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Friday, July 27, 2007

Top companies use technology to gain a competitive advantage

By Steve Epner – Founder, BSW Consulting, Inc.

Top companies use technology to gain a competitive advantage. These companies are willing to treat it as a strategic resource instead of a simple shared process. It is integrated in what they do, not just added on as a necessary evil. Their IT leaders are part of the long range and strategic planning. IT is active in assisting the company to reach its strategic goals.

If something big is going to occur, it will affect the computer systems and their use. Without input from IT, a great deal of effort may be wasted or unplanned activities will be required at the last minute when they are most difficult to provide. Then, when the work is done under pressure, without long range planning, and it fails, the common view about how difficult it is to deal with IT is reinforced and opportunities are lost. It does not have to be that way.

The top IT person or CIO should be invited to provide input to the planning process. No other executive will have the perspective or knowledge of the systems and procedures which will be affected by any given scenario. No one else will know what is necessary for the systems to support any new initiative.

The top IT executive can tell you what new hardware, software, support, or training will be needed. They can estimate what it will cost and when it can be available. The answers may slow down or speed up a project. But, the rest of the executives will at least know the impact and can plan for (or around) it.

Given the opportunity to be part of the strategic process, the actual implementation of the plans will be much smoother. IT will be seen as a cooperating member of the tam, not some pain in the back end.

In addition, many companies find that their IT executives have a different view of the world, which if encouraged, will help them find new ways to attack old problems. By including people who have to keep systems operational, the team gets a valuable new viewpoint while deliberating the future. All of the major studies on decision making show that a diverse team makes better decisions than one with limited outside experience.

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