Networked technology holds limitless promise, exec says.

Position:Harry C Stonecipher, president and COO of The Boeing Co - Brief Article

Harry C Stonecipher, president and COO of The Boeing Co, recently offered his thoughts on technology management at the Parks College of Engineering and Aviation, St Louis University in Missouri. Here are excerpts from that lecture.

When I was studying for my undergraduate degree in physics, we prided ourselves on being able to produce precise and lightning-fast calculations with this instrument. It's called a slide rule.

Now that may cause some of you to laugh. But here is one prediction that I can make with absolute confidence: It won't be too long before many of you are laughing at the antiquated methods and technologies that you used to employ when you were still in school. The Palm Pilots or DVDs of today may be the slide rules of tomorrow.

Why is this? Are people any smarter today than they were 100, 200, or even 5000 years ago? Are they innately more creative? Any biologist would tell you that is not the case.

Web-paced world

The big difference, almost certainly, is in the transmission of useful information, knowledge, and insight. This is happening at a faster and faster pace; and it is becoming less and less costly in the bargain. Faster transmission begets greater discovery.

This brings me to the so-called "networking effect," which states that the value of networked products will rise quickly with the number of people using them. In other words, the bigger the network, the better it is, in most cases, for just about every one.

Like our counterparts in other fields, we in aerospace are using web-based networks to lower costs, improve communication, stimulate innovation, and deliver greater value to our customers.

Earlier this year, a group of aerospace firms--including. Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon and British Aerospace--announced the creation of an independent enterprise that will develop an Internet trading exchange for the global aerospace and defense industry. Based on the Commerce One MarketSite Portal Solution, and powered by Microsoft, this exchange will create a secure, electronic marketplace where buyers and sellers around the world can conduct business.

Means to an end

We expect this open business-to-business exchange to lower transaction costs by as much as a third, in some cases.

Technology is an enabler. It is the means to an end--not the end itself. The great inventors have seldom been the solitary geniuses of popular myth. They have always been great borrowers and adapters. Where breakthroughs have occurred, it has...

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