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Bank of America's Jim Sobczak Looks at the ICA and Its Course for the Future.

Jim Sobczak has had a busy year. Not only has he managed to guide the International Communications Association's growth during the past year and the implementation of new programs as its president, he's also helped Bank of America expand its already huge telecommunications operations and weather the trying times of the post-divestiture period. To see how Jim Sobczak has handled the dual responsibilities of ICA President and Bank of America vice president of telecommunications services, CN Editor and Publisher Don Wiley visited with him in his San Francisco office. It was four years ago that a similar trip was made. At that time, Bank of

America's Llody Isaacs was the ICA president. The unusual situation of two ICA presidents from the same company created by Sobczak's move from Ford at that time. So where is ICA today, and where's it going? How does a large user handle today's complex business? Here's what Jim Sobczak has to say:

CN Where does ICA stand now as far as the number of members; is it still around 550 member companies? And what about individual members, or delegates, as you now call them?

SOBCZAK You know, it's kind of confusing, because we don't really have individual members. If you look at our bylaws, our memberships are corporate. What we do have is a voting member and two alterantes listed for each member company. A lot of times, even we make the mistake of using the term member. In reality, if you wanted to count the individual members, they are the people in each one of the our member companies who are involved in the internal telecommunications function. So if we really did have a count of our individial members, it would be in the many thousands of people.

CN Any thought of changing the membership requirements? The $1-million minimum doesn't mean quite the same thing as it did some years back?

SOBCZAK What we're really looking at is an association of large business users. Take all the people in the telecommunications community, and a lot of them are not eligible for membership, such as consultants and suppliers. We are taking a look at whether ICA should be the catalyst in creating that. I doubt if we would ever lose this large business direction. We would always have some segment of the ICA that addressed large users, and medium-sized users.

CN How about different categories, like non-voting members, for example?

SOBCZAK Whether we set up a totally separate organization, or different membership classes, probably is going to be the key issue ICA looks at over the next year--this whole issue of membership. With respect to large business users, we've never really had a membership drive. We take people who contact us, but we don't ever do anything to encourage it. We ourselves have thought of ourselves as large business users, but if you really think about it, the medium-size users, and even the smaller users, can benefit from ICA. As far as large users, the reason we're large, of course, is because we have a number of installations, but a lot of those are small. The Bank of America has locations that have only 10, 15 or 20 people. So did Ford Motor Company, and so do most multi-nationals.

CN Perhaps that's where some vendors are making a mistake. Some tend to think that ICA-types don't buy small systems. But of course you buy things such as small key systems and small PBXs.

SOBCZAK Yes, probably more than other companies. And we've probably even made that mistake ourselves. We've thought of ourselves as large users. Of course when you start talking about large networks like EPSCS, or your own private packet-switching data network, that's something that becomes the domain of the large user. But a lot of the telecommunications problems are the same.

CN How about a recap of your last year at the helm of the ICA, some of the major accomplishments, things that were initiated.

SOBCZAK What we did this year was to set a number of objectives to look at the major issues facing the organization. The first one was what to do with the "problem" of our conference growing so fast. This year we'll be about three to four times the size of our conference in Washington in 1981. That's a significant growth factor. We're getting to the point where we're starting to run out of places to have the annual conference. So one of the issues we set forth to address this year is what to do with the exposition growth. We've decided to take a kind of moderate growth position, and will look at some potential checkpoints in the maximum number of both spaces. We're also exploring ideas such as limiting the amount of space any one supplier can take. Then although the physical size of the exposition wouldn't change, the number of vendors could increase. Even so, we're limiting ourselves to about two or three cities in the United States that can handle the conference.

One problem we face is that vendors say it looks like our traffic is going down. But look at how our floor space is increasing. If you have four times the space, then to have the appearance of having the same amount of traffic, you'd have to have four times as many people. So there's a perception that traffic has been going down, but it hasn't.

CN You seem to have increased the amount of exclusive exhibit-viewing time this year, as well.

SOBCZAK We made a big move last year, but perhaps it wasn't as recognizable. For example, last year we didn't allow speeches at lunches. That way people could come to lunch and it would be over in half the time, freeing more time for the exhibits. This year, we have a whole afternoon. And we pushed back the Tuesday morning opening to 8:00, rather than 9:30.

CN Any plans to extend the length of the exposition?

SOBCZAK We're considering it. We already have one whole day when the conference is going on without the exposition (on Monday). So we would consider that first before adding an extra day onto the conference.

Another major issue involves certification of telecommunications professionals. Right now we have a major consulting group that's conducting a feasibility study. They're taking a look at a lot of other certification programs in the United States--other industry groups, other professions--to determine whether or not it would be practical. No one denies the objective of the certification program, because it enhances the telecommunications profession and the people within it. The question is whether it can be practical, and there some serious doubts. We have committed to making a decision by the time of the annual conference.

CN A commitment to do what?

SOBCZAK What we will be in a position to do at the annual conference is to say yes or no, whether the ICA is going to pursue a certification program for telecommunications professionals. And if the answer is yes, to be able to talk in at least general terms what it would look like, what we'd mean by a certification program. Are we talking about a testing procedure that's similar to a CPA type or general bar examination, or are we talking about only attending some educational classes? There are just so many practical considerations.

CN What kind of feedback have you gotten so far? This has been going on several years, hasn't it?

SOBCZAK Yes, which is one of the reasons we committed ourselves this year to bring it to a head. We just can't continue to study it. A survey of our members was very positive; somewhere around 80 percent of the people said they wanted a certification program. Interestingly, though, a much smaller percentage thought it would do them any good in their jobs. For certification to be successful, of course, it has to be recognized. One good test of that would be when somebody applies for a position, or when someone is up for a promotion within a corporation, the fact that they're certified is going to be a significant variable, something that's going to be considered.

CN It would take a great deal of education of the employers.

SOBCZAK Yes, it would. For example, one of the programs we're looking at is one that the data processing people have had for a number of years, called the CDP. If you define success in the say I just did--whether it's a factor in hiring or promotions--then it hasn't been successful, because many organizations don't realize it exists.

CN How long has this one been around?

SOBCZAK I think it first came up in the late 1960s or early 1970s, so it's had time to mature. But that's the kind of thing we're looking at. It may be that a program of that type hasn't been successful because of some other factors in implementing the program. So if do a good sampling and analysis of all of the programs is effect, we should know the types of things we have to do to make it successful.

CN So obviously it would take a sizeable commitment on the part of ICA as far as allocating funds.

SOBCZAK Sure, but if we believe that it's good for the profession, and has a good chance of being successful, then we'll move ahead. But you're right, there would be substantial cost associated with administering it. Not only do you need to administer certification, you need to have some sort of educational program associated with it so people can prepare themselves for certification. When you bring those elemets together, it can get expensive. So it's our duty not to spend the money unless we believe it has a chance of succeeding.

CN So what are some of the other things going on this past year?

SOBCZAK We've been increasing the size of our office staff. One of the things we've done internally is hire an executive director, Steve Christy, and a new person to handle our educational programs, Jim Weinstein. The ICA is getting so big that we can't have volunteer members handling day-to-day operational problems. The board of directors was getting to be nothing more than an operational fire-fighting kind of organization. We didn't have time to think about some of the more-strategic issues, like education and the regulatory area. So we've hired more full-time people. Steve Christy, for example, is a association professional, not a telecommunications professional. And Jim Weinstein is a professional educator. So we now have five full-time people, and that's probably where it will stay for a while. We feel that we now have a good, solid professional staff to support the organization. The idea is that the member committees and the board will be handling more planning-type issues, and strategy issues. The operational support will come from the office staff.

CN Plus you shortened the time it takes to go through the officer chairs several years ago.

SOBCZAK Actually, I was the last person elected who served as a secretary and a treasurer.

CN Is there any potential loss of continuity there, by not being involved as long?

SOBCZAK It's really by only one year, because it used to be that the outgoing president spent two years on the board. Now a person is elected to the secretary-treasurer position, then vice president of finance, then senior vice president, who essentially is the conference chairman, and then president. That's pretty good grounding. When you've handled all the financial matters of an organization, you understand them. You've handled our conference, which obviously is a major part of our organization. So when you do become president, you've had three years of grounding, plus almost everybody has worked on committees.

CN So how long have you been involved with ICA?

SOBCZAK I became very active on committees in the mid-1970s, which is when I really became involved in telecommunications.

CN And what's ICA done for you, personally and professionally?

SOBCZAK It certainly has helped me do my job. To me, there are a number of benefits from the ICA. We educate our members. We have programs that enhance the profession. We give scholarships. We're very active in the regulatory arena. All of this means we're providing information to telecommunications managers to help them do their jobs. But the benefit that supersedes all of the others is the ability to get to know my peers, the ability to exchange information with them. There are a lot of problems that a telecom manager has in terms of job complexity today. But one advantage is that the job is still pretty similar from one type of industry to another, a lot of commonality. So there's a lot to be gained by finding out someone else is attacking a similar problem. And it works in a lot of different ways. You get ideas for things you can do for your own company. I've never installed equipment, or even evaluated equipment, where I haven't been able to talk with someone who has that equipment installed. But more than that, I know the person, I know the quality of that response I get. And usually there's even something of a friendship there, so they're going to be fairly honest with you. That's a phenomenal benefit. And maybe that's more of a benefit to my corporation thatn to me personally.

CN Before we get too far away from it, how about a little more on your background and involvement in telecommunications. You mentioned that you came into telecommunications in the mid-1970s. Where were you before that?

SOBCZAK Data processing. Although I had an electrical engineering degree, I was involved in one of those management-training programs when I got out of college. After I was introduced to computing, I essentially fell in love with data processing. So I never really practiced as an engineer. When I was at Ford Motor, telecommunications and data processing were in the same organization.

CN So it was at Ford when you got into telecommunications?

SOBCZAK Yes, actually I spent seven years at Detroit Edison, all in data processing and related positions, then moved over to Ford. For the first four or five years, I was involved in data processing there, also.

CN Was this a change on Ford's part, pulling the two departments closer together?

SOBCZAK Early on, people in the company realized, even before it was fashionable, that there was this convergence of telecommunications and data processing. For that reason, they wanted somebody to learn the telecommunications business, and also have a background in data processing.

CN So you came to Bank of America just about four years ago, and you're vice president of telecommunications services. How does that fit into the overall Bank of America structure, as far as information-related services?

SOBCZAK In terms of organization, I don't know if banks have ever had the arguments over where telecommunications belongs and where data processing belongs. If they had those arguments at one time, they went away years ago. When you look at the products that a bank produces, they really are telecommunications and systems based. A very good example that people see all the time are automated teller machines. We don't waste our time arguing whether that's a telecommunications application or a data processing applications. They're both major pieces.

CN As I recall in talking with Lloyd Isaacs four years ago, you're all on a peer level here.

SOBCZAK We're all in one organization. People understand that for automated teller machines and a lot of our other products to work they need telecommunications as well as data processing. In talking with my peers in other companies, I know there are still a lot of organizations around the United States where they're battling each other, and they're in separate organizations. As far as I'm concerned, that battle is really an individual problem.

CN What emphasis do you plan to make in your president's address in Dallas?

SOBCZAK What I'm going to do is fight the temptation to reminisce, and instead offer more or less a reaffirmation of the ICA--address the question of what the ICA does for individual members, and some of the reasons or purposes for belonging to the ICA. What I'll do is look at the major programs we have that involve enhancing the profession, and education.

CN Speaking of education, at this year's interim seminar at Kiawah Island you mentioned, "There is no position in corporate America today that's as difficult and complex as the telecommunications manager's," and that the way to cope is through education. How about some of the other ICA programs, such as the short-course programs and the professional development series?

SOBCZAK They all fall under the banner of what I call education of our members. If you think back, the short-course program was started about four years ago. So prior to that, the educational program of the ICA was the annual conference and occasional interim seminars. One of the other things we did back around 1981-82 is decide that we would have a minimum of one interim seminar a year; they were sporadic before that. We launched a short-course program that has grown to seven courses, which had something like 800 students last year. Our next step along this evolution is to move to what we call a summer institute. The idea would be intensive one-week courses in a university setting. It would be the next level, for somebody who has attended all of our short courses in data, for example, and still feel that they want to go the next step. In fact, having attended the short-course programs or equivalent would be a prerequisite for attending. The other thing we're doing in education is the one-day topical seminars, with latest one adding a new twist with videoconferencing (see photo, page 36).

CN Do you see more use of videoconferencing for reaching members?

SOBCZAK Oh, sure, we're very positive about the idea.

CN You mentioned having more interim seminars, perhaps more than one a year?

SOBCZAK Yes, and another idea we're exploring is that perhaps the interim seminars should be more focused. We're studying the feasibility of picking a very specific topic, like data networking, for example, and maybe having a small exposition with it. Our interim seminars have tended to be almost general, covering almost the full range.

CN When I interviewed Lloyd Isaacs four years ago, he brought up the possibility of an ICA Institute. You just mentioned a summer institute. Is this what was meant, or are you looking at the broader concept of an institute meaning a compilation of all ICA educational programs?

SOBCZAK Hopefully, what we have is a common thread; in other words, this summer institute is meant to be a next step in all of our educational programs. What we hope is that all of these various pieces fit together. I think of the ICA Institute as being a term we would apply to the overall ICA educational program, especially when we get the summer institute up and running, which probably will be a year from now.

CN How firm are the plans?

SOBCZAK They're firm in the sense we're talking with a university already.

CN Earlier, you mentioned hiring Jim Weinstein. What's his role?

SOBCZAK To manage ICA's educational activities on a full-time basis. Before, it was really being done by volunteers.

CN To get into a little broader area, how do you see the role of the Telecommunications Associations Council (TAC) as an overall umbrella organization, in getting other user groups together to discuss common problems and interests? Has this been successful?

SOBCZAK The idea started out two or three years ago, essentially saying that you have the ICA and a number of regional associations that have common problems. Maybe it made sense for them to get together and talk more. We've done that for two years now, and again this year at the ICA conference the presidents of the various associations who are attending will have a separate meeting to discuss common problems. That's about as far as it's gone. It turns out that there are only a few areas where there is much interplay. Regulatory is one, but we've always worked together anyway. Certification could be another one. So we're very open, but it could be something that never materializes to more than an annual meeting. And it's been suggested that maybe that annual meeting ought not be held at the ICA conference.

CN We've talked briefly about regulatory areas several times. ICA, of course, has been heavily involved at the federal level. At the interim seminar this year, several speakers mentioned the increasing importance of regulation at the state level. Does the ICA plan to become more involved in state-level issues?

SOBCZAK Probably not, and that issue has come up a number of times. One of the problems is that we are a national organization. What we've said is that if a national issue, a bellweather issue, was going to be addressed at the state level, then we might consider participating. But we're more or less decided to stay at the national level. However, we would support the regional associations in any way we could; they're more involved in state issues.

CN Do you really feel that after these years of involvement in regulatory areas before the Congress and the FCC that you have a strong enough voice now? Do they really listen to you?

SOBCZAK There's no doubt that they know we exist. But that's a difficult question to answer. It was only five years ago that we changed the bylaws to permit regulatory participation. So if you look at it from that aspect, the impact that we've had over that period of time has really been phenomenal. There's no doubt that we're the major user voice in Washington. Is it as strong as it needs to be, or could be? Probably not. I think that there's more that we could do. What's always bothered me when I've met with regulators over the years is that, almost to a person, they pull out a canned speech at the end, saying, "We need to hear more from you users. Why don't you come see us more often?" There's a part of me that's tempted to say, "Hey, wait a minute. Why don't you come to see me?" What my economics textbook said was that the whole purpose of regulation was to protect consumers--and that's us--because the marketplace can't. We shouldn't have to be treated like other vested interests. Any user, whether residential or business, needs to go through the exact same process, if they want to make their voice directly heard by the regulators, as the regulated companies do. I'm not sure that's entirely appropriate. I think that maybe sometimes the regulators have lost sight of the fact that they're protecting the consumers and not the various companies.

CN Are the problems from divestiture starting to go away?

SOBCZAK What I've always said about divestiture is that you need to separate the short-term transitional impact from the long-term impact. There's been a lot of publicity about the short-term impact, especially the circuit-provisioning problems. And there have been a lot of other problems, like billing and order-processing changes. But we've pretty much gotten through most of them. The circuit-provisioning problems are still here, but they appear to be getting better. I don't think there's a doubt in anyone's mind that they'll go away. It was inevitable when you take a large company and carve it up into eight pieces. As far as the long-term impact, I don't think we'll be able to assess that for a number of years. Philosophically, I believe it's a very positive step.

If you look at the old AT&T, it had an enormous competitive advantage; it was the only company in the industry that could truly provide end-to-end service. The Justice Department recognized that. If you remember at the time, much of the emphasis was on worrying about cross-subsidization between the toll and long-distance business and equipment. I think the Justice Department took an almost more-strategic view of competition, feeling that the real competitive advantage was the fact that AT&T could provide this total end-to-end service, and there was no other competitor or potential entrant in the market that could even approach that kind of capability.

CN To look at one side of it, didn't that make a communications manager's job simpler than it is today?

SOBCZAK I suppose it did, in one sense. But most large users had gravitated to the point where they were already going to the other pieces; they weren't taking advantage of that end-to-end service. Of course, that's not true of all users. It's been said many times that it's the small users who have been hurt the most, because of the fact that many large users were already putting in non-Bell PBXs, and they had been using other common carriers for a number of years. They had done that for good business reasons. There were certain advantages to being able to look at a number of alternatives and put them together to best match your solution.

CN Where does the telecommunications manager go from here? What does he or she still have to do to make telecommunications even more effective for an organization?

SOBCZAK If you look at this new world, the job has become more complex in a number of areas. Just take a look at doing a financial analysis. When all the alternatives you looked at, and this was true not too many years ago, were essentially 30-day-cancelable kinds of leases, the economic analysis wasn't very complex. Now, when you start comparing a mixture of financial alternatives, some including a long-term purchase, all of a sudden that person needs to be much more thoroughly grounded in financial concepts like discounted cash flow, the time value of money, the rates of return. So we're looking at just one little area in which that person needs to become much more of a business-person. Then there's the whole concept of support. In the old days there was no thought that the supplier we would normally turn to wouldn't be around four of five years from now. Now there's much more risk. Sometimes that risk is worth taking, but there are more facets to the decision--just from the fact that there are more alternatives.

CN Then financial analysis would seem to be a topic we should see more of on conference programs. A few come to mind, but not many.

SOBCZAK WE've had some. One of the things we're exploring in the sort-course program, which now tends to be technology-related, is that perhaps we should be adding more management-related courses.

CN And, of course, some of the newer people coming into the field from telecommunications schools are receiving more telecom management orientation than others now in the field.

SOBCZAK A lot of the educational programs that we support--the University of Colorado being a good example--call it an inter-disciplinary program. So there are technical courses being taught by the engineering school; and there are regulatory courses and business courses, as well. That really is the type of education that's best to prepare someone for a telecommunications-management position.

CN Where are most of the new people coming from, speaking either from your point of view at Bank of America, or for the ICA in general? Are you getting many from the growing number of schools offering telecommunications programs?

SOBCZAK Yes we are, but I don't know if there's enough of them coming out. It's probably much like data processing; you'll find people coming in with all kinds of college backgrounds, with the emphasis more on the technical side, such as computing science, or mathematics, or engineering. I don't know if there is any common thread in the kid of people we're hiring, other than they do tend to be technically degreed people.

CN Do you have trouble getting enough truly qualified people? There have been some references to a growing shortage of telecom professionals.

SOBCZAK What we try to do is hire good, high-quality college graduates. When we have hired people in the middle level of responsibility, where you need certain expertise, there were times when we had trouble.

CN How many people are we talking about in the telecommunications operations within Bank of America?

SOBCZAK It's a hard number to relate. I guess the number of people within the Bank of America that you would call telecommunications professionals is probably somewhere around 500. The majority are here in San Francisco, but they're really located throughout the world. We have people in Caracas, Panama, Hong Kong, Manila, London, Miami, Los Angeles and New York, among others.

CN How would you describe the Telecommunications Services department at Bank of America?

SOBCZAK Telecommunications Services includes all voice responsibility, all transmission responsibility. By that I mean the transmission facilities we use for voice and data. For example, we have fairly large groups of people involved in data networking, who don't fall into Telecommunications Services. It's hard for people to understand, because there are big corporation--in fact, some much larger than Bank of America--whose telecommunications function is all one group, and it's 20, 30, 40, 50 people. But it's just not the same, it's not the same problem, because so many of our products are telecommunications-based. Just to give you an idea, there are 80,000 people in the bank. We have reorganized our overall systems group, but in the old organization, I think 10,000 of them were in what you'd call the systems organization group. A lot of those people were operations types, but they were operating terminals. But still, those kinds of numbers are unheard of in most other industries.

CN And you have communications managers at the outlying locations, too.

SOBCZAK Yes, in fact the chairman of INTUG (International Telecommunications Users Group), George McKendrick, is the Bank of America telecommunications manager in Europe. He has a group of about 16 people, but even he doesn't have everything. There's another group of operational telecommunications people who don't report to him.

CN How do you keep all of these people talking to each other?

SOBCZAK It's difficult, but we do have an internal electronic mail system, which is probably the main mode of communication.

CN And what about videoconferencing?

SOBCAK We recently put in videoconferencing rooms in Los Angeles and San Francisco. We now have access to shared facilities, and ours are sharable even though they're on our premises.

CN What's been the primary use of videoconferencing so far?

SOBCZAK I'm not sure that I've ever felt that reduction of travel is why we'd use it. It's becuase of productivity; where you're remotely managing people, and you get a chance to meet with them only once or twice a month. You probably will continue to make the one or two physical trips per month, but you can supplant them with two or three videoconferencing meetings.

CN Overseas, too?

SOBCZAK That introduces other problems, such as time zones. But there's a case I found when I was in Asia talking with some of our people there. Many don't realize the distances involved with the countries in Asia. The users there were asking me about videoconferencing. Not back to the United States; they wanted it right within Asia. They certainly weren't interested in getting up in the middle of the night to have a videoconference back here. Their problem was that they were managing people in Austrlia, in Japan, in Hong Kong, in Singapore. Those are one-day plane rides apart.

CN How about some of the other technological innovations? You've mentioned electronic mail and others.

SOBCZAK As a telecommunications user, I think we've been pretty progressive. We have our own backbone satellite system. We have a private packet-switching network. Wehve installed voice mail. We have a fiber-optic link installed between a building with a major terminal concentration and our data processing center. We just replaced our voice network during the past year. We've made a major commitment to replace our telephone systems within California--there are about 750 systems supporting some 1,000 locations. The combination of these will allow us to truly manage our network, to understand outages when they occur. Our idea is that when everything is installed and a user calls up with a problem, they call one number and we take care of it.

CN For these 750 new PBX and key systems, what kind of a time span are we talking about to implement the program?

SOBCZAK It's over a two-year period.

CN Obviously, you have the ear of top management in order to sell them on the idea of such a project.

SOBCZAK To me, a lot of times telecommunications managers are off trying to put in solutions for problems that won't exist for five, six or seven years. If you look at what exists today, you've got the opportunity to substantially reduce costs, improve service, improve production. You can kind of have your cake and eat it too. You can spend a lot of time arguing about tradeoffs between better service and management, such as the value of having real-time diagnostic data, but the reality is that you can get substantial savings.

CN When I was here talking with Lloyd Isaacs four years ago, I recall mentioning that what most people thought of as the office of the future, Bank of America already has today. That certainly is still the case. Where do you go from here? What's next in the evolutionary process? What is your office of the future?

SOBCZAK I think the office of the future has been named quite appropriately. People confuse technical viability with marketplace viability. I had someone from outside the company come up to me not long ago and ask, "What's taking so long for the office of the future? Most of the stuff was available in the late 1970s and early 1980s." My response was that to be viable in the marketplace, it has to be priced right. It has to be supportable. It has to be maintainable. And then once you accomplish all those, most of these systems require phenomenal sociological and psychological change to be accepted. And that doesn't happen quickly. It has to evolve over a period of time. Sometimes we're talking 10, 15 or 20 years. If you went back and read what people were predicting in the 1970s for the office of the future, you would think that here in 1985 when a secretary wanted to send a letter, it would be a matter of simply typing in a few electronic addresses and it's instantly disseminated throughout the world. In reality, I don't think we're accomplished two percent of the dream that people were laying out five or six years ago. It's a much tougher problem than people realize.

When you talk about the office of the future, or just that one example, the system requires terminal ubiquity. We did a study when I was at Ford, showing that the average letter got sent to eight people. The secretary, after you signed the letter, had to go to the copying machines to make eight or nine copies, take out envelopes, address them, insert them, put them in a box. Then another company employee picked them up. We counted 17 company employees involved in the dissemination of that internal mail. The dream of having the terminal I mentioned earlier is phenomenal. But suppose only half the people have those terminals; then she still has to go through all of that.

With a lot of the new office concepts, you're really talking about changing that way you do you job. And that's not easy.

CN Do you find fairly good acceptance of the bank's electronic mail system you mentioned earlier?

SOBCZAK It's very heavily used. There's no doubt that it's the main information medium we use in the bank for our international groups. CN Earlier, you were talking about planning a number of years into the future. You've also mentioned how the rules keep changing. So how can you really plan with any certainty?

SOBCZAK My answer to that is that the telecommunications manager should be planning in roughly seven-year horizons. I'm not saying you shouldn't take a strategic view 10 to 15 years out, but your decisions probably should be limited to the five to seven-year horizon. There's enough technological advancement that that's the timeframe you should be operating in. A lot of the technologies today are for a five to seven-year period. They're not being touted that way, but the reality is that we are not going to need 1.5 megabits to our desktops over the next two years. I don't care what the personal computer manufacturers and local-area network manufacturers tell you. You're just not going to need that for some time. So I don't think it's as difficult a job as some might think. If you are too optimistic on how quickly these new technologies are going to take hold, then it becomes a problem. I think you can make good five to seven-year kinds of decisions. There are lots of opportunities out there. In the transmission area, not only do you have all of the satellite capability, there are a lot of TI networks, there's all kinds of multiplexing equipment available. So there are things you can do today to take advantage of technology.

CN Jim, to wrap this up, where do you see ICA five years from now?

SOBCZAK I think we'll be even stronger in the regulatory area, we'll have a much-more-impressive education program. First, though, there are some major issues. For example, our educational programs right now are tailored to users. If we opened up to all telecom professionals, would we then have to offer another set of education programs? Then there's the annual conference. Although there are some topics on what you could call general interest, expecially some of our featured sessions, that any telecommunications professional would benefit from, a good number of the other sessions are definitely tailoed to the large telecom user. If all we do is just create other classes of membership, then that won't be a significant step. If we go so far as to be the catalyst to form an association of professional telecommunications professionals, it could very well be that the ICA would be functioning almost as two separate organizations. To me, that's one of the big issues that has to be addressed. And we've really just started to address it. in fact, what we're doing right now is developing these issues to make sure we understand them. On the surface, it sounds as if we should allow all these other professionals into the association. But it's more complicated than that.
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Author:Wiley, D.
Publication:Communications News
Date:May 1, 1985
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