Salute the bold IT adventurers

The IT industry has something of a split personality.

The IT industry has something of a split personality.

First, there is the good old dependable side of IT - the long-established applications such as invoicing, payroll and general ledger that keep the back-office of every business functioning day in, day out.

These have been joined over the years by other technologies that have become equally indispensable to business - spreadsheets, relational databases, laptops. And love it or loathe it, it is hard to imagine a world without Windows. And that's before we get to e-mail and the web.

Then there is the other side of IT - the wilder shores which present both the promise of being ahead of the game and the risk of humiliating failure for the bold or the unwary.

With all the pressing issues facing the IT director, they can be forgiven for taking the same wary approach to "blue-sky" projects as our questioner in this week's Strategy Clinic. But as the answers of our expert panel make clear, it is best not to stick one's head too deeply in the sand. Apart from the risk of appearing a Luddite in the eyes of business colleagues, there is also the risk of overlooking a methodology or technology that could reap real business gains for the organisation.

And it takes pioneering spirit to develop real-world applications out of the quantum-leap thinking of those working at the bleeding edge of IT development. Danny Bradbury reports on biological computing and how commercial organisations such as the Royal Mail and Visa work with visionary thinkers to develop new approaches to old (and very modern) problems such as fraud.

We salute their efforts. Without those who have the nerve to fly into blue skies, we would not have the web - or those good old invoicing and payroll systems.

Spam, spam, spam

Spam e-mail could be eradicated within two years. That was the claim made at the international anti-spam conference on which Arif Mohamed reports. Given that spam is costing businesses an estimated £13.5bn a year worldwide, that is a beguiling prospect, but we are not holding our breath.

Although there are welcome signs that governments are starting to take the problem seriously, it behoves every organisation to do its utmost to reclaim its e-mail systems from the spammers. As Mohamed reports, there are products available which can make effective inroads into the problem at little or no cost.

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