IT and the Airline Industry

Posted June 7, 2010 by Nancy Arter
Categories: IT in Industries

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For those of you who are frequent travelers, the title to this post seems like an oxymoron.  Even with all of us carrying around access to instant information in our bags or pockets, the airlines cannot seem to keep up.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve sometimes waited around a few hours at a gate wondering who was in charge and why I was depending on the airline to get me safely home when they couldn’t even provide accurate and timely information on my flight!

According to the New York Times, the news may be about to improve because airlines finally understand that they are behind the times technology-wise.  In an article last week, the Times reports that “the carriers are finally recognizing that many of their antiquated systems contribute to passenger frustrations. They have begun developing hand-held devices, a little bigger than cellphones, that have much quicker access to airline data and allow gate agents to assist passengers throughout the terminal.”

Although this is welcome news for frustrated travelers, this new technology is just in the beginning stages of being deployed. So, it’ll be a while until your agents will be able to more speedily tell you what’s going on with your flights.  But think about it . . . if your originating flight is late, agents can proactively schedule on a new connection instead of waiting for you to arrive, then starting the process.  Or, if you’re stuck on the freeway (and who isn’t — especially when you’re in a hurry, right?), with a GPS-enabled smart-phone, agents can anticipate that you’ll be late and begin to make other arrangements for you.  On the other hand, if you’re early, they can contact you to see if you’d like to be put on an earlier flight.

I hate to be a Doubting Thomas (or Nancy) — but I have a feeling that it may take a while to get us to this point.

The airlines have made improvements over the past few years — getting rid of the magnetic stripe tickets and replacing those antiquated systems withelectronic barcode scanners.  Additionally, allowing passengers to check-in online was a huge advancement and time saver.  However, consumer research shows that most feel that the airlines have made these changes solely to benefit the airlines — as opposed to consumers and business travelers.  While this reputation may well be deserved, the airlines are trying to change that perception and be seen as more customer-focused.  To do this, they need to consistently improve their technology to make the customer experience more positive.

However, this isn’t as easy as it sounds.  The article goes on  to state that “new technology is expensive, and the industry has been struggling to generate cash. Airlines usually spend 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent of their revenue on information technology. But last year, amid mounting losses, that share dropped to 1.7 percent, the lowest level since 2002, as airlines sought to cut costs, according to SITA, one of the industry’s largest technology providers.”

So, as travelers, we’ll need to continue to be patient.  However, it is good to note that the airlines are becoming more aware that their market share will continue to plummet if the experience that they provide to their customers doesn’t improve.  Also, as airlines like Virgin and Southwest continue to tout their focus on the customer experience, I predict that the traditional large carriers will continue to see a decline in their market share if they don’t jump on board soon.

IT — What does it Really do for our Economy??

Posted May 20, 2010 by Nancy Arter
Categories: IT and the Economy, Uncategorized

Tags: ,

It is so interesting to read the news these days.  IT is literally mentioned everywhere — in healthcare, in utilities, in manufacturing,  in education. You name it — IT is impacting every sector.  Under the WIIFM principle (What’s In It For Me), the good news is  . . . drumroll please . . .  IT is also extemely impactful in a positive way on our nation’s economic recovery.

As I was browsing the news today, I came across a story on how the City of Seattle and many dignitaries (including Bill Gates) from the University of Washington (UW) are rolling out the red carpets for Facebook. The buzz is all about how Facebook is opening their first satellite office there.  They are initially planning to offer 30 new jobs in the city — which caused many to ask “why all the hub-bub over 30 jobs?”

And I love the answer that Ed Lazowska (Chair of the Computer Science Department at UW) gives in answer of this question.  Here’s what Ed said:

I’m delighted to have the opportunity to help welcome Facebook to Seattle.

The University of Washington has one of the nation’s top Computer Science programs, and is a top-five supplier of new college graduates to Microsoft, to Amazon.com, and to Google.

We look forward to becoming a top-five supplier to Facebook, too, now that they have a presence in the Puget Sound region, where most of our students come from, and where most of them want to remain.

I want to thank Mayor Mike McGinn for rolling out the red carpet for Facebook, and I want to spend a minute telling you why it’s important.

Information technology drives the economy of our city, our county, our state, and our nation.

Nationwide, between 1999 and 2008, overall job growth was 6%, while Information Technology job growth was 26% – more than four times as great. (Remember that this period included the “tech crash” of 2002!)

Looking to the future, between 2008 and 2018, Information Technology jobs are projected to grow by 22%, the fastest of all professional occupations.

In fact, among all science and engineering occupations – the physical sciences, the life sciences, the social sciences, and engineering – Information Technology is projected to account for 60% of the job growth between 2008 and 2018.

Technology jobs create other jobs: In King County, there are 233,000 tech jobs. On average, each tech job supports 3 jobs in other sectors of the economy. The multiplier for Information Technology jobs is even higher – nearly 5:1.

Part of the reason for tech’s high multiplier effect is that jobs in the tech industry pay, on average, nearly double the state average in wages and benefits.

Our role at the University of Washington is to help create these jobs, and to help ensure that Washington’s young people are the ones who fill them.

You GO Ed!  These are some great statistics, and some for all of us involved in IT to keep in mind. And, as the economy continues its recovery, those companies who are building themselves up, doing the blocking and tackling to set up their businesses and create compelling products and services to provide to their customers — they will be involved in that upward trajectory. 

Let’s face it, when IT is in the news across industries — and the news speaks to the positive effect of IT on those industries — it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

I, for one, am ready to ride that wave — bring on the business!

 

IT Spending in Healthcare

Posted May 17, 2010 by Nancy Arter
Categories: Healthcare and IT, Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,

There has been much talk about the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) — and how the Federal Government is providing stimulus monies to help enable healthcare providers to convert to the EMR for all of their patients.  I’m not sure about you but the amount of funding that is available for this purpose is pretty staggering!

CRM Buyer reports on this topic and the research of health records IT Vendors that has been conducted by KLAS Research. In CRM’s latest article, they quote Jason Hess  (general manager of clinical research for KLAS and author of a recent study of health records IT Vendors) who states:  “It’s a big opportunity. Never before have you seen this much money being made available for this type of IT application. It presents a great incentive for information providers to get into this.”

You may be wondering just how much money Hess is refering to?

It’s a bunch . . .  First, there is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus funds that have been set aside for this purpose ($923 million).  Second, there is the HITECH Act(Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act).  HITECH alone represents $30 billion dollars of funding.  And HITECH usesthe good old carrot-and-stick-approach.  Healthcare providers are given the opportunity to gain access to this money to fund the technology needed to build an EMR system.  And, the sooner they implement it, the more money they receive.  On the other hand, if they don’t move on this by 2016, they will not only miss out on any funding, they’ll be fined.  So, the government is definitely providing the necessary motivation to accomplish EMR for all providers.

For IT solutions firms, this does represent a big opportunity.  Not only will those folks who specialize in EMR software and solutions hugely benefit, but all solutions providers who provide consultants, network infrastructure and IT personnel will do so as well.   Those who focus within the healthcare industry definitely have a lot to gain.  And those who do so quickly, thus building up the expertise within the industry as quickly as possible can change the face of their business.

Pretty compelling stuff!

Have a good week!

IT Makes People Happier?

Posted May 14, 2010 by Nancy Arter
Categories: IT and People, Uncategorized

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Well it is Friday . . . so let’s end the week on a fun note. 

 BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT in the UK (not the NCAA football selection system), has just released a study that was taken on 35,000 people world-wide.  The studies findings are very interesting: access to IT actually makes people happier.  As IT aficionados, we all totally get this.  But folks in developing countries who think that having a computer is a sign of status or prosperity?  The results say yes!

As reported by the BBC, “Ownership of technology is a status symbol in many cultures”, according to Kathi Kitner, senior research scientist at Intel. “While having a computer is considered synonymous with a good education worldwide, the emerging middle classes of India think it is also a sign of prosperity,” she said. “Whether that prosperity in terms of monetary returns actually materialises is not documented, but it is very real in terms of perception,” she said.

This BCS study goes directly against some earlier psychological studies that have actually stated quite the opposite, such as the findings of Yair Amichai-Hamburger, director of the Research Center for Internet Psychology at the Sammy Ofer School of Communications in Israel.  Amichai-Hamburger wrote that technology had a negative impact on people’s well-being by blurring professional and personal time.  As “Crack-berry” users, we probably all have a good idea of what he is referring to.  “We need ways to help recover those increasingly large parts of our lives that we have ceded to technology, to regain mastery over technology and learn to use it in a healthy and positive way,” he said.

The next step in the BCS study is to test their hypotheses and validate the results.  Whether it is providing people access to other people for socialization or just providing them with the perception of status, it will be interesting to see what happens as they continue their studies on this subject.

I know that IT makes me happy!

Have a great weekend!

Data Storage: It’s All in the Cloud

Posted May 13, 2010 by Nancy Arter
Categories: Cloud Computing, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , ,

Almost every day, there are countless articles about the “Cloud.”  This virtualization concept is intriguing — and scaring — IT professionals globally.  Cloud computing is intriguing because of the ability to link computing and mobile technologies together into seamless information networks. It’s scary because of  a whole myriad of concerns around data security.  The fellow pictured here, the CEO of EMCJoe Tucci — believes that Cloud Computing will revolutionalize IT.

When you think about it, it’s like any other new idea . . . it goes through the various phases of adoption before it is widely accepted and embraced.  Well,in this article (where Tucci is quoted) from the Boston Globe this week, EMC and Tucci are in the process of going  through those stages . . . from adoption to embracing and riding the wave towards even greater success.  In the article, Tucci points out:  “We’re now going through what I believe is pretty much going to be the biggest wave in the history of information technology.”

You can see why EMC has jumped onto this bandwagon.  The company is the leading maker of massive systems for storing huge amounts of data  for large companies and governments. Simply put, what EMC offers in critical to cloud computing.  It is the ability to virtually store data and applications in these remote data centers where users and their devices can then access that information from anywhere  on the planet.  From that perspective, it’s easy to understand what Tucci is so excited about.

While EMC pushes ahead, and begins to determine which companies to purchase that will allow them to offer all of the hardware and software that any company may need for this virtual storage, others are not yet so certain.  The article notes that “Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with Yankee Group in Boston, said it may be some years before corporations are ready to embrace cloud-based storage, because they must be convinced the technology is reliable enough for critical data. ‘From an adoption standpoint, I think we’re in the first inning of a Yankees-Red Sox game, which tends to take forever,’ he said.’

We’ll see what happens as companies like EMC push the Cloud Computing concept ahead.  As other giant data storage companies warm up to the idea and competition begins to increase, it’ll be interesting to see how the security issues or worries are addressed and resolved.  And, as the large corporations move forward, we’ll see if Zeus’ analogy plays out or not. 

 Those Yankees-Red Sox games do tend to last for a good long time.   : )

More on IT Outsourcing

Posted May 7, 2010 by Nancy Arter
Categories: Uncategorized

Once again, another large corporation has decided to outsource it’s IT.  Shopko is a chain of retail stores based in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin, near Green Bay, Wisconsin. With approximately 16,000 employees, the company has a presence in 13 states, and generates annual sales of approximately $2.2 billion. 

According to the Green Bay Press Gazette, CIO, Tammy Hermann provides the reasoning:

“It’s an effort to prepare for real support of future growth,” said Tammy Hermann, senior vice president and chief information officer at Shopko. “We have aging systems, some of them 20-plus years old … we’ve supported it, built on it, tacked on and have had legacy systems in place for years in an effort to be cost-effective, and it’s really time to almost gut it and start over.”

According to the article, they’ll be outsourcing 74 IT positions, and the work associated with those positions to HCL Technologies in early September.  All told, Shopko will retain 58 positions and outsource the rest.  Hermann goes on to state, ” This is about business transformation,” she said. “It’s not just a system transformation. It’s the systems that support a business movement that says we have to have better value for our customers and have it in the store at the right time.”

This seems to be the trend these days — and if you think about it, it makes sense.  If you allow companies who specialize in IT to perform your IT work, you can focus on what makes your business successful.  In Shopko’s case it’s creating value for their customers and ensuring that they experience that value every time they visit a retail store.

I hope the transition goes well for Shopko.  And I wish the company’s employees continued success — many of them will be hired with HCL Technologies based upon their deep knowledge of IT and Shopko’s systems. 

Have a good weekend!

 

SMB’s looking for Intelligent Technology

Posted May 4, 2010 by Nancy Arter
Categories: IT and SMBs, Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,

As our economy chugs along towards recovery, it has been interesting to note the positive and important impact of small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs).  Economists have stated that without the contributions of SMBs, the recovery would take much longer.  And those SMB’s who have withstood the recent downturn know better than anyone the importance of running their businesses as efficiently — and economically — as possible.

Related to this, CompTIA, a leading trade association for the Global IT Industry, has recently completed a study on what SMBs are looking for to improve their business processes and operate as intelligently as possible.  According to the press release:

CompTIA’s Second Annual SMB Technology Adoption Trends study shows a significant majority of U.S. SMBs (80 percent) are looking for technology solutions that “deliver immediate payback in terms of minimum disruption of business continuity and seamless integration with existing solutions.”  Additionally, 71 percent of SMBs – businesses with 10 to 499 employees – say they are willing to pay a premium for new solutions with a proven return on investment.

This is music to our ears . . . and I’m sure to most of our compadres in the IT Solutions space.  As business consultants, we know that it is nice to be able to present a win-win scenario to our clients.  When one of our customers is in the state of mind that they want to improve their business processes, replace old, unproductive equipment with newer and better versions, and are on the path of looking outside of the box — i.e., researching partners to utilize for managed services so that they can concentrate on their businesses — this presents opportunities for us to go to work on making all of that happen.  And, once we do, we’ve got a customer for life.  

The study goes on to state that some of the top-of-mind problems that SMBs are trying to solve are:

• Virtualization – Interest is strongest in the area of server virtualization where 37 percent of SMBs plan to adopt over the next 12 months.
• Unified communications – 25 percent of SMBs expect to adopt a voice-over-IP solution this year.
• Managed services – Compared to 2009 intent to adopt data, 2010 may result in a two to three fold increase in the use of managed services.
• Open source applications – Nearly 20 percent plan to begin using open source software in the next 12 months.
• Mobility upgrades – Within the next 12 months, nearly half (45 percent) need to address the priority of enabling off-site employees to remotely access company networks. 

Improvement in these key areas will make SMBs very competitive with Corporate America and provide them with the ability to service their clients better and faster.  Couple that with a flexible and customer-focused approach, SMBs will be able to successfully differentiate themselves from the “big guys” and continue to increase their profitability. 

This forward-thinking philosophy that SMBs are embracing will help to fuel our recovery more quickly.  And, that is good news for all of us.