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The Blame Game

Remember when IT was a world all its own? Remember when CEOs steered clear of CIOs and intermingled only on special projects? Well, if you hadn't noticed already, those days are long gone, according to a survey released late last year by consulting company Transition Partners in Virginia.

Based on input from 53 chief executives from Fortune 500 companies, the study indicates that an overwhelming number of corporate CEOs are increasingly taking responsibility for keeping up to date on the service, delivery and performance of their IT organisations. Tom Pettibone, managing partner at Transition Partners, calls the transformation the "decline of the blame game", and says the findings show encouraging signs of the CIO's continued rise to prominence in businesses across the country. For example, findings indicate that among chief executives who say they aren't adequately informed about IT matters, only 4 per cent say it's mostly the fault of the CIO. More than 70 per cent share the blame with the CIO, and nearly 26 per cent say they now take responsibility for keeping informed.

Indeed, Pettibone says of the 53 CEOs, more than 85 per cent say they're well-informed about their IT organisation's service delivery and performance, while nearly 73 per cent say they have strong relationships with their CIOs. CEOs familiar with the study support these claims. Peter Burki, cofounder and CEO at Connecticut-based Lifecare.com, a provider of work and life services, claims: "I'd say I rely on my CIO more than anybody else at this company. You know the relationship the CEO used to have with the CFO? I think the CEO will have that close tie to the CIO and CTO in the years to come."

Across Long Island Sound at Bascom, an Internet software provider in New York, CEO Pete Cirasole agrees. "Today, CEOs can't do their job without making it a priority to familiarise themselves with IT and work closely with their [CIOs]," says Cirasole, who cofounded the company with CTO Bob DeRosa. "Every company needs a strong IT department - and good relationships with that department - to survive."

For more information on the study or to contact Pettibone directly, visit www.transitionpartners.net.

Nothing but Net.

Here are the top three uses of the Internet for e-commerce, according to a recent study by Cahners In-Stat Group (US).

Enterprise Middle

(1,000+ employees) (100-999 employees)

PROCURING PRODUCTS 65% 77%

SUPPLIER/BUYER NETWORK 50% 44%

SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT 43% 32%

Source: "All Business is e-Business: Demand for Internet Infrastructure and the Build-Up of Commerce Capabilities in the Middle & Enterprise Markets," Cahners In-Stat Group, December 2000.

Department of BIG, Scary Numbers.

The Institute for the Future recently found that each day the average white-collar worker sends and receives 190 messages via e-mail, telephone, fax, postal mail and so on. It's not surprising that nearly three out of four of those workers say they feel overwhelmed by information overload.

Source: Institute for the Future (www.iftf.org).

The pace of technological progress almost always outstrips the ability of customers to use it.

- Clayon Christiansen, author of The Innovator's Dilemma.

MEDIA WATCH.

Check Those Spin Cycles.

You can't control what other people say about you - or about your competition. But in a world where those electronic (and paper-based) whispers can drive a company's reputation through the stratosphere or plunge it straight to earth trailing flames, it pays to monitor the media.

Tracking your media presence is a great way to ferret out weaknesses, build on your strengths and stop negative word-of-mouth in its tracks. And keeping an eye on the other guy is a great way to build competitive advantage. But with millions of Web sites, hundreds of television channels, and thousands of newspapers and magazines that need monitoring, what's an overworked media watcher to do? Try a little TNT.

Total News Tracking, a B2B application created by New York City-based Medialink Worldwide and Massachusetts-based Northern Light Technology, lets subscribers track references to companies and other organisations across the Web, television, print and other major media simultaneously.

To initiate tracking, users enter keywords such as the name of their organisation on a browser-based search page on their desktop. Accessing a database much broader in reach than standard search engines, TNT looks for references in 2500 news-related Web sites, 1500 daily newscasts and 7000 premium full-text sources, including major newspapers and magazines. Results are grouped by media; users click on a link to connect to text files, PDFs and video transcripts. Databases are updated several times daily. You can even receive automatic notification of new hits by e-mail.

Who's using TNT? Thus far, traditional public relations and marcomm personnel form the core user group. But Susan Stearns, director of marketing for Northern Light, says TNT is an ideal tool for gathering competitive intelligence as well. She also envisions TNT as a tool salespeople can use to get a feel for a company and its needs prior to a sales call. And who knows? Today's image-conscious entrepreneurs might even want to track themselves.

ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION.

Read this NOW!

"E-mail is such a pervasive medium now; everyone's using it," says English professor Hilary Holladay, who leads workshops on the subject at the University of Massachusetts and Enterprise Bank and Trust, both in the US state of Massachusetts. "The question is, Are we using it the best way we can and in the most appropriate way we can?" We sent Holladay a few typical e-mail scenarios. If they seem hauntingly familiar, read her responses to learn why you might need to change your e-mail ways.

I have a lot to do. Who really cares if a few typos slip in to my e-mail messages? It's not like my staff were English majors.

Sloppy e-mail sends a not-so-subtle message to your staff: You don't pay attention to detail, so why should they? You risk losing your employees' respect if you don't uphold the rules of writing that you expect them to use when corresponding with someone outside the company.

It's easiest for me to write my e-mail messages using the caps lock key. It saves time.

E-mail written all in caps is the visual equivalent of SHOUTING (see?). You risk alienating your colleagues if you write this way.

A co-worker claims that I hide in my cube and send e-mail rather than talking face-to-face.

E-mail is great for routine memos and updates, but it is no substitute for the personal interaction that humanises the workplace. Seek out your colleagues in person, and they will appreciate your interest in them. The confrontations you had sought to avoid may evolve into friendly collaborations.

My boss sent out an e-mail to the entire company announcing his receptionist's death. Many of us would have liked to have been told in person.

News that is potentially shocking or startling should be delivered in person. If that's not possible, a printed letter or memo is preferable. When sending similar messages, ask yourself, "Would I be upset if someone sent me this news by e-mail?"

- Sarah Johnson

By the Numbers.

Compiled by Lorraine Cosgrove Ware.

Measuring IT Alignment.

CIOs are making progress in aligning information technology with business strategy but still face a significant hurdle in making non-IT executives see IT as a business investment rather than a cost. "This next level of alignment requires shifting senior management's mind-set from viewing IT spending as something separate from business to bundling IT in with the overall investment in business," says Mary Silva Doctor, a consultant who works with Pennsylvania-based Omega Point Consulting, a consultancy focused on IT management.

The IT Alignment Index, an online survey jointly developed by CIO and Boston-based consultancy ICEX, found that 52 per cent of 420 IT professionals surveyed in January agreed that the largest IT initiatives were directly linked to business goals and objectives in their organisations. Fostering constant communication between CIOs and other business chiefs remains a vital prescription for improving the results.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT.

ERP Implementation in 10 Easy Steps

Feel free to distribute this simple recipe. CIO receives many requests for this information.

Note: This also works for supply chain projects.

- Ask the board of directors for an arbitrary but large sum of money. (Suggestion: $300 million.) - Give half the money to consultants. Ask them to select an appropriate ERP package for your company. Consultants will audit your business processes for six months and then select SAP, which they happen to resell.

- Form cross-functional implementation teams. Hold meetings.

- Re-engineer all your business processes to match the software's model.

- Give the other half of the money to consultants.

- Install the software.

- Train end users repeatedly.

- Cross your fingers.

- Turn on the software.

- If you're still in business, immediately return to Step 1 because it's time for an upgrade.

- Derek Slater

Best Practices.

1. Review IT initiatives with senior management in concert with your company's business cycle. Traditional budgeting cycles that are limited to once a year can straight-jacket the CIO's efforts to make IT part of strategy discussions. Companies that are successfully aligning IT with business are those that review and assess IT projects. Richard Swanborg, president and founder of ICEX, says that the survey results indicate 45 per cent of respondents follow this advice, which shows "that IT is involved in strategy planning on a regular, ongoing basis and not just once a year".

2. Communicate IT capabilities throughout the business. Maintain strategic dialogues on the capabilities of IT with business unit managers as well as senior management. Build bottom-up support throughout the company by communicating and educating at all levels of management to change the perception of IT and influence corporate culture.

3. Push for equal treatment of IT spending. IT investment needs to be considered like any other business investment, rather than as a separate category of expenses. And old formulas don't apply, Swanborg says. "Determining your IT spending as a percentage of revenues no longer works. IT investment decisions must be considered in the same manner that a manufacturer decides on investing in a new plant, for example," he says.

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