5 Tips for Improving Your IP Score

By Brian P. Watson Print this article Print

Businesses of all shapes and sizes comprise the Baseline 500. But they face many of the same issues in achieving high levels of information productivity (IP)—and have many of the same routes to getting there. Here are five:

1. Align I.T. strategy with business priorities

Business-I.T. alignment is an important priority for most CIOs, but Kevin Cornwell sees it through a unique lens. Cornwell, the CEO of Utah Medical Products (No. 83 in the Baseline 500), oversees I.T. operations himself.

That's easier to do at a small company like Utah Medical, which makes products used in intensive care units and has just 30 or so employees. But Cornwell sees potential all around. Through strong collaboration between I.T. departments and lines of business, companies can limit investments in technology projects that don't deliver returns. That helps cut overhead and increase the potential for revenue gains—two factors that figure prominently in the IP calculation.

2. Tell your colleagues what's true, not what they want to hear

Business-I.T. collaboration is just the first step, says June Drewry, chief information officer at Chubb (No. 2 on this year's Baseline 500). I.T. executives need to stand firm on which projects will work—and which won't.

Business heads give I.T. executives a seat at the table for a reason—they want to hear unvarnished feedback. So Drewry encourages the CIOs of Chubb's business units to make their voice heard. "It's not a matter of if someone gets upset if you do—they'll get upset if you don't," she says. "Then you're just an I.T. guy. And, frankly, an I.T. guy doesn't deserve a seat at the table."

3. Keep it simple

Chesapeake Energy, this year's No. 3 finisher (it was No. 1 in the Baseline 500 for the two previous years), makes substantial investments in I.T. each year. But CIO Cathy Tompkins says the company—and her team—balks at high-priced systems and applications loaded with bells and whistles.

Tompkins prefers a "keep it simple" philosophy when it comes to reviewing potential I.T. investments. "Is this really needed?" she constantly asks, "or are we better off giving them a simple solution and spending our time on the harder nuts to crack?" With an outlook like that, Tompkins says, companies can limit their I.T. spending and focus to projects that deliver demonstrable returns.

4. You've Got Ears. Use them

Ronald Aderhold became Cleveland-Cliffs' first CIO last year. The company had taken a controlling interest in several mines and brought in a new CEO, and Aderhold was tasked with standardizing I.T. across the company's mining operations. At a first step, Aderhold traveled to the company's sites and asked business executives what they needed.

Then he listened.

The give and take, he says, helped increase acceptance of new systems and processes. "It's easy to come in and say I know best," he says. "But we came in with two ears and one mouth—and used them in that ratio."

5. Centralize I.T. Functions

Southern Copper rode the wave of higher copper prices to this year's top spot on the Baseline 500. But it wasn't easy, says Martin Ugarteche, the company's top I.T. executive. Dealing with the growth in operations at its mines, he says, put extra stress on I.T.

So Ugarteche standardized systems and applications across the mining operations. In 2006, the company deployed new business intelligence, enterprise-resource planning and IP telephony systems across its 15 sites. That limited the cost of licensing and maintaining disparate systems. It also helped prepare the company for the growth it's expecting in the next year.

This article was originally published on 2007-10-01
Associate Editor

Brian joined Baseline in March 2006. In addition to previous stints at Inter@ctive Week and The Net Economy, he's written for The News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla., as well as The Sunday Tribune in Dublin, Ireland. Brian has a B.A. from Bucknell University and a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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