commentary Knowing which project to put your time and money into has never been easier. Simply audition all the projects in demand and have the Technology Idol team pick the winner!

Marketing wants a contact management package, finance wants a reporting package, department heads want project management software, the tech department wants asset management software, field staff want new notebooks and constant network accesss, the production department wants more storage space, the board of management has heard of this VoIP thing that could save them money on call costs, and all users are screaming for an Office upgrade.

Which projects get the go-ahead? How do you decide? Welcome to Technology Idol, where an independent panel will help you sift the good performers with quick ROI who will take the company to the top of the charts, from the poor imitations that need more time in development.

The panel of course is made up of three people–all of whom have solid experience in the industry. Janet for instance once picked a combination of CRM and data mining packages for her company and sales soared. Lionel had the sense to skip the upgrade to Windows 98 and saved his company millions that could have been lost in downtime, and Kenny realised in early 2001 that it wasn’t the right time to equip his sales staff with Gateway notebooks. Kenny however has a dubious past; while he had a hit in the early nineties with WordPerfect, he unfortunately refused to believe the market had changed, and didn’t move to Microsoft Word like everyone else until it got desperate. But no one can fault that he has had a lot of experience, and besides he looks good and rounds out the team with his good-natured style.

One by one contestants will parade their suggested projects, showing the benefits to the panel in less than three minutes. Some projects will be eliminated on the spot (after all, maybe now isn’t the time to tie your company to .NET) and

If staff in HP’s Australia or US offices were found to be mistreated, a statement by the CEO saying “I didn’t know” wouldn’t wash, and it doesn’t wash now.

others will make it to the next round, where contestants will have six minutes to further explain the projected costs and benefits.

Very soon you will have a short-list of possible projects, and now you should put the vote out to the unsuspecting public. Get them to send in their choice via SMS, and watch the money pour in. Of course be wary of which project the public picks because unfortunately they will not have the expertise to pick a winner, but at least you will have the money earned from all those SMSes! So listen to the panel, they will offer sage advice on what they think the public should pick, and you can always fall back on that if the public happens to pick “grid computing” as the number one project. Then sit back and watch your company rocket to number one.

Sounds like a formula for success to me!

Offshoring outcry

The jury is still out on offshoring, but the argument against took a leap forward recently, with the news of the inhumane sweatshop conditions found in the IBM, HP, and Dell factories. IBM thanked the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) for bringing the problems to its attention, HP said it was unaware of the problems, and Dell said it welcomed the investigations. It seems these companies would have us believe their innocence through ignorance. Sounds like a load of PR crap to me. If staff in HP’s Australia or US offices were found to be mistreated, a statement by the CEO saying “I didn’t know” wouldn’t wash, and it doesn’t wash in this instance either.

One reader had this to say: “I take your point that outsourcing has been going on for some time now and there is no God-given right to a job for Americans (or Australians, for that matter), but isn’t it time that human rights and ethics meant something, to commercial companies as well as to the rest of us? Companies put work into developing countries to save money–read, make more profits–and they can only do this while there are such inequities between workers and capital around the world. It’s time we all took a stand and said any commercial activity that is successful because of breaches of human and worker rights is not acceptable.”

Hear hear! I know people who refuse to work for a tobacco company, or who will never buy Nike products because of its notorious reputation for its sweatshop factories in Asia, but how about taking a stand against IT companies? Is boycotting IBM, Dell, or HP an option for you?

This article was first published in Technology & Business magazine.
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