It’s Already a Very Interesting Year

This is really shaping up to be a fascinating year for information technology. Every week there seems to be a new surprise coming from a vendor, a corporation or the government.

Last month ended with word of computer worms being targeted at the Mac. This was a shock to me and other Apple users, who have long considered the Mac a safe haven from computer hackers.

The same “this can’t really be happening” feeling was probably shared by customers over the past month as the vendor of Web-accessible customer relationship management software suffered several service outages. Though brief, the disruptions reportedly kept customers from logging in to the applications service, which is supposed to be available 24/7. The company reportedly blamed the problems in part on a computer systems upgrade.

And it’s not just the computer vendors who are dealing with new challenges. The folks at JetBlue are probably wondering what’s going on. The airline, which seemed to be doing everything right from a business and technology perspective, recently disclosed that more than $6 million of a reported $42.4 million fourth-quarter loss was attributed to “development costs related to a maintenance and inventory tracking system that will not be implemented.”

The government is facing some technology challenges, too.

The Transportation Security Administration just suspended its Secure Flight passenger screening program because of what published reports said were security concerns. The program, under which every domestic airline passenger’s name would be checked against government watch lists, has been in the works for a number of years. It has cost the government about $200 million, according to the reports, and has missed several deadlines. The project is undergoing an information-technology systems audit.

Meanwhile, over at the State Department, officials announced a Global Internet Freedom Task Force, which is charged with protecting free speech on the Net. As syndicated columnist James P. Pinkerton noted: “The same Uncle Sam who brought us such secret operations as Carnivore, Total Information Awareness and the National Security Agency wiretaps is now giving the world the gift of free and open speech. Ri-i-i-ight.”

At the local level, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was talking to a city clerical worker earlier this year when Hizzoner noticed that the man’s computer screen displayed a game of solitaire. Bloomberg subsequently fired the employee. “We pay city employees to do the work that the public expects to be done,” Bloomberg told the New York Post. “The workplace is not an appropriate place for games.”

Seems like New York officials are really keeping their eye on the ball, right?

Let’s not forget, as Baseline reported in January, that an information systems director in the New York Office of Chief Medical Examiner has been charged with embezzling $11.4 million in federal funds that were earmarked for a computer system to help identify the remains of Sept. 11 victims.

All these incidents make for an interesting list—covering security to infrastructure to overall project management. Knowing that these areas have been cited in a Baseline survey (see “Top 10 Projects in ’06,” p. 17) as among the highest technology priorities for the year should provide a sense of relief that at least people are paying attention. After all, the first step in fixing problems is knowing there’s a problem in the first place.

But then ….


Dan Briody, executive editor at CIO Insight, another Ziff Davis publication, reported on his blog last month that a recent Gartner survey of 1,400 chief information officers found that more than two-thirds of them believed their competitors make better use of information, and create better opportunities for their businesses, than they do. And this left Briody shaking his head, as he realized how many CIOs are “absolutely convinced that they stink” at project management.

Yes, it’s going to be an interesting year.