As Information Age business executives gain access to ever-growing reams of data, Cambridge Information Network is hoping to help them make sense of it all.
The San Francisco-based unit of Cambridge (Mass.) Technology Partners operates a World Wide Web site that gives technology executives a place to discuss ideas and strategies.
Launched last October, the site also features a weekly poll, interviews with top technology executives, and a news service that locates and edits articles of interest to members.
Paul McNabb, president of Cambridge, said the site acts as a filter that feeds executives "bite-size chunks of information," rather than unregulated streams of data.
The company's existence-and its growing popularity-demonstrate that as the availability of data grows, so does the need for ways to turn it into useful information.
Cambridge has attracted about 700 members since its formation. About 15% work at financial services companies.
Because Cambridge relies mainly on advertising for its revenue, membership is free.
Only about one in five applicants is approved for membership. The high rejection rate is part of Cambridge's effort to keep on-line discussions and information exchanges on a high plain.
The company targets "technology decision-makers,"said Mr. McNabb. About two-thirds of members are chief information officers or hold equivalent positions.
"It's important not to dilute the membership with lower-level executives," Mr. McNabb said. "This really is a club in cyberspace; we want it to be an exclusive club."
With high-ranking executives participating, discussions tend to be "not so much about technology as the management of technology," Mr. McNabb said.
Topics covered during on-line exchanges include Internet security, staffing issues related to technology, and outsourcing.
On average, about 125 members conduct 200 visits to the site each week. A visit lasts 18 minutes on average. About 20% of visits are for research, 40% for interaction with other executives, and 40% for gathering industry news.
Mr. McNabb said the discussion groups are the site's most attractive feature.
Visitors are open to discussing technology with their peers because "they don't consider the technology itself a source of competitive advantage," he said. "It's the organization's ability to bring products to market in a timely, competitive fashion."
Cambridge employs 14 people to manage the site. They handle a variety of tasks, including writing content, helping users find the information they seek, and programming.