Editorial: July 2003

Adaptive. Flexible. Responsive. Quick. The list of attributes characterizing what’s become known as “the real-time enterprise” just grows and grows—as does the sense of confusion about how to achieve it and what it all means. The goal is a laudable—if fuzzy—one: to speed up the ability of companies to respond to changes in their business environments, everything from orchestrating the introduction of a new product in response to a competitive threat to accounting for the transfer of $20 from one bank account to another. What’s really at stake is the ability to get the right information to the right people and places as fast as it’s needed. That’s why what we do is called information technology, and that’s why becoming an adaptive enterprise—which Stephan Haeckel describes in this issue’s Whiteboard as depending on four key steps, sense, interpret, decide, act—is so heavily dependent on IT. None of it happens without moving information around effectively and efficiently.

Consider Amerada Hess’ use of Linux clusters. Stuck with a three-year average cost of $12.19 per barrel to find and develop oil, the worst in its industry, Hess needed to find a way to cut costs and get better and faster at finding new oil reserves. By replacing its old supercomputer with Linux clusters, Hess has been able to muster the numbers-crunching power it needs to analyze more geographic data, in more ways and across larger areas beneath the ocean—at a fraction of the cost. The result: an information gusher that Hess hopes will improve its standing with investors and at the same time cut the costs of finding oil.

Getting better information to the right people is also the goal of the new cross-selling. But it’s not simply a matter of technology, says Contributing Editor Jeffrey Rothfeder. A decade of intensive business change and mergers and acquisitions activity has left many companies with a multitude of poorly integrated business units, without the IT or the business processes to work together successfully. Much of the technology and information needed to build profitable cross-selling programs, detailed data on customer behavior and preferences, and sophisticated CRM and sales-automation systems, is available. What’s needed now is a commitment to a strategy dedicated to the pursuit of profitability, in every sales channel.

This month’s research makes clear that CIOs feel strongly that they face a fast-changing world, and that they understand how important it is to be responsive—to markets, to customers, to information generally. Communication with the business side is key to that responsiveness. And communication is all about sharing information.

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