When the Web is better than sex
February 21, 2005
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
What would Hugh Hefner
think? That thought dominated my brain as I watched David Lennie
and Denise Olson present at last week's "Delivering the Customer
Centric Organization" conference at the Palmer House.
Lennie, 31, is manager
of business intelligence at Playboy.com. Olson, 38, is director
of solutions architecture at Chicago-based Acquity Group, a technology
consultancy. Olson is Lennie's adviser. Together they described
how Playboy.com is awash in data from the 2.5 million-plus unique
visitors who hit the site each month.
Olson described how
her company helped Lennie bring discipline to Playboy.com. They
created a data warehouse, report formats and scorecards, so that
management can respond lithely to changes in Web traffic. She
spoke confidently about the opportunity to cross-sell Playboy's
kept thinking, "it's a brave new world. It's not about the
great articles and reviews, or dare I say, the photo layouts.
It's about how you manage the Web traffic."
Earlier this month
Playboy Enterprises reported strong 2004 fourth-quarter results
and a return to earnings-per-share profitability, with good prospects
for 2005. The company credited "strength in such businesses
as television and on-line" for the improvement.
I'm sure there were
many hands involved in the turnaround. I just think about Hefner.
Could he have imagined the power of the Internet?
"I don't think
anybody could have forecast the importance of the Web," says
Scott Stephen, executive vice president operations at Playboy
Enterprises, who oversees such things. "We use cutting-edge
technology to better serve our customers. Playboy.com is the on-line
ambassador to Playboy. It's an integral part of our strategy."
He also praised Acquity's
work, noting that the Web site is adding customers for the magazine
and Playboy's TV properties.
What about the Playboy
Clubs I asked Stephen? "Playboy.com is more important than
the clubs were 20 years ago," he says. "It's much more
Chris Dalton, 37, co-founder
and CEO of Acquity Group, says the technology consulting business
is "phenomenal. It's really raging out there."
That's quite a turnaround
for Dalton, who launched Acquity in April 2001, in the midst of
the dot-com bust.
"It was the most
challenging time for a services business in the technology space,"
says Dalton, whose financial advisers almost dissuaded him from
the venture. Dalton went ahead anyway. He quotes investor Sam
Zell: "The best time to buy things is when they are distressed."
Dalton recruited an
outstanding team during the downturn, and this year he expects
to exceed $20 million in fees. His company employs more than 100
loss for Illinois
While Illini basketball
is leading the nation, the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign
suffered a major defeat off the hard court. David Daniel, dean
of the school's nationally ranked college of engineering, announced
he's headed to Texas. Daniel's been named president of the University
of Texas at Dallas.
"Illinois is a
great university," Daniel says. "The engineering deanship
is one of the best jobs around."
So what lured him away?
The state of Texas committed $300 million to the UT Dallas engineering
school. It's part of a public-private partnership supported by
I can't blame Daniel,
a native Texan for returning home, but I wonder when the state
of Illinois will announce those $100-million-plus tech partnerships.
entrepreneur Lewis Gruber, CEO of Arryx, was
one of 29 technology pioneers honored at the World Economic Forum
in Davos, Switzerland. Gruber's company makes so-called nano-scale
tweezers, sophisticated machines that allow technicians to rearrange
materials at the molecular level. "It was very exciting,"
Gruber says. "It allowed us to connect with business leaders
from around the world." Gruber thinks it raised the profile
of Chicago's tech community. "It's an indication the Chicago
tech community is striving to be world class."
Motorola CEO Ed Zander is turning the company
around. He named Procter & Gamble global marketing officer
James Stengel to the Motorola board. More marketing muscle is
what traditionally engineering savvy Motorola needs to prosper.
It's a good move by Zander.
Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.