- 15 November, 2000 10:25
Allen Builds Shrine to Music Collection
You already own a film production company, a handful of professional sports teams and mansions all over the world. What should you do next? If you're Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, the answer is build an insanely expensive rock 'n' roll museum. The Seattle-based Experience Music Project, which opened in June, is equal parts memorabilia collection and musical amusement park.
The project has its roots in Allen's love for guitar luminary Jimi Hendrix but has grown to include more than 80,000 rock 'n' roll artifacts (picture Allen, surrounded by a crack team of ethnologists, meticulously deconstructing a Smashing Pumpkins poster). And while the Hendrix collection is one of the museum's largest, it also features an exhibit commemorating the Seattle jazz scene of the 1920s and a history of hip-hop. Complementing each are multimedia presentations, including song clips and video commentaries. Given Allen's background, it should come as no surprise that the Experience Music Project thrives on technology (already it houses enough data cable to encircle the earth). Visitors play instruments, test turntables and digitally master their own recordings in state-of-the-art sound labs.
If a trip to Seattle isn't in your future, many of the multimedia projects can be accessed through the Web at what may be the coolest site on the Internet (emplive.com). Music junkies (with broadband Internet access) can take several interwoven virtual tours tracing the chronologies of different genres. For example, zoom in on Elvis' contract with the Milton Berle Show while listening to "That's All Right, Mama". - Ben Worthen IT INVESTMENTS Learning from Bankers The Bank Administration Institute (BAI), Furash & company and the Financial Institutions Center of the Wharton School recently conducted a study called "Managing Technology Investment Decisions". It was for and about the banking industry but draws conclusions that could help almost any CIO. Besides reviewing existing research and literature, the research team interviewed senior retail executives, CIOs, marketing executives, PC/Web banking product managers and Internet project groups at seven North American banks. Among their findings and conclusions:
IS professionals must work with business management from the beginning of the technology decision process. "IS executives must be seen as part of the business unit management team," says Earl Fischl, executive director for strategic research at BAI, based in Chicago. Their role then evolves into that of a partner or consultant, giving them the opportunity to educate the business managers. "This leads to better up-front analysis of the business goals and what technology options exist to help them achieve those goals," Fischl adds.
IS departments need to do a better job educating end users about technology's potential to create opportunity for increased profit and performance. "Most [IS] departments continue to operate as a cost centre or job shop rather than as a unit that provides technology-based business ideas to the entire organisation," says Fischl.
Technology managers should use more sophisticated processes when analysing potential IT investments. Traditional evaluation models "cannot provide adequate measures of value", according to Fischl, because they often don't capture the value of intangibles, assess probabilities or help the organisation understand the value of future options. The report's authors recommend using evaluation strategies such as real-options analysis, scenario planning and decision trees.
For more information, visit www.bai.org/research. - Karen Witham LynchHOT TOPIC How Do CIOs Spell Stress?
Question: Which causes the most stress for CIOs and their staffs? a. The IS staffing crisis. b. Stock market fluctuations. c. Making the transition from old to new economy.
Answer: None of the above.
A new survey of 1400 CIOs found that their greatest source of workplace stress is, in fact, the work itself. Increasing workloads (55 per cent), office politics (24 per cent) and issues of work/life balance (12 per cent) are the top three sources of stress for IS workers, according to the new workplace stress survey released by IT consultancy RHI Consulting (US). The survey, conducted by an independent research company, includes responses from randomly selected CIOs at US companies with 100 or more employees. The survey also reveals that other sources of stress are commuting (4 per cent), pace of new technology (1 per cent), other (1 per cent) and don't know or no answer (3 per cent).
Greg Scileppi, RHI's executive director, points out that stress levels will only increase as the IS staffing crisis escalates and the economy continues to grow, so it's important for CIOs to find ways to ease their own burdens, as well as those of their weary staffs. "Recognising and taking steps to alleviate an overburdened staff can prevent turnover and allow companies to keep key IT initiatives on target," Scileppi says. Among his suggestions:
Bring in contractors to reduce workloads.
Improve communication and encourage team building to defuse office politics.
Involve employees in decisions about managing workloads; they may have new, creative solutions.
Plan and promote outside activities to break up the workplace monotony and give people a chance to bond and have fun.
For more information about the workplace stress survey results, visit RHI's Web site at www.rhic.com/inthenews. - by Tom FieldWho's Burnt Out?
Swain Consulting Group in New York City recently released a study indicating the susceptibility to burnout in various occupations. Life on Mahogany Row seems to have a soothing effect.
high moderate low
Editors 34% 38% 28%
Executive assistants 29% 40% 31%
Computer specialists 27% 35% 38%
Accountants 24% 44% 32%
HR personnel 19% 41% 40%
Administrators 19% 39% 42%
Senior-most executives 0% 25% 75%
New Tricks for Old Dogs
For those of us besieged by dotcom this and e-that, it may be hard to believe there are still people out there who aren't comfortable typing in www.whatever.com. But there are, and often they're members of the baby boom generation and adults who didn't have the advantage of growing up with the Internet. To help such first-time surfers catch the wave, some companies have launched innovative initiatives.
General Electric, for example, has taken a proactive approach to get its senior management up to Internet speed. The Connecticut-based corporation's Web mentoring program, in place since June 1999, pairs veteran management having little or no Web experience with younger, Web-savvy mentors. Initially limited to the top 500 executives, the program has since expanded to 3000, according to Pam Wickham, GE's manager of e-business communications and www.ge.com, and a Web mentor herself. That's only the official program, however. "Unofficially, there are thousands of mentor/mentoree relationships all over the company," she says. "Anyone who isn't completely comfortable with the Web these days is seeking a mentor to [help them] learn fast." The teams are paired based on Web knowledge and personality, and each pair determines its own topics. GE plans to continue the Web mentoring program until everyone is e-literate.
For first-timers who don't have access to such personal tutelage, Livineasy.com is a Web site that offers a graceful introduction to older Internet newcomers. The site provides a free, easy-to-digest, jargonless primer on using the Internet. It takes users through the basics like how to use a link, when to click once and when to click twice. Livineasy.com's approach has been well received since its launch in April 2000: The site gets between 30 and 40 thousand hits per month. - By Lafe Low BUSINESS STRATEGY Optimism's Downside Know the type? The growing dotcom, where everyone from the CEO down is positively bubbly about the company's prospects. The idea, of course, is to convince in-house talent and outside investors that the company is a winner.
But what may make business sense for a start-up in the short run is not a wise strategy over the long haul, according to new research. In fact, what psychologist Barbara Held of Bowdoin College in Maine, labels "the tyranny of the positive attitude" in our culture may backfire in the workplace, if there is too much pressure to be positive and if there are insufficient outlets for occasional targeted negativity. "Being [constantly] upbeat can lead to a tendency to think in a quick fix kind of way," adds Julie Norem, a social psychologist at Wellesley College who was part of a panel with Held on "The Overlooked Virtues of Negativity" at the American Psychological Association (APA) meeting in August. "Careful analysis might make us think about more negative [factors], which we don't want to do."
Norem and others say the pressure to be blindly optimistic has increased recently, aided by a flood of self-help books exhorting the power of positive thinking. Yet being too positive can impede good decision making in and out of the workplace, or lead to venting through bizarre manifestations. Norem notes, "People tend to be radically optimistic about when they can get things done and that often leads to sloppy work or missed deadlines."
Likewise, says Robin Kowalski, professor of psychology at Western Carolina University and an APA panellist, "The long bull market has fostered a sense of false optimism. And when the false front falls, as it has to, you're going to have some extremely disgruntled people." - By Alison Bass "Technology implementations fail because project management breaks down, not because the technology is no good" Geoff Watters, director, Electronic Enterprise Solutions, US Interactive