The Renaissance Manager
Renaissance CIOs view their organizations as IT-enabled networks designed to exploit resources, including, but not limited to, the information resource. Unlike the functional hierarchy of the Industrial Age, the Information Age organization is permeable—its boundaries are soft. The network organization is an "extended enterprise" that includes suppliers and customers as partners in strategic alliances. The Renaissance CIO sees this network as a natural conduit for the free flow of information in creating business value.
The network is the operative term describing the organization. Communication in the organization is point-to-point, often enabled by technologies such as e-mail, wireless and video. The organization is also organic: It changes in size and relationships through time, depending on the strategy of the business at the time. Indeed, the network organizational takes on technologies that mirror its organization structure. It is now possible to create organizations that have no center and grow from the edges. We are on the threshold of what might be called the Napsterization of groupware, while grid computing lets a vast network of individuals share their local processing power to create a networked organization. The early examples of such radically decentralized organizations are likely to be small and experimental, but big companies—led by their Renaissance CIOs—are being attracted to the same capabilities.
Critical to the success of these organizational networks is the knowledge they depend on, and knowledge management is now evolving to manage and exploit its potential value. Renaissance CIOs understand the value of knowledge and lead in the effort to manage and exploit it. To that end, Renaissance CIOs help their companies better understand the value of intellectual capital—knowledge and human assets—without which no company can succeed. They create the homemade internal working measures needed to track the true business value of the information capabilities created, and use those measures of intellectual capital to convince their capital spending committees to endorse spending on IT initiatives that create, conserve, share and protect intellectual assets. The "offensive" activities include strategically sharing information with supply-chain partners (to improve inventory control, coordinate delivery times and enable customized logistics solutions) and intimidating competitors (by showing them how tough it will be to compete). The "defensive" activities include data administration, developing virtual private networks, and security and encryption.
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