A Dictaphone Anecdote

At HIMSS this year I spoke in the Dictaphone booth regarding our experience with their EXSPEECH voice recognition system. It was a good project that had a solid ROI (less than a year). We implemented the system while their then parent company, Learnout & Hauspie, was going through bankruptcy in 2001. This turned out to be a good move since we got a great deal of support. Like your financial portfolio, your IT portfolio should have some agressive, high risk investments.

This year there was a sense of deja vu in the Dictaphone booth as they were being acquired by Nuance. Nuance holds much of the same assets held by Learnout & Hauspie (e.g., Dragon Naturally Speaking) when they acquired Dictaphone in the 1990s. The primary difference in the 21st century is that Dictaphone sold out for 1/3 the price.

A couple of years ago I had dinner with Rob Shwagger, the president of Dictaphone. Rob was on a low-carb diet. As he ate a cheese platter for dessert he told me a great story about the Learnout & Hauspie acquisition that really captured the spirit of the Internet boom. This is the story as I remember it:

Apparently Rob and another Dictaphone exec were meeting with the L&H principles in a Belgium outdoor cafe. The L&H dudes wanted to know the selling price for Dictaphone. Rob threw out an amount he considered to be outrageous, just to test the waters: $1B, as I remember it.

The L&H executives excused themselves and walked into a nearby farmer’s field. After a few minutes they returned to tell the Dictaphone executives that they accepted their offer.

IT Infrastructure Frameworks

I am starting to study IT infrastructure frameworks such as ITIL. The idea is that you have a standard way of handling most aspects of IT service management such as change management, continuity, capacity management, incident management, etc.

In my research I found the IT Service Management Forum whose mission is to “enable member organizations to achieve measurable operational excellence by introducing, developing and promoting IT Service Management Best Practices. ” However, I wasn’t able to order any publications from them because their online ordering page is down. How ironic is that?

Still, the notion of IT frameworks is more appealing to me as Ministry Health Care begins to consolidate its IT services into a single service organization. Ideally, we will develop a framework that addresses these elements of infrastructure management from an enterpise perspective. Otherwise, they will only be as good as each person assigned to manage a specific technology. For example, we can set some standards for managing availability. Those standards will be a guide for the rollout of services at the enterprise level. When we consolidate email, the email guru will have some guidelines for addressing availability. S/he will be given direction on assessing availability requirements; develop an availability plan; monitor availability; etc.

I don’t think this apporach makes sense for most community hospitals. But for larger networks that have 10,000 plus employees there is value in this level of discipline. Especially as more mission critical applications are brought online.