Facing-Not Fearing-the Future

After all we’ve been through during the past few years, it’s not surprising that most of us are entering 2011 with some trepidation. We’re hopeful that things will be better but cautious about being too optimistic. That’s an understandable—and realistic—attitude.

Let’s face it: 2011 is going to be a year of challenges to meet and hurdles to overcome. This is especially true for IT leaders—both managers in the technology trenches and business professionals involved in requesting and approving technology for their departments.

The growing appetite for technology continues unabated, despite anemic budgets and understaffed IT organizations. Managers and employees request—demand?—mobile technologies (with the requisite support), cloud computing (with a promise of security), social networking (with a plea for privacy) and customer-focused systems (with the hope of higher sales). And they want it all—now!

Often, a worried and overburdened IT organization throws up its hands and asks, “What are your priorities? We can’t do it all, so tell us what’s most important to the business.”

“What’s most important to the business?” Those words hold the key to solving the problem of too much demand and too little supply.

It’s clear that in this economic environment there’s not enough money or staff to fund and support all the technologies business managers and their staffs want and need. So it’s critical to set priorities, and those priorities should be based on what brings value to the business.

Will an IT project create new business opportunities, increase revenue, strengthen relationships with existing customers or attract new ones, improve employee productivity and morale, optimize the supply chain or provide better information on which to make decisions? Unless a technology project can meet the one critical criterion—it brings value to the business—it should not be added IT’s must-do list.

The articles in this issue were chosen to provide value to you by covering some of the technologies that will be essential to many businesses this year. In our cover story, “Can IT Manage Mobility?”, writer Sam Greengard delves into the growing demand for mobility solutions and support, and reports on how enterprises such as Delta Airlines, Wells Fargo, IBM and Hyatt Hotels are successfully meeting that demand.

We’ve added a new section to Baseline this year—“Innovation”—because business must move beyond the status quo of the past few years and opt for creativity. Progress demands an innovative approach to enterprise technology. The alternative is unthinkable to any business that wants to shake off the torpor of the recession and embrace a prosperous future.

In our first “Innovation” story, “9 Creative Ways to Enhance the Customer Experience”, Kate Leggett of Forrester Research offers some inventive strategies for surprising and satisfying your customers. We all know that customer expectations are high—and continue to grow—and companies that don’t meet those expectations can expect bad reviews on Facebook, Twitter and other social media venues. Kate’s advice can help your company avoid such a “death by blog.”

Innovation is clearly a top priority in the manufacturing industry. In “Tech Shapes Manufacturing’s Future”, Dennis McCafferty reports on how information technology was critical to the production of GM’s Chevrolet Volt, which sports a lithium-ion battery. He also writes about manufacturers that used virtualization and business analytics to make their companies more profitable.

This issue also includes an article from Jacques Playe, CIO, Operations, at L´Oréal, who details how a new central IT system has improved the company’s efficiency (“L´Oréal’s Manufacturing Makeover”.)

And, of course, we’ve included an article on cloud computing: “Getting a Handle on the Cloud”. Writer David Strom points out that simply moving to a cloud doesn’t guarantee success. For a cloud to be a valuable business asset, it must be carefully planned, designed and implemented.

We believe these in-the-trenches stories will give you some innovative ideas for your enterprise—and hope for a successful 2011.