At Carlson, the structure they call the Information Technology Council brought together all parts of the business. It focused on the immediate benefits of collaboration: a common platform, standards and joint procurement. It balanced enterprisewide concerns with those of individual groups, where meeting the unique needs of customers was paramount. These are all elements of business-technology management and convergence--as is a persistent focus on the customer.
More from Carlson:
"For our travel business, we created a client-reporting portal that automated reports to the clients. For the hotel business, we migrated our peer reservation system to a multi-million-dollar global reservation system. We also created some of the first Web-based hotel-booking sites. This investment helped us to create a highly leveraged, competitive advantage with our hotels. We created something called look to bookÂ®, an exclusive way to award points to travel agents for booking and remaining loyal to Carlson hotels.
"To push us forward, we also replaced many legacy applications with common applications."
As the sophistication of Carlson's technology matured, so did its sophistication in managing it, she says:
"We've refined the governance process for making capital investments over the years. The individual operating group has to justify its innovations based on either a defensive or an offensive position. Specifically, an investment has to either add customer value or make us more efficient. Whatever product or standard we decide to invest in has to go to the Information Technology Council for review and approval. For example, the CIO brings architecture and infrastructure investments before the Council to be negotiated and decided upon. Council members look at what groups the investment will benefit, what type of benefit the company can realize, when the investment needs to happen, what tradeoffs, if any, might need to be made if the investment happens, and where this investment ranks in the overall priorities for a given time period.
"Once the council approves the investment, it goes before the corporate-wide investment committee. This committee consists of the executive team, primarily the CEO, the CFO, the CIO, the chief legal officer, and the HR director. The technology executive for each of the businesses, along with the CEO of that business or the president of that business, presents before the capital investment committee, which asks due-diligence questions about the proposed investment. Investments less than a certain amount go before this committee. Investments over that amount go before the board of directors."