting shipment locations, improved forecasting ability, and an improved ability to share shipment locations with customers.

Finally, I would still enthusiastically recommend the information-technology business to those people who have both the aptitude and the interest. None of my four children has followed in my occupational footsteps, and I think this was probably best for both them and the industry. I have worked with people who seemed to be in the business for the wrong reasons: money, opportunity, geek chic, pushed into it, etc. Many of those people will never realize their potential and will require help and support for their entire careers. However, for those who have the aptitude, intelligence, and drive, the variety is endless and opportunities for creativity abound.

David Willard
Principal, Public Sector Group
AMS



I want my shot at a trinket and 15 minutes of fame! Here goes:

Who gets your vote for your least-favorite person: (a) SCO chief ambulance-chaser Darl McBride; (b) the hacker who created the MyDoom virus; (c) Donald Trump; or (d) the juror who tanked the Tyco trial?

While the suddenly ubiquitous Mr. Trump is certainly annoying, the most recent bonehead with waaaay too much free time on his hands is the obvious choice in this group, so I'll vote for "b."

What do you think of Infosys' recent announcement of its plans to hire 500 U.S. consultants over the next three years?

While I'd certainly love to see Infosys using qualified talent in the United States at lower wages than in India because of a realignment of global economy resources, my gut feeling is that this is a very savvy PR ploy, so I'm voting for "a."

From which line of business does IBM generate the most revenue: (a) hardware, including all servers, PCs, mainframes, storage, etc.; (b) services; (c) software?

IBM is IBM. It continues to survive and prevail in a large part simply because it is IBM. (Take the highly entertaining, if geeky, Linux ads run last year. Who was that aimed at, after all? Knowledgeable executives in an effort to bring them back into the Blue fold.) So, I vote for option "D": all of the above!

If you had the power to change one thing about your job--just one thing, no matter how large or small, grand or pedestrian--what would it be?

To eliminate the American business fixation on the quarterly/daily/weekly company stock price. It's time for vision and a "daily strategy" is what gets us the current sort of business fiascoes that we see in the press every day.

Is RFID a world-changer, or a worthless and overhyped solution in search of a problem?

This technology is destined to be the "flavor of the month" for a lot of the wrong reasons as marketing executives look to capture more customer data and supply-side managers look to better control and manage their inventory. However, it does have the potential to both revolutionize asset management and create mountains of information (especially if that data isn't properly managed).

Should we care? It depends. Any tagging technology does have the opportunity for mischief, so I think that we do need to watch its evolution and deployment from the standpoint of individual privacy. And, of course, if you are a storage specialist, this bears very careful watching for pitfalls and career opportunities!

As the economy picks up, would you recommend to your children that they pursue a career in your field? Why or why not?

I've had this conversation with some of my IT friends over the last couple of years. We have kids ranging in age from first grade to college bound.

All of us seem to feel the same way: The '70s, '80s, and '90s were very good to us and we had a lot of opportunities come our way. All in all a good run.

But the nature of the IT beast is that you are working for someone else, and, unlike 20 or 30 years ago, you simply can't trust them to look out for you and your welfare. The majority of the folks that I've discussed this issue with have said that, no, they wouldn't direct their kids into an IT career unless it was strictly in an academic pursuit. (Better to learn a trade if you want financial security--we always need, and will pay for, a plumber!)

Royal M. Richardson
Chester, N.H.



Intelligence agencies sharing information:

  1. They (the intelligence agencies) have to hire contractors, do reams of RFPs, and then hire the one they want.
  2. They (the intelligence agencies) don't know what is reasonable or not--they've been in the government too long to know.
  3. They (the intelligence agencies) really don't know what they want.
  4. The contractors know there will be huge scope creep because:
    • a. No one knows what they want.
    • b. The project will take so much time talking about it that the kitchen sink will creep in.
    • c. The contractors won't be hired if they have done for-profit work because they don't know the government--see item No. 2 above; it applies to the contractors as well.
    • d. So they have to multiply the time frame by four and add the seven people they couldn't find jobs for in the past six months.
  5. Each agency will want to protect its own turf--there isn't a CIO or CEO that could say, "Do this by 9/17/04 or I'll find someone who can," to all the agencies that are involved.
  6. They (government empire builders) will decide it needs to be a separate agency since they can't get everyone to work nice--around Jan 27, 2005.
  7. None of the systems have any similarities--data fields, data models, relationships, processes.
  8. None of the systems have up-to-date, complete, accurate documentation or metadata.
  9. Each agency has more than two systems that are incompatible and collect similar but "different" information, and there are no standards within that agency, or, if there are published standards, they are ignored.
  10. All of the systems started out small, single purpose and have grown over the years with no thought to architecture or standards or future growth thus they are penultimate examples of spaghetti code.

Dave Davis



My least-favorite person would be the hacker!

I am not sure if the RFID technology is going to take off in the way everyone expects it to, but should it actually do so, I think the supply lines will be gain greatly from it. After all, it should streamline the business flow with automated recording of data. Otherwise, I am keeping a wait-and-see attitude about the whole situation.

I don't have children yet, but this is a very open-ended question. I am unsure if I would tell them to pursue a career in my field or not. I think there is definitely a place for my position in most small businesses that do not have the money to outsource. But this is a changing field, and I am not sure what I would do here.

Josh Owings Advanced Automation



If I had the power to change one thing about my job, what would it be?

I would make end users understand the importance of submitting their requests in writing with full specs and an acceptable deadline. So much of my time and my staff's time is spent dealing with user requests where they want something now without understanding the level of effort involved. They also change their specs halfway through the game, making the time it takes to complete their request even longer since we have to reprogram based on their new specs.

If only the end users would give us what they want and need up front, it would make my job so much easier.

As the economy picks up, would you recommend to your children that they pursue a career in your field?

Honestly, no. In a recent straw poll across my department, I found that the vast majority of people were considering changing careers to something other than our current field. I know I'm considering leaving IT to go into medicine as either a paramedic or an RN. With the increasing outsourcing of IT jobs from the United States and the aging of the baby-boomer population, we're going to need more health-care workers over the next 10 years than we need IT people. In my group, we're burned out on the politics involved with IT and the constant fighting with the end users and management about meeting deadlines and scope creep.

I'm not saying that my children couldn't succeed in a career in IT, but I would encourage them to do something that their heart is in, so they enjoy what they do. IT has lost all the enjoyment it once had for me.

Who gets my vote for my least-favorite person? Since you didn't give the option of President Bush, I'll have to go with SCO chief-ambulance pusher Darl McBride.

What do I think of Infosys' recent announcement of its plans to hire 500 U.S. consultants over the next three years?

Honestly, I think it's mostly letter (a) regarding placating Americans, though I don't really think they feel victimized by the rise of India. Having hired IT contractors to come in for projects, the Indians are very good at what they do, but there is often a language barrier with them because of accents. That's not to say I haven't seen the same kinds of barriers when you put someone from New York in a room with someone from down South.

I think Infosys is responding to concerns of not being able to communicate with the people they have working as consultants. Of course, its announcement also makes me think of hiring quotas and wonder how it can get away with this from an EEO standpoint, but that's Infosys' problem not mine.

Todd Schoonover



Your April 19 column in InformationWeek was a good one. I won't try to answer all your questions, but I will respond to one of them.

You asked about IBM and its revenue sources. Paraphrasing, you asked, "Which delivers the most revenue: hardware, software or services? And what are the trends?"

There's no mystery here. IBM is a public company and publishes the breakdown of its revenue figures at that level. If you examine the IBM annual reports from fiscal year 2003 and prior years, you'll see that:

- Services revenue for IBM was 47.8% of overall revenue for 2003, fully 16 points higher (50% higher) than revenue from hardware, which was 31.7%. No context on the leading revenue producer for IBM.

- Services revenue as a portion of overall revenue has been growing steadily for years. In the years 2000-03, the numbers have been 39%, 42%, 45%, and then 47.8%. Fiscal year 2001 was the first year that services revenue exceeded hardware revenue for IBM. Will fiscal year 2004 results show that more than 50% of overall revenue for IBM is from services? Yes, if the trend continues.

- Conversely, hardware revenue as a portion of overall revenue has been shrinking for years. In the years 2000-03, the percentages have been 40.5%, 36.8%, 33.8%, and now most recently 31.7% Hardware revenue also dropped in absolute terms: The hardware revenue numbers for these years were $34.5 billion, $30.6 billion, $27.5 billion, and $28.2 billion, respectively. The decline has been aided by the sell-off of the disk drive business to Hitachi, but nonetheless this decline is large and significant in the hardware business lines IBM retains. The uptick in the economy and the launch of the new T-Rex mainframe (z990) during fiscal year 2003 has interrupted the long-term trend of declining hardware revenue for IBM. But it remains to be seen whether the declining trend will resume in 2004.

- While services is the largest revenue producer for IBM, software is the largest profit center. Yes, IBM's gross profit from software is larger than the profit from services or hardware. According to IBM's publicly disclosed figures, the IBM software group delivered about half as much revenue as the IBM hardware group, but 60% more gross profit! Comparing to services, software delivered just one-third the revenue, but 15% *more* profit.

The next question was, "Will this affect how the company goes to market?" And the answer is, of course it will. IBM wants to continue to grow its profit and will attempt to grow those businesses that support this goal. Meaning that hardware will continue to decline, while services and software will get investment.

IBM will continue to use services and software as mutually reinforcing businesses. Complex software drives the need for services to make sense of it all. And an army of 180,000 IBM consultants is a great channel through which to sell IBM software.

My question to you: Shouldn't IBM change its name to "IBS&S": International Business Services and Software?

Dino Chiesa



Here are my thoughts on the issues you raised.
  1. Two of the people you listed are in a dead heat for my least favorite person: the juror who derailed the Tyco trial, for convincing herself that if greedy, self-aggrandizing executives don't feel their actions are wrong, they should not be held accountable for their deeds of rape and pillage; and Darl McBride, a mouse who thinks he can roar by trying to terrorize users of a superior operating system.
  2. For your Infosys question, "c" is the most likely answer, although I'm not convinced that there isn't a fair amount of "a" thrown into the mix.
  3. I believe that IBM generates most of its revenue from software and services, areas that should provide significant growth opportunities for Big Blue. This should motivate a lot of companies to examine how they meet my needs, rather than how they can sell me their products.
  4. If I could change one thing about my job, it would be how the CEO and Executive Committee view what I do. All the flowery "execu-speak" aside, they don't know what I do, and they don't care. They are clueless as to how my efforts create jobs--and wealth--for them.
  5. RFID has the potential to improve the qualify of life of almost everyone. It's a solution that needs to be properly managed in order to protect the privacy of individuals, but it could have a major impact on many areas of my life. My employer is investigating it, and I hope he pursues the technology to reduce our costs and improve our responsiveness to customers.
  6. In a little over three weeks my son will receive his bachelor's degree in computer science. He spent last summer working as an intern in the IT department of a local utility and was asked to stay on part time during this past school year. He has been offered a full-time position and will start as soon as he receives his degree. There are major changes occurring in the IT field, but my son loves what he's doing, and I believe he should pursue it. However, I have strongly recommended that he not only gain expertise in IT, but also learn as much as he can about his new employer's business. After all, companies don't hire IT workers because IT is a neat field or even because there is IT work to be done. They hire competent, qualified IT professionals because their efforts contribute to the bottom line of the business. And IT professionals who understand how their efforts contribute to the business success of their employers will survive the current turmoil, and even prosper through it. That's part of what's made America great--growing and adapting to an ever-changing environment.

Matt Hinkle



Hands down Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Ashcroft, plus the coterie of their associates.

I realize that the above is more than one, but I hope that will be changed by the next election.

I keep reading about all the polls, but as far as I know not one of friends, family, or myself have ever been questioned.

Samuel Kahn



Here's what I think I heard regarding the length of the critical path for changing/improving our intelligence services:

The problem is really finding, screening, selecting, and training the very large group of people with the language, cultural, and technical skills necessary to make the system work well. The absence of key language knowledge, by trustworthy individuals, has to be a minimum five-year problem just by itself.

I am more concerned that the gap is more nearly 50 years than five. Two generations sounds about right to correct this massive missing link.

Technology and culture march to two vastly different drummers.

M.W. Ehlers



There I was trudging down my own private brick road. One foot in front of the other. Straw slipping quietly out of my sleeve and then YOU DID IT!

How to get the FBI and CIA to coordinate/talk to/converse sooner rather than later? I do believe Dorothy would be proud of me. Yes, I have it right there on the tip of my chaff. Are you ready for this?

Go to one of these single find-a-mate sites. Locate 50 females who have spent the last five years trying to get their significant other to pop the question or at least move the head up and down when she said, "Will you marry me please?"

Out of the 50, select those that have been successful in getting those 30-something male to meet them at the alter. Now start to take notes because they can tell you what you need to do to get the FBI's and the CIA's to say yes.

Ah, there you have it. They spent the five years learning by trial and error what that Mr. Tennet will never figure out. Don't thank me. It's too late. Most of the straw is gone.

Oh, that's right, you had other questions. Drifted off there for a bit. Let's see, I pick Mr. Nice Try McBride; Infosys' finds talent in the United States without overtime paid; Big Blue mainframes, I care cause I don't want my card folded; learn how to spell; we're attaching RFID tags to every foreign national we can find on this side of our borders; not one of my children became a graduate engineer; not one of my grandchildren became one, currently working on my great-grandson, who is 8 months.

Stan Bishop



The issue of sharing information between security levels is much harder than you give it credit for. The first issue is identifying the data, then finding a way to mark it so there is no mistake. And then after you go through hoops to get the security folks to buy off on it, someone takes a shortcut because "those procedures were way too restrictive," and you have a corruption of data and have to start all over. Information sharing is done, but it is very carefully controlled.

My least-favorite person is Darl McBride. By far he has shown little redeeming value. Have you ever used SCO Unix? It's like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer. It feels so good when you stop. To compare SCO Unix to Linux is really a crazy comparison as people actually like using Linux.

I think Infosys' decision to start hiring in the United States is a recognition that we are in somewhat of a global economy and you need to "have boots on the ground," as they say. It would have been ridiculous for the company to assume that it could run a business just in India to satisfy requirements and customers here in the United States. As we have overseas sales reps to understand the local customs and needs, the same goes for them.

I would guess that IBM generates the most revenue from services and will probably be their dominant offering. In the past I have worked with IBM, and the thing that makes its hardware and software so attractive is the specialized services that come with them.

If I could change one thing about my job it would be to get management to understand that some people are just no good and should be moved aside when it is apparent they are a problem. That even includes me if I am the problem as I may not always realize it.

RFID is destined to be like Y2K. Everybody gets all worked up about it, and when it finally happens everybody wonders what the fuss was all about.

Even if the economy picks up, I don't think I would recommend to my kids that they do IT as a pure play. IT as an integral part of running a business is what it is all about. I really don't miss the days when the system administrator was king, as most SAs didn't truly understand what their purpose in life was every day (making the business run). We need less arrogance and more listening to what the workers needs are instead of shoving technology at them.

Ray Williams



On the "blazing speed" issue, have you considered that the financial institutions you compared the government to do not still use 30-year-old systems and do not have civil-service employees who cannot be fired even though they only bother to come to work two days a week? (Technically I suppose they can be fired, but as a practical matter, they cannot be.)

Perhaps it's just as well that governments cannot move at blazing speed. We might all be road-kill!

Richard Gilbert

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