Executive Briefs: November 2001
How to Improve IT-Business Alignment
By Jerry Luftman
There's no silver-bullet solution to aligning IT and business, but alignment can be achieved if the two groups build the right relationships and processes. This diagnostic tool, developed by Professor Jerry Luftman of the Stevens Institute of Technology, provides a way for IT and business executives to assess how well their organizations do what's required to align IT, identify ways to improve performance and benchmark with other companies.
Brave New World
By Jeffrey Rothfeder
Companies have spent millions of dollars on contingency plans, disaster recovery schemes and risk management techniques only to discover after facing a real catastrophe that they weren't prepared for the worst. Now, companies are scrambling to re-evaluate virtually every facet of how they manage risk and plan for disasters, says business and technology journalist Jeffrey Rothfeder. Everything is being reconsidered: from employee surveillance and the appropriate level of network protection to how to safeguard inventory levels and key brands. It's critical that companies of all stripes reassess every aspect of corporate strategy in order to safeguard their most critical operations.
The First Fifty Years
By Brian Hayes
Half a century ago, J. Lyons & Co., a chain of British tea shops, switched on LEO, the first time an electronically stored program had been applied to routine business operations. LEO was designed not just to automate clerical tasks, but to help management analyze sales data in near-real time. As told by Brian Hayes, a longtime science and technology writer, it's a story about innovation in the service of clear business goals and how increased productivity requires not just computing power, but applying that power creatively to the task at hand.
The Next Fifty Years
By John Parkinson and Stephan H. Haeckel
What will the next several decades of business computing bring? John Parkinson, chief technologist for the Americas at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, invokes the concept of "Adaptive IT" to describe a world in which end-users are given a portfolio of somewhat self-assembling IT tools they can put together depending on the task. The challenge is to start thinking about how your specific business computing needs map to this portfolio architecture. For Stephan H. Haeckel, a director at IBM's Advanced Business Institute, the role of IT is going to be about creating and adapting information architectures that most closely reflect the business model, allowing businesses to respond to what is actually happening now. The result: a fundamental change in the structure of business and the concept of strategy.
Case Study: Emerson Electric
By Mark Roberti
A lot of companies have turned to online marketplaces to buy supplies and raw materials, but are finding they don't reap the savings they had hoped for. A potentially more rewardingbut much more difficultcost-cutting approach is to use the Net to analyze the company's entire purchasing system, and reform how supplies are bought and sold. Emerson, the St. Louis-based maker of power tools, temperature controls and other industrial equipment, is one of the few companies to use the Net for this purpose. So far, the results are impressive: $30 million in savings, going on $100 million by the end of 2005.
Research: Knowledge Management
By Gary A. Bolles and Terry A. Kirkpatrick
Knowledge management isn't a major focus for many companies, but for those for whom it is, the challenge has been to get the right information to the right people in the right way, and to derive demonstrable value. The results of our recent survey of 419 top IT executives shows the second challenge generally remains unsolved. While many respondents implementing KM systems achieved improved communications and enhanced customer and employee satisfaction, more ROI-focused goals were much less frequently achieved. As contributing editor Gary A. Bolles notes, better definition of business goals, more emphasis on involving employees in system design and a stronger focus on ROI will greatly benefit CIOs seeking to improve internal information management processes.
By Curtis E.A. Karnow
IT executives should audit their organization's legal relationships as part of disaster recovery planning, writes Curtis E.A. Karnow, a partner with law firm Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal. Contract reviews can help limit your liability in the event that customer or supplier data is compromised as a result of an attack on your corporate systems. Contract language that deserves attention includes force majeure clauses, responsibility for subcontractors and affiliates, and limitations to liability.