Editorial: March 2003

Remember when “thinking out of the box” was unequivocally considered a virtue, with innovation the necessary goal? IT management guru Gary Hamel’s 2000 best-selling book, Leading the Revolution, encouraged each employee at today’s older companies to “break the rules” and organize coworkers to challenge the status quo in ways big and small.

What a difference a couple of years makes. Today’s buzzword is control, with conformity now the more preferred endgame, whether in the context of standards, cost-cutting, incremental projects or centralized control over the purse strings. To be sure, CIOs have felt that backlash as acutely, if not more harshly, than many executives.

This month, CIO Insight analyzes IT executives’ battle to retain control of strategy, projects and costs in a climate of retrenchment and uncertainty. And what a struggle it continues to be. In our March survey, 54 percent of the more than 375 top IT executives say they’ve felt increasing pressure to show a payoff for their technology initiatives during the past 12 months. But here’s the rub: Taking control of IT initiatives doesn’t appear to be getting any easier. Fully 69 percent of IT executives say their ROI metrics don’t adequately capture the business value of their projects. Indeed, almost half of those surveyed aren’t even sure their companies use the right measurements when trying to assess the value of IT to the business bottom line.

But the frustration doesn’t end there. In this month’s trend piece, “Rogue IT,” writer Perry Glasser assesses the push by some CIOs to crack down on hidden costs by rooting out costly rogue IT projects. Trouble is, in times like these, the temptation by impatient business units to launch shadow IT has never been greater. IT management experts urge CIOs interested in holding onto their jobs to work more aggressively—with good IT governance and courageous leadership—to limit the spread of rogue IT.

Leiner Health Products is a story of what can happen when a fast-growing company loses sight of its technology strategy. Journalist Jeffrey Rothfeder profiles the private-label vitamin maker’s journey back from the brink of bad management, broken delivery systems and a troubling lack of technology leadership.

The lessons here? Taking more control of the IT spending and technology strategy is key to coping through these rough times and achieving the various, often conflicting mandates to do more with less. There’s rarely been a better time for CIOs to prove themselves as critical players on the business team. Just don’t wait too long: Your credibility just might depend on it.

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