Stormy Weather

By Sari Kalin, CIO |  Career

PERSONAL COMPUTING PIONEER Alan Kay once said, "The best way to predict the future
is to invent it." But CIOs face a distinctly different challenge: They scan the
inventions of the day and decide which have the potential to shape their businesses'
future and which will never meet the inventors' expectations.

Looking back at the computer industry over the past 30 years, it's easy to see
which technologies have fundamentally changed the way we do business, such as the
personal computer and the Web. It's also easy to see which technologies never lived up
to their promise, such as computer-aided software engineering (CASE) and artificial
intelligence (AI). Yet it is still difficult for CIOs to forecast which core
technologies -- or even which vendors and products -- will fall into the former
category and which will fall into the latter.

Why? One reason may simply be vendor hype, combined with a technology press that
blows hot, then cold, over the latest buzzwords and gizmos. Today's headlines rave
about PDAs and outsourced applications; yesterday's raved about network computers and
massive ERP installations. Who knows what technologies will be blessed and cursed
tomorrow? Another reason may be that CIOs themselves can get too easily seduced by new
technology that doesn't live up to its promise in the time frame they expect;
conversely, they may not be able to foresee a technology's impact further down the
road. "We CIOs overestimate progress in the short term and underestimate progress in
the long term," says Jerry Gregoire, former CIO of Dell Computer Corp. in Round Rock,

Gregoire includees himself in this description. Though he's hesitant to admit it,
when the first color PC monitors came out, his first thought was, "What in the world do
we need color for?" Then there's the time about 10 years ago, while he was CIO at
Pepsi, that he backed an aggressive plan to add voice recognition capability to
delivery truck drivers' onboard computers so that the drivers could have safe, hands-
free computer access while they were on the road. Voice recognition on PCs was not
quite ready for prime time, but Gregoire was sure that it would be soon enough. "When
we started the project, I was thinking, 'They're going to get these problems solved and
we're going to be ready,'" Gregoire says. He learned the unfortunate lesson of what can
happen when the completion of a project hinges on an immature technology: When Pepsi
was ready to roll, voice recognition wasn't. "It was such a cool idea," Gregoire says,
with a reflective tone in his voice. "We spent a lot of money on it, but we never
solved it."

Join us:






Spotlight on ...
Online Training

    Upgrade your skills and earn higher pay

    Readers to share their best tips for maximizing training dollars and getting the most out self-directed learning. Here’s what they said.


    Learn more

Answers - Powered by ITworld

ITworld Answers helps you solve problems and share expertise. Ask a question or take a crack at answering the new questions below.

Ask a Question