Too Much of a Good Thing

By Jim Louderback  |  Posted 2002-09-09 Print this article Print

The integration breather is essential, but it's gone too far.

Why doesnt this stuff work together?" I first heard this back in the early 80s as a technology analyst in Chase Manhattans back office. Digital was selling VAXes to translate among IBM mainframes, and I discovered that connecting mainframes to PCs required something called IRMA, as well as cookies for the sysop.

"Why doesnt all this stuff work together?" The late 80s produced islands of incompatible PC databases, with names such as R:base, DataEase and Revelation. "Why doesnt all this stuff work together?" In the 90s, this question referred to IPX, NetBEUI, DLC, Ethernet, Token-Ring and incompatible e-mail. I hear it again today as corporations struggle to combine dissimilar systems into a unified XML and Web services framework, accessible via browser, PDA or cell phone.

Art Gillis, a veteran of gritty bank systems and their unofficial spokesman in American Banker and on the Web, calls this the decade for "making it all work together and better." "Theres nothing new on the horizon," Gillis said. I agree but only partially. Most businesses acquired an overabundance of technology over the past five years, and this integration breather is essential. But weve gone too far. The focus has shifted almost completely to integration, not innovation.

Back in the 80s, microcomputers helped Frito-Lay create tremendous competitive advantage by empowering its delivery people to superserve routes. More recently, FedEx parlayed wireless, the Net and bar coding into a system that tracks packages anywhere. Even GM clawed its way back to competitiveness via a system that integrated suppliers into its internal systems. Take a lesson from these world-class companies. Integration is important, but dont miss the opportunity created by new technology.

Whats on the horizon? Jim Louderback, editor in chief of Ziff Davis Internet, can be reached at

With more than 20 years experience in consulting, technology, computers and media, Jim Louderback has pioneered many significant new innovations.

While building computer systems for Fortune 100 companies in the '80s, Jim developed innovative client-server computing models, implementing some of the first successful LAN-based client-server systems. He also created a highly successful iterative development methodology uniquely suited to this new systems architecture.

As Lab Director at PC Week, Jim developed and refined the product review as an essential news story. He expanded the lab to California, and created significant competitive advantage for the leading IT weekly.

When he became editor-in-chief of Windows Sources in 1995, he inherited a magazine teetering on the brink of failure. In six short months, he turned the publication into a money-maker, by refocusing it entirely on the new Windows 95. Newsstand sales tripled, and his magazine won industry awards for excellence of design and content.

In 1997, Jim launched TechTV's content, creating and nurturing a highly successful mix of help, product information, news and entertainment. He appeared in numerous segments on the network, and hosted the enormously popular Fresh Gear show for three years.

In 1999, he developed the 'Best of CES' awards program in partnership with CEA, the parent company of the CES trade show. This innovative program, where new products were judged directly on the trade show floor, was a resounding success, and continues today.

In 2000, Jim began developing, a daily, live, 8 hour TechTV news program called TechLive. Called 'the CNBC of Technology,' TechLive delivered a daily day-long dose of market news, product information, technology reporting and CEO interviews. After its highly successful launch in April of 2001, Jim managed the entire organization, along with setting editorial direction for the balance of TechTV.

In the summer or 2002, Jim joined Ziff Davis Media to be Editor-In-Chief and Vice President of Media Properties, including, Microsoft Watch, and the websites for PC Magazine, eWeek and ZDM's gaming publications.


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