The Good Old Days?
I started writing for technology publications before IBM introduced its PC. So I remember, as I’m sure many of you do, the days when most of a company’s technology was locked up in the data center, and white-collar professionals had to be satisfied with having access to fax machines and word processors.
Some may think fondly about those times, when MIS ruled the data center and businesspeople tended strictly to business issues without knowing what went on in the world of technology. Thankfully, those days are gone.
Technology is, after all, a business tool, but a tool is valuable only if it’s used by the right people for the right tasks. So, for information technology to bring value to a business, the two sides must work together: IT’s strategic plan must follow and align with the company’s strategic business plan.
Over the past decade, a growing number of enterprises have recognized this indisputable fact: Business needs technology to survive—and thrive—in today’s global economy, and IT must be integrated into the business to support, enhance and enable business goals.
The best-run companies know this. They leverage technology to create innovative products and services, gain competitive advantage, react quickly to market changes, enhance service to customers, increase employee productivity and, ultimately, improve the bottom line.
Increasingly, line-of-business (LOB) managers and executives are working with the IT organization to make technology decisions. This trend has been going on for years, but it is now being driven by emerging technologies like cloud computing, software as a service, mobility, Web 2.0 and social networking. In fact, in many instances, LOB execs are the ones promoting these technologies, and they’re turning to IT to execute their plans.
In many companies, these trends have led to strengthening the partnership between IT and LOB, and encouraging the convergence of technology and business. However, in some enterprises, managers on both sides are fighting this integration by stubbornly defending their silos. These misguided executives are preventing their companies from competing as effectively as possible, and, in this troubled economy, that could be lethal.
That’s why we’ve devoted much of this issue to our Baseline/BTM 500 report on the convergence of business and technology and the results that can be achieved by companies that understand how vital this convergence is.
As Larry Walsh writes in “Convergence: The Wave of Future Success”, the report “highlights enterprises with the most efficient and optimized technology management organizations and explains how that convergence contributes to growth and profitability. … The study validates the link between business-technology convergence and the maturity of that convergence in an enterprise’s efficient operations and financial performance.”
Many of the enterprises surveyed for this report are well on their way to business-technology convergence. As a representative sample, we profiled General Motors, Marriott International, NetApp, Pitney Bowes and Verizon Communications. All are from different industries, but they share a respect for and a commitment to the integration of business and technology. Here’s what their CIOs have to say about convergence:
GM CIO Ralph Szygenda points to the company’s OnStar system as an example of the results that can be achieved when business and IT work together, saying “It’s all driven by information technology.”
“At Marriott,” says CIO Carl Wilson, “we do not have technology projects. We have business initiatives that are shaped and enabled by technology.”
NetApp CIO Marina Levinson says, “We want to make sure we are working on the right things and that there is alignment between our business strategy and our IT strategy.”
“We constantly look at what we [in IT] are doing in the context of whether it is what the business wants and needs,” says Gregory Buoncontri, CIO of Pitney Bowes.
Eric Fremont, Verizon’s senior vice president of IT strategy and planning, is also sold on the value of convergence. “Technology is radically changing our business,” he concludes.
These CIOs, and many other forward-thinking IT executives, aren’t looking back at the good old days. They’re too busy making sure that today’s times are the best times, and they’re laying the groundwork for a future in which their companies can continue to grow and flourish.