Evidence-based IT Improves a...

Stanford University professors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton
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Stanford University professors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton
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...team's odds for a project's success. Nothing sounds more obvious than nailing down the pertinent facts before venturing into an IT project. Yet it happens less often than you'd think, according to Stanford University professors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton, authors of Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management, to be published next month by Harvard Business School Press. The book is chockablock with examples of corporate executives running amok with fixed ideas about how the world ought to be as opposed to how it is. You'd think the bits-and-bytes reality of IT would be exempt, but you'd be wrong, says co-author Sutton. "IT is incredibly ideological," he says, noting the hard-core beliefs some IT managers have about, say, Linux vs. Windows. And, he says, workplace ideologies often conspire against projects at two levels. First, he says, CIOs don't always "calculate the real costs and real risks of big IT projects," such as ERP deployments. Often, Sutton argues, they just see the benefits to the company and "are a bit too overconfident in their own abilities." Second, he says, some CIOs ignore the past success of project teams when starting a new endeavor. He claims studies show that the No. 1 factor in a project's success is the experience that a team has working together. Too often IT execs mix up a team with new talent that undermines the chemistry that made it successful. Says Sutton, "In an era of distributed development teams, if you have a successful team, why would you break it up?"

Adam Miller, CEO of Cornerstone OnDemand Inc.
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Adam Miller, CEO of Cornerstone OnDemand Inc.
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Team creation: Is it a science...

...or is it an art? Sutton claims it's a bit of both, but Adam Miller argues you can turn it into more of an exact science with the right tools. His, of course. He's the CEO of Cornerstone OnDemand Inc. in Santa Monica, Calif., which offers its eponymous service for companies that want quantifiable measurements of worker performance, as well as career tracking and development. Miller claims that with the right data on IT staff members, a manager can assemble the best team for a project by simply telling the system what skills are necessary to get the job done. (It doesn't account for personality quirks.) The Cornerstone OnDemand service will deliver a list of those with the necessary talents. Miller claims that identifying team member skills is increasingly difficult, especially in large IT shops, because of such new realities as offshoring and the rapidly disappearing talent of baby boomers. The service starts at $30 per user per year.

Nien-Ling Wacker, CEO of Compu¿link Management Center Inc.
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Nien-Ling Wacker, CEO of Compu¿link Management Center Inc.
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'Disks are cheaper than...

...toilet paper." That's the observation of Nien-Ling Wacker. She's the CEO of Long Beach, Calif.-based Compulink Management Center Inc., which has done business since 1987 as Laserfiche. She calculates that it costs .00005 cents to store a document image on disk drives today, whereas a single sheet of two-ply TP runs .0004 cents. If disk drive makers move into the custodial business, she quips, there could be "paperless toilets." But it's a good thing for Laserfiche that the so-called paperless office never came to fruition, because there would be no need for its document management system. Laserfiche's tools scan in documents, and its Quick Fields software uses pattern recognition to populate and index templates for easy document storage and retrieval. You can even use Quick Fields to move stored documents into new forms for compliance and other purposes. Wacker says next year Quick Fields will add workflow capabilities. Pricing starts at $2,500.

Mark Palmer, vice president of event stream processing at Progress Software Corp.
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Mark Palmer, vice president of event stream processing at Progress Software Corp.
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Develop intelligence into...

...real-time events. If you are building applications that are fed by vast and rapid streams of data, such as credit card processing, radio frequency identification and network security systems, you're a candidate for the emerging field of event-stream processing development. Or so hopes Mark Palmer, vice president of event stream processing at Progress Software Corp. in Bedford, Mass. He argues that most programmers "need a new attitude, a new way of thinking" when it comes to creating applications that apply intelligence in real time to these environments. "It's not the query and response thinking" of traditional business intelligence, he says. He claims the breakthrough that Progress made was the ability to overcome the "temporal constraints" on multiple patterns in real-time data with its Apama Event Processing Language. Progress ships a suite of tools that are designed to let you model, store and correlate events so you can detect patterns in the data in real time. It ships a specific module called a smart block for equity trades and later this year will ship another module, though Palmer would not say whether it would be for fraud detection, security or RFID applications.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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