Innovation: 10 Cases Where I.T. Raised The Bar

By Anna Maria Virzi Print this article Print

Cost cutting is no longer the sole mantra of the day. Technology leaders are now being asked to help their businesses compete and grow.

Senior managers are pressing technology leaders to offer new services and grow revenue. What should CIOs do? Here are 10 cases where I.T. raised organizational effectiveness.  

How can chief information officers best serve business these days? Many will need to switch priorities, trading an emphasis on cost cutting to focusing instead on making their business become more competitive and grow, according to a study, "Creating Enterprise Leverage: The 2007 CIO Agenda" released this month by IT advisors Gartner Inc. of Stamford, Conn. "CIOs cannot rely on traditional actions—such as improving operational efficiency, reducing I.T. costs and automation that lead to commodization—to meet executive expectations," says Mark McDonald, group vice president and head of research for Gartner's Executive Programs.  

In fact, many companies try to do both. By more efficiently delivering and maintaining standard services—such as desktops, networks and back-office software applications—those companies can use those savings to fund new initiatives such as business intelligence, analytics and data warehousing, says Eric Dorr, senior business adviser of the Hackett Group, an Atlanta consultancy.  

Some CIOs may not be up to the challenge. Nearly one-quarter of 257 technology managers responding to a CIO Insight survey last year said they were early adopters of technology—one sign that they are likely to embrace innovation. Half said they were mainstream adopters and the remaining quarter were late adopters.  

What are companies doing to promote innovation? Learn from these following examples:

Inside eBay's Innovation Machine
eBay retooled its technology platform to scale for rapid growth. Why? It now hopes a thriving community of outside developers will use that platform to keep the company growing into its second decade.

Virtualization: PG&E's Power Play
PG&E helps its customers cut costs in their data centers. But the utility also practices what it preaches, through virtualization software and a review of its energy policies—showing how innovation can help the bottom line.

Amazon at Your Service
The hosting business may never be the same. The online retailer is opening up its technology platform to become a provider of storage, computing and other services.

Boston Red Sox: Backstop Your Business
To help win a history-making World Series title in 2004, the Boston team's owners hired some of the best analytical minds in the business and invested in sophisticated scouting software, computerized video analysis and business intelligence tools for mining the stacks of statistics at their disposal.

SOA: TD Banknorth Is Banking on It
Service-oriented architecture has helped financial firms such as TD Banknorth neutralize integration headaches and make their legacy applications more responsive to customer needs.

Digital Supply Chain: Warner Bros.' Next Big Release
The entertainment industry is rushing to replace an outdated film production and distribution system with a nimble digital supply chain. Information Sharing: LAPD Starts to Connect the Dots
Can federal, state, county and local authorities effectively collect and share information? An initiative launched in the wake of 9/11 aims to break old habits and better protect the homeland. Digital Networking: Hannaford Bros. is a Cut Above
Retailers including the $3.4 billion supermarket chain are using consolidated, faster data networks to make key business decisions-such as how much ribeye to put out on a Wednesday. Customer Self-Service: US Airways Eliminates Customer Drag
The struggling airline business sees the merger of US Airways and America West-fueled by enhanced customer-service technology-as a strategy for revenue growth.

I.T. and Business Alignment: ExxonMobil's Well-Oiled Machine
Exxon looks to homegrown applications to gain a competitive advantage in oil exploration. Also in this package: What Should You Be: Strategic or Tactical?
There are times for CIOs to plan strategically, looking at the big picture to improve overall business effectiveness. And there are times for CIOs to concentrate on tactical matters, such as cutting costs as computer technologies become cheaper and faster. Where does your organization fit in?

Interactive Tool: Deciding Between Strategic or Tactical Spending
Should your I.T. spending promote top-line or bottom-line growth? Examine these indicators for your organization to assess where you should be headed.

This article was originally published on 2007-02-27
Executive Editor
Anna Maria was assistant managing editor Forbes.com. She held the posts of news editor and executive editor at Internet World magazine and was city editor and Washington correspondent for the Connecticut Post, a daily newspaper in Bridgeport. Anna Maria has a B.A. from the University of Rhode Island.
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