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Coping with information overload

Nov 25, 20022 mins

The barrage of new products pumped out at events such as Comdex can make it difficult to separate useful IT technologies from mere gadgetry and fluff.

The process of evaluating and making decisions on new products is a balancing act for Gregor Bailar, vice president and CIO at Capital One Financial in Falls Church, Va. He says that keeping up with advances in the “nuts-and-bolts” improvements in enterprise hardware and software products is important, but that effort must be made along with analysis of his company’s business needs, strategies and goals. This is done on the one hand with the company’s CTO, who researches new technology. On the other hand are the half-dozen other IT executives in charge of Capital One’s subsidiary companies who keep Bailar in tune to what the technology business needs are at the day-to-day level, he says.

“If I only listened to my CTO, I’d only get the future-looking stuff and I’d be out of touch with what’s going on with the company’s needs,” he says. “If I only listened to [the subsidiary CIOs], we would be behind the curve in terms of adopting technologies that could improve our business.”

Among the gadgetry on display at the show, Bailar says Wi-Fi products as a technology seem to be a good balance between the cutting edge and practical.

Delegation also is the strategy for Mark Hedley, CTO and vice president of technology at hotel chain Wyndham International in Dallas.

“We have between five and 25 cold calls and information packets sent to us every day,” Hedley says, from vendors asking him to look at new products. This forces Hedley and his staff to be tough on any new network or computing products pitched their way.

Of the 67 employees he manages, Hedley says, “most are busy maintaining and supporting the company’s current business architecture. Then I have two or three people who are looking at new things on the side, because of their love of technology.”

To make it through these filters, Hedley says, the technology “has to be something that has a business application. There needs to be a formal financial model for how it will benefit the business or reduce costs before a technology goes anywhere.” Some new technologies at Comdex that Hedley says might pass his sniff test include high-speed Wi-Fi infrastructure gear.