Get Your Priorities Straight

By Eileen Feretic  |  Posted 2009-09-29 Print this article Print

Successful enterprises view technology as an integral part of their business.

How, you may ask, can you be expected to think strategically about your organization when you’re struggling to keep the operation going with fewer employees and a smaller budget than you had two years ago? When you’re trying to keep your company from sinking under a wave of red ink, there isn’t time, you argue, to worry about long-range plans, such as integrating technology and business operations. Some days, you’re thankful just to be able to “keep the lights on.”

That attitude, while understandable in light of the last 18 months, is shortsighted and unproductive. Companies can’t prosper on a constant diet of cutting costs and putting the brakes on new ideas. That’s a sure way to lose market share and customers—and possibly talented employees—to more forward-thinking competitors.

It’s true that companies may have to respond to harmful changes in the market and the economy by operating on a need-to-do basis, but they also have to make long-range, post-crisis plans. Where will your enterprise be a year from now—and five years from now? Where do you want to be, and what do you have to do to get there?

Following the Scarlett O’Hara philosophy (“I’ll think about that tomorrow”) is a recipe for business disaster. Planning on a day-to-day basis will work for a while as companies cope with recessions and other crises, but, over time, this approach will sap the energy and innovation that enterprises need to thrive.

Energy and innovation. That’s what successful companies—like those in our Baseline/BTM 500 report—have. And technology is the foundation that keeps these businesses humming. But the enterprises in our report go beyond that and integrate technology into every area of their business.

They don’t view technology as something outside of—or even alongside—the business. Corporate executives in these firms acknowledge that technology is an integral part of their operation. And IT management recognizes technology’s primary role as a business enabler. It’s a close partnership that benefits both sides—and the company as a whole.

The key to this partnership is convergence. According to the BTM Institute, “Managing business and technology together provides significantly better results than managing them in separate silos. By converging business and technology management, enterprises can nimbly respond to changing marketplace dynamics, technology evolutions and competitive pressures.” (Read “The Value of Convergence” .)

When Baseline and the BTM Corp. began this year’s Baseline/BTM 500 report last December, the goal was—and continues to be—to help companies evaluate where they stand when it comes to the convergence of business and technology—both the areas in which they excel and the ones where they need to do more work.

The companies that filled out our surveys are at various stages in their integration of technology into the business. Those that made it into the top 100 are well along in the convergence process. (Read the full Baseline/BTM 500 list)

Four companies are prime examples of how technology can drive business value. They are AT&T, Boeing, Cisco and New York Life. When we spoke with the CIOs of these four companies, we learned that they all share a conviction that technology is a key enabler of business success.

“We constantly stress that technology is there for the sake of our business goals—as opposed to our business existing for the sake of our technology,” said AT&T CIO Thaddeus Arroyo.

And Boeing CIO John Hinshaw explained that his com-pany’s IT environment is designed to accommodate the needs of Boeing’s customers and business partners. “Our customers are global,” he pointed out. “Our suppliers are global. So our IT environment is global to support all that.”

At Cisco, the technology organization measures itself “according to the business requirements and business results,” CIO Rebecca Jacoby said. IT managers ask themselves if their teams enable a business opportunity, enhance a customer or partner experience, or provide scalable productivity.

New York Life’s IT department has developed a scorecard that “guides decision making and adoption.” According to CIO Eileen Slevin, the scorecard “provides a gut check and allows us to understand what’s cost-effective and viable, and what we can support. It gives us a balanced perspective that spans the organization.”

These four companies have their business-technology priorities straight. Does yours?

Eileen Feretic is the Editor of Baseline Magazine.

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