The Business Effect As a consultant, I've understood for a long time that solving technical problems for clients is one thing; using technology to solve business problems (improve business processes) is quite another ("Processes On Our Minds -- And Yours," Oct. 14, 2002).
As clients are increasingly interested in the effect of technology investments on the bottom line, we'll see this synergy become more and more prevalent. We may even get to a point where technology will be measured only by its effect on business improvement. Ari Doukakis
President, AD Consulting, New York
Managing in real time, removing data latency, sensing information in real time, and reporting financials in real time are all ideas whose time has come. They weren't possible 10 or 12 years ago because most business processes weren't digitized. Today, every company service, process, activity, and objective can be digitized or has a digitized component, thereby allowing its precise status to be tracked by a digital dashboard. Within these implementations, you start to monitor what really counts, and it makes a big difference in terms of benefits.
I commend you on placing an ongoing focus on real-time business. William Mougayar
Author/Consultant, Global Rhythm Institute, Toronto
More Than Two-By-Fours
Home Depot is going to put in a data warehouse so it can figure out what its most profitable and fastest-moving items are ("An IT Fixer-Upper," Oct. 7, 2002). Then it can cut stock on the less-profitable or slower-moving items that builders and homeowners need only occasionally, and stock up on two-by-fours and 16d sinkers. Least-common-denominator inventory. I hope it uses the intelligence it gleans wisely. Geoff Hazel
Systems Administrator, Ciber, Seattle
Frequently, the people at the U.S. Patent Office simply don't understand enough about technology to properly apply the rules of patent law ("Here's One That's Just Patently Absurd," Oct. 7, 2002). To withstand challenge, a patent mustn't be based on design or methods that are obvious or self-evident to those who are experts in the field.
Conferring patent status on the computerized process of automating paperwork involved in international commerce will probably not survive a challenge unless it does something remarkably innovative.
It is, however, annoying. Many people, including investors and perhaps bureaucrats who may agree to license this technology, are unlikely to understand how fragile and irrelevant a patent like this might actually be. Frank Baker
Laguna Beach, Calif.
Making The Future
In answer to the question, "What's your obligation to keep the future alive?" author John Schaar, I guess, said it best: "The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination" ("Real-Time Business In The Real World," p. 60, Sept. 30, 2002). Michael Seidl
Major Gifts Manager,
Ohio State University, Westerville, Ohio
A Better Tomorrow
The best answer I've heard to "What's your obligation to keep the future alive?" is a quote from inventor Charles F. Kettering in the InformationWeek Daily newsletter: "We work day after day, not to finish things, but to make the future better ... because we will spend the rest of our lives there."
But Big Questions don't exist outside of a Big Context, and the context right now is economic frugality. Unfortunate yet understandable is the fact that high-minded aspirations fall by the wayside in a tough economy.
The winners in this game are the ones who thought creatively during the economic boom, who laid the groundwork for better business practices in a time of largess. Ed Honauer
Senior Systems Analyst, A.T. Cross, Lincoln, R.I.
Buy What's Supported
Knowing that a RISC-based machine isn't a long-term, supported product, who would buy it ("HP Eyes The Future," p. 34, Sept. 2, 2002)? It would be the equivalent of the IT manager saying to his boss, "Sure, I bought the dead horse," just before being fired. David Barto
Director of Software Development, Machine Vision Products, Carlsbad, Calif.
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