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"In the new millennium, we will become our machines. We're going to put technologies in our bodies faster than we build man-made machines. We will not be the same species any more"- Rodney Brooks, director, MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab.

WIRELESS

Liver Longer

You often hear dedicated users of wireless handhelds exclaim: "I can't lose that, my life is in there!" Now, there's even more truth to that. Last June, Vitagen, a California-based biotechnology company, began using wireless devices to manage randomisation for a series of clinical trials for an artificial liver system called the Extracorporeal Liver Assist Device (ELAD). The ELAD contains live human liver cells and can support a patient's liver functions for up to 10 days, by which time hopefully he will have had the needed transplant. Vitagen's clinical trials were in high demand, and doctors needed to know which patients involved in the trials were receiving the ELAD treatment and which were in a control group. Using a software program developed by the contract research organisation Synteract and the SAS Institute doctors were able to access randomisation codes (tracking which patients are treated with the new device and which with standard treatment) via handheld devices over a wireless connection, saving vital time.

Before the applications were developed, doctors used phone, fax or e-mail to access up-to-date information, which was maintained by Synteract. Now, instead of lugging laptops from room to room, doctors can do their job anywhere as long as they have a Palm VII with them. "The patients we work with are critically ill," said Patrick Maguire, Vitagen's vice president of medical affairs and technology development. "It is absolutely mandatory that we get the right information to the right people at the right time."

- Simone Kaplan.

QUIZ Can't Get No . . .

Satisfied at work? This exercise shows how your level of engagement at work compares with your peers. The norms are based on a database from Hughes Research Worldwide of more than 50,000 employee surveys, including 14,000 from managers or supervisors. The exercise is part of a new assessment tool called PerformanceTrack, created by Boston-based Provant, a provider of performance improvement training products and services. To take the exercise, indicate your level of agreement with the statements on the right. For each, score 1 if you strongly disagree, 2 if you disagree, 3 if you're neutral, 4 if you agree and 5 if you strongly agree.

On a daily basis, when I am at work, I experience a sense of:

Accomplishment

Being valued

Belonging

Direction

Empowerment

Respect

Honesty

Integrity

Involvement

Optimism

Pride

Recognition

Security

Success

Trust

Appreciation

Fairness

TOTAL

Scoring.

Total your ratings for all 17 statements and divide by 17. Divide the new number by 4, and multiply the resulting number by 100.

If you scored100 or higher you are hard charging and fulfilled and rank in the top quartile of employees.

If you scored 92 to 99, you are basically fulfilled and rank in the second quartile.

If you scored 83 to 91, you are just hanging in and rank in the third quartile.

If you scored below 83, you are demoralised and rank in the bottom quartile.

This isn't meant to help you determine if you should stay at your job or not. It can, however, give you a clear picture of where your level of personal motivation ranks, and help you identify elements of your work environment that block or facilitate your personal motivation.

MANAGING SOFTWARE PEODUCTS.

Compiled by Lorraine Cosgrove Ware.

For the past seven years, The Standish Group International has studied success and failure rates for tens of thousands of corporate software development projects with set budgets and deadlines. The year 2000 results for the so-called Chaos study show that IT organisations are smarter, delivering more applications on time, with promised functionality and within budget. Standish Chairman James Johnson says that IT departments setting shorter project life cycles and gaining executive management support were key factors in the improved showing.

Best Practices.

1. Adopt microproject methodologies. Johnson recommends that companies adopt four project management methods for software projects: an iterative development process, a standard infrastructure for building applications, a set scheme for managing developers' collaboration, and automatic testing and inspection. Companies should not have to re-create infrastructure for each new project. Establish delivery time frames of no greater than 60 days, from the requirements and design specification stage to completion. Smaller steps are better: Deliver smaller components of a project more frequently and get users' reactions. Faster feedback will keep projects on course and cut waste.

2. Involve users early and often. Get users involved early in the design and testing stages. "Don't develop something and then push it down users' throats," Johnson says. "Users have to perceive value in what you deliver. More frequent delivery of application components and regular communication is the best way to demonstrate IT value."

3. Get executive sponsorship. It is critical that senior management, users and IT all share the same vision for a software development initiative. Johnson sees greater project success in companies where senior executives envision the goals of a project and communicate that throughout the company. Project failures are typically the result of organisational problems, such as conflicting goals and disagreements among different people in the organisation. Shared goals across an organisation create fewer disconnects.

E-MAIL.

Flame Retardant.

Ever hit that "send" button and then wished you hadn't? Have hot words come back to burn the seat of your pants? For the emotionally rash and the impetuously opinionated, Eudora, a division of the San-Diego-based Qualcomm, offers an e-mail feature to help spare you those uncomfortable or career-threatening mishaps.

MoodWatch flashes a chilli pepper image in a dialogue box if it detects in your message text any language that may be considered "offensive, dictatorial, aggressive, insulting and rude". In fact, there's a range of hotness the program can sense, identified by one, two or three chillies. It can be turned off if you want to flame with abandon, and even when it's on it won't actually censor any message. As the Eudora Web site (www.eudora.com) says, "MoodWatch won't stop you from acting irresponsibly in e-mail; it will just let you know when you might be about to send a message you'll regret." Maybe this kind of tool will help chill the trend of office rage.

By Sandy Kendall.

DEVELOPMENT.

Know Thyself.

Before you begin planning Web-based applications, answer the following questions:

1. Who is your audience? You can make assumptions and demands of employees and distributors, for example, that you could never make with customers.

2. What is your audience's bandwidth? Don't dumb-down applications to accommodate a small percentage of low-bandwidth users. Instead, rely on caching methodologies that will yield a robust application that can be deployed to low-bandwidth clients and accessed directly by higher-bandwidth users.

3. What type of application are you building? HTML is highly capable of delivering relatively static content with minor user interaction but not so good for sophisticated business applications.

4. Are you replacing an existing system? Users will expect more and better functionality and performance.

5. How much data is involved? Using an intelligent client approach enables data to be compressed at the server and decompressed at the client. This can reduce response time by up to 95 per cent for large queries.

6. How much interactivity is involved? For application navigation and simple forms, HTML is a good choice. To enter or analyse data, an intelligent client is required.

7. What are your overall response-time requirements? Prototype solutions for functions that may exhibit poor response.

8. What are your printing requirements? For robust printing, employ a printing framework that allows functions to render themselves as printable with minimal coding.

9. Do you control the client? To accommodate many operating systems, browsers and connection bandwidths, you may have to use an HTML user interface. If you have more control of these elements, you'll have more choices.

10. Does the processing or data to be used in the application already exist in the enterprise? People creating Web apps are often outside IT and aren't aware of existing data and software assets, or view them as inaccessible. Redundant databases are created and duplicate codes are written to support the Web initiative - a maintenance and data integrity nightmare.

SOURCE: DONALD BERMAN, PRESIDENT, CS STRATEGIES

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