What’s New is New again

Any residual respect for industrial economy philosophies took a beating at the recent InfoWorld-sponsored CTO Forum in San Francisco. There, two speakers revived the idea that some “new economy” ideas will play a vital role in the corporate enterprise.

But today’s protagonists come from completely different ends of the technology spectrum.

In the “red corner” stood Jeffrey Henley, executive vice-president and CFO at Oracle Corp. in Redwood Shores, Calif., who said during his address that self-service, business-to-business applications promise to create the efficiencies needed for the current economic climate.

Henley’s message included a prediction that Oracle will save US$1 billion this year from e-business initiatives, in addition to the US$1 billion already achieved last year, as CEO Larry Ellison had previously predicted.

Henley’s premise is a familiar one to the post-dot-com community. “The thing that gets buying up is if you can cut costs,” he said.

Meanwhile, in the “blue corner” was Alan Cooper, “father” of Visual Basic, who used his lunch time address to argue that simply aiming to improve business by reducing overhead is a legacy of the Industrial Age.

Cooper, a consultant who preaches a pre-software development methodology known as “Interaction Design” and named his company after it, believes the new adages for the business environment should be adaptability, flexibility, and scalability.”

Dot-coms were the last gasp of the industrial economy,” Cooper said. And in a clear stab at the often-flawed development efforts of software vendors, Cooper called Oracle 9i “just another technology,” and noted that despite repeated assertions from Microsoft Corp., the GUI and speech recognition has not solved user woes. Also under fire by Cooper was SAP AG R/3, which he said has technical proficiency but lacks ease of use for end-users. “The people using it lead lives of quiet desperation,” he said.