<i>Enterprise Systems</i> Power 100: Top 5

Top 5 IT Leaders

1. Michael K. Powell (Chairman, Federal Communications Commission)
As chair of the FCC, Powell can exert immeasurable influence over the telecommunications, Internet and broadcasting industries—although whether he chooses to exert that influence remains to be seen. Powell's comments on the industry so far suggest a fondness for hands-off deregulation in matters ranging from telco mergers to television content, which may lead to more industry consolidation. President Bush, as Powell's boss, is already making the expected hands-off remarks and moves regarding government regulation of business, and Powell is expected to follow that lead.

As a case in point, the FCC holds the power to block mergers between communications companies and media companies. Powell sat on the FCC board when it helped stymie a proposed merger last year between Sprint and WorldCom. The FCC began investigating the deal because of the two companies' Internet backbone holdings, eventually stipulating divestments before it would approve the merger. Although the deal was eventually halted over European Union antitrust issues, it's significant to note that the FCC fired the first salvo in the skirmish.

Under Powell's leadership, however, the FCC may give similar deals the go-ahead with little questioning. It has already given approval to an unprecedented agreement that allows CBS to hold a stake in the UPN television network, the kind of deal that appeared taboo last year under a Democratic administration and the FCC.

While Powell may be an advocate of deregulated markets, he plans to support fines for anti-competitive phone companies, as he noted in a statement in early May. However, observers with concerns about the "digital divide" will find little sympathy from Powell. He has compared the disparity between haves and have-nots in computing to a "Mercedes divide," suggesting that participation in the information economy is a luxury, not a necessity. Whatever direction the FCC takes on numerous pending rulings, it's clear that Powell plans to shake up the world of telecommunications and broadcasting.

2. Alan Greenspan (Chairman, Federal Reserve)
Although the Federal Reserve chair isn't directly involved in IT or industry decisions, his interest rate moves influence the flow of capital to both startups and established companies—and that may well affect the rate at which new technologies come to market. Greenspan has made a number of decisions based on the IT marketplace. In early 2000, his decision to raise interest rates was due in part to the overheated dotcom environment. At that time, he made his oft-quoted warning that wild speculation in technology companies was creating a dangerous bubble, leaving the stock market vulnerable to economic collapse.

Furthermore, Greenspan noted that the "wealth effect" caused by inflated stocks held by individual investors and stock-option beneficiaries had the potential to drive inflation up. With such a large number of citizens holding highly valued portfolios, Greenspan voiced fear that consumers would react to the wealth by spending carelessly. That, in turn, would drive up prices. With these issues in mind, he raised interest rates, perhaps fueling the dotcom crash.

Now that the U.S. economy has slowed, Greenspan looks to IT to minimize the damage. In a speech before the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Financial Services this February, he said that IT, which has fueled much of the economic growth in the past decade, may keep the economy moving, but at a slower pace.

Greenspan points to IT's ability to keep inventory at profitable levels, speed production and create efficiency in business as factors that will keep the economy from idling. While speculation in technology may have led to the current downturn, technology in business could keep the economy moving.

3. Louis V. Gerstner Jr. (Chairman of the Board & CEO, IBM Corp.)
When Gerstner took charge of IBM in 1993, the "mainframe was dead" and rumors were that IBM, while not yet sunk, was beached and ready to be cut up for scrap metal. Gerstner's relaunch of Big Blue will be studied for years—he steered the firm to today's dynamic $100 billion products-and-services organization. In the past year, IBM has shed much of its atavistic stuffiness, recasting its 390-series mainframes and AS/400 midrange as the new-economy-ready zSeries and iSeries. A cute little penguin, however, may signal the greatest change at IBM. To the surprise of some, the company has wholeheartedly embraced Linux as a core operating system, from supporting Linux on desktops, to adapting it to run on IBM's zSeries mainframes. Once derided for relying on closed, proprietary systems, Gerstner's company has entered a new era with its arms wide open. But now that he has confirmed his impending retirement, who knows?

4. Scott McNealy (Chairman & CEO, Sun Microsystems Inc.)
Whoever said, "It's nothing personal," never talked to Scott McNealy about business. If Lou Gerstner and the gang in blue set the standards, Scott McNealy and Sun Microsystems continue to challenge and break them. From the aggressive push of the Java programming language to the recent SunFire, a so-called "midframe" server, McNealy and company come out swinging. He's famous for attacking proprietary systems—Microsoft in general and Bill Gates in particular. A recent article by McNealy in the Harvard Business Review discusses the company's year-old experiment in selling its software on eBay and other auction sites – and argues that it allows the customer to pay true market value. Whatever he's up to next, McNealy remains a champion of the everyday manager in corporate computing.

5. Carly Fiorina (Chairman, President & CEO, Hewlett- Packard Co.)
It's been a tough year already for Carly Fiorina as HP duels it out with Sun and IBM, among others, for dominance in the e-business arena. She heads a company that at Number 13 on the Fortune 500 list is known for its garage-startup origins and early innovation. If a recent $200 million branding campaign is any evidence, HP is determined to prove that innovation is still "the HP Way." When Fiorina came aboard HP in 1999, she quickly reorganized the company into two customer-facing divisions: one for business, one for consumers. More to the point, each division has a top VP in charge of the "total customer experience." With that early move, Fiorina established herself as one of just a handful of top executives who truly understand the importance of customer relations.

Leaders No. 6-10

Leaders No. 11-20

Leaders No. 21-30

Leaders No. 31-40

Leaders No. 41-50

Leaders No. 51-75

Leaders No. 76-100