Thursday, February 14, 2008

MIT Sloan Books

During my time I Sloan I have had the opportunity to work with some great professors and researchers. I just wanted to highlight some of the books they have written.

My CISR Research Advisor, George Westerman, recently released a new book called IT Risk. One reviewer put it nicely when he said it is the first IT risk book that didn't put him to sleep. George and his CISR colleagues do great work. Please check out his new book.

I am also working as a teaching assistant for Professor Tom Malone. His book, The Future of Work, has some great insights on the organizational changes that are happening due to the reduction in communication costs.

Outsourcing and Innovation

The CISR research project I have been working on for the last year, "Building an Environment for Innovation," is in the process of finishing up. My last case study for the project is focused on vendor innovation. Our research has found the vendor innovation and outsourcing should not be lumped together. Managed right vendor driven innovation can be an important piece of an innovation portfolio. This research will be available to CISR sponsors this spring. Until then the quotes from a recent CIO Magazine article do a good job of summing things up:

Indeed, most outsourcing SLAs and pricing models deter innovation. Take data center management. It’s the outsourcer’s responsibility to ensure 99.99 percent uptime or provide backup services. “The value add would be when the service provider looks at the environment and says, Now I understand how you support your business and I see that by leveraging this new technology or different hardware, we can improve the quality of the service or your costs,” says Taylor of Fluor, which is on its fourth major outsourcing contract since the mid-1990s. “But you’re paying the vendor X dollars per server so there’s no motivation for them to reduce that number.”

Fluor signed a new contract with IBM last year. “The lesson we learned was that we needed to put a more generic umbrella agreement in place for future innovation,” says Taylor. “There are specific towers of service in the scope of work that are commoditized. But there is also a separate agreement that will enable IBM to provide innovation in all kinds of areas, like virtualization.” The contract includes prenegotiated terms for future innovation around issues of indemnity, risk and intellectual property protection. “If we want to have IBM explore virtual desktops, there’s already a fabric in place. We don’t have to call the lawyers and go through a full negotiation each time,” explains Taylor. “And it’s separate from the rest of the outsourcing, so IBM doesn’t need to get reimbursed through the fees we pay for the commodity activity.” Now Fluor can increase and decrease services from IBM without penalty. “It’s important not to lock yourself in because you don’t get the benefit of innovations that present themselves every day,” Taylor says.

Grand Central Problems

I've been using Google's voicemail service Grand Central since September. The service lets you aggregate all your phone numbers (home, work, cell, etc) under one master number. When somebody calls you the service routes the call (or screens it) based on your preferences. It is a great concept that has a few bugs.

First, in an age where everyone has caller ID on their cell phones or at work, people get very confused when you call them back on a different number. Then the next time they call you they call back the other number and not your Grand Central number. For whatever reason, people just can't deal with the concept of a number with no home (i.e. the Grand Central number).

Second, all of the call routing preferences are based on your phonebook. However, Grand Central's importing tool is very clumsy and does not de dupe.

Finally, as of late Grand Central is unreliable. Now I know this is only a beta product but you just can't mess with people's messages. On Feb 4th Grand Central lost stored contacts and voicemails. Today is Feb 14th and the voicemails still haven't been restored. Unfortunately for me, I'm in the middle of search for a job and I can't listen to any of the messages that were left for me in the last 10 days. Needless to say I'm not very happy about this.
Grand Central has had a few other high profile problems. Check out this post from Tech Crunch.