The next level of tech management

Friction between IT and lines of business continues to be a reality in many companies. Indications are, however, that the situation is changing for the better and it’s safe to predict that in 2007, IT and business will work far more collaboratively.

Indeed, with competition in nearly every sector getting increasingly fierce, and the number of noteworthy players dwindling, this cross-fertilization between IT and business has become a pre-requisite for survival.

Enteprises that don’t “get it” may have to “get out” of the game.

If there’s one area where the opportunities as well as they challenges of technology-business integration are most apparent, it’s the exciting field of real-time analytics.

Today real-time analytics has become a buzzword, and justifiably so. Companies able to collect and act on data quickly – or at least before the competition does – are the big winners. Real-time analytics is one area that exemplifies the opportunities inherent in IT-business alignment, and conversely, the dangers when that alignment is absent.

Let’s start with the opportunities by citing the example of Vancouver-based Telus Corp., which rolled out BI and integration software from New York-based Information Builders Inc.

Telus deployed a Web-based scorecard tool that tracked and measured the effectiveness of 3,000 field personnel. In parallel, it also put processes in place that could quickly harness that information to make changes to its business operations.

The result: the company experienced regional productivity gains of around $1 million – $2million per month.

In the consumer space, the ability to act swiftly on a brilliant idea transformed Apple into a kingmaker in the music world. The itunes-ipod – and now iphone – blitz illustrates how cool technology blended with the right business model and stellar marketing can catapult a company to success, while competitors are still gasping for breath.

Not many enterprises, though, have the technology to monitor data in real-time (rather than batch process it). And even those that possess this capability may not have the business processes in place to quickly take advantage of the intelligence assembled from the Web and other IT resources.

This is clearly an area where business and IT must work together, where CIO and CEO must join forces.

This is already happening, and indications are the trend will continue in 2007. Recent studies reveal that folk on both sides of the business-IT divide are getting this message loud and clear. In a poll by CIO Connect, 75 per cent of CIOs surveyed said they are the source of new ideas for business products.

Likewise, two-thirds of business managers asserted that their knowledge of IT is improving. (CIO Connect is a UK-based networking and intelligence organization for senior IT professionals).

But collaboration between business and IT alignment needs to extend outside the company. It requires being aware of and constantly assessing, the business impact of tech strategies, decisions and products on stakeholders – partners, suppliers and customers.

“Awareness” is at the heart of business and IT collaboration. Senior tech and business managers need to be constantly and collaboratively attuned to the impact their strategies, technology and products is having on all stakeholders – and one channel of such awareness building is the wild, wild Web.

Today, like yesterday and the day before, successful companies depend on IT to create a competitive advantage. But today the skills required to create this advantage are getting broader and more complex.

As Margaret Smith, chief executive of CIO Connect puts it: “Today’s CIO has to be a manager, a leader, an innovator, a teacher, a policeman and a politician all rolled into one.”

Amen to that!

Joaquim P. Menezes is Online Editor of IT World Canada.

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