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IT's role among powerful in business
By Scott Bradner, Network World, 11/24/06
From time to time Fortune magazine tells us who is important in the business world. It did it again Nov. 27 through a series of original photographs, and the mix of folks is interesting and maybe indicative of the areas that affect business.
"The Power Portfolio: 30 more people who shaped the face of business in 2006" features black-and-white pictures taken by Albert Watson and printed on special paper stock. They are very posed, stark and insightful -- mostly body shots on an all-white background. Only two people are smiling (Bill Gates and Archer Daniels Midland CEO Patricia Woertz); Melinda Gates has a hint of a smile, but the rest of the folks range from serious to mean. A few are downright scary (Henry Kravis from KKR and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, for example) and some weird (Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. and former Vice President Al Gore, for example).
I'm not bringing this set of pictures up just to praise Watson's photography, but also to reflect on who Fortune thinks affected business this year and to see how important it thinks these Internet and IT things are.
It is interesting to note that Gates is not included because of technology, but because he and his wife and Warren Buffett established the world's largest philanthropy. I'm not sure how the Fortune editors picked the sequence of photos, but the next one is of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The note under his picture focuses on Jobs' media moves (selling Pixar, joining Disney's board and selling movies over iTunes).
There are a number of other representatives of the Internet world (such as Advanced Micro Devices CEO Hector Ruiz, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, YouTube founders Steve Chen and Chad Hurley, HP CEO Mark Hurd and MySpace founders Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson), but all of them are at least as well known for their deft business moves as they are for anything technical. The rest of the folks (four of the 30 are women) are investors, bankers, retailers, manufacturers and one pair representing the law (Enron prosecutors John Hueston, Sean Berkowitz and Kathy Ruemmler).
So from this rather limited sample, I'd say that Fortune considers technology to be mostly a given (no Cisco CEO John Chambers, for example) and not an important shaper of business these days. That makes sense to me. Apple makes great hardware and software, but it's mostly great because of its attention to human factors, such as ease of use.
That does not mean technology will not continue to evolve and improve, but this does remind us that using well-established technology in innovative ways (YouTube and MySpace) is a better road to success than making a better chip. My biggest takeaway - don't have Watson take your picture if you have anything to hide.
Disclaimer: Harvard, as an institution, does not review photo spreads, so the above must be my review.
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