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No Laughing Matter

This month's editorial "No Laughing Matter" about current business news by Katherine Burger, Editorial Director.

News from the business world these days is definitely of the variety that makes one want to laugh or cry (or both). To hear executives who in happier times were only too happy to grab the spotlight now blankly declare they had no clue what was going on in their organizations would be funny if it wasn't so outrageous...and even frightening.

It's frightening because it is not just stocks, pensions, investments and jobs that are at stake when a WorldCom or Global Crossing screws up (as if those weren't distressing enough!). If you're a CIO or executive charged with making sure your company's infrastructure and systems are performing reliably, you've got to be worried about your vulnerability to the fortunes of these technology companies. Couldn't your e-business, customer service and distribution operations (and strategies) be at stake if (when?) a WorldCom fails?

So far it appears that corporate customers of WorldCom are willing to give things some time. A late June survey by (a sister brand of I&T) found that, for the most part, IT and networking managers were not ready to abandon the vendor. Only 21 percent of respondents said they were definitely or likely to abandon WorldCom as their voice and/or data service provider, while 49 percent said "definitely not."

On the other hand, Bank of Montreal—a pioneer in wireless services—has announced it will suspend its Canadian and US wireless retail banking services. The reason the bank is giving is low consumer adoption rates. But why not also blame over-sold telecom services, wildly ambitious ventures intended to help portray the players as "fast companies," and a generally unrealistic sense of the nature of change?

I hate to think who's going to have the last laugh.

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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