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All in a Day's Work

All in a Day's Work

"Somebody is out there looking for new ways to reinvent your business. If you don't, they will. If you think you have not got a problem, then you are looking in the wrong place."-- John Handby in his book Ahead of the Game.

IT strategist John Handby is interviewed in this issue about the changing CIO role, but his quote above is actually more germane to Peter Young's story about how Brisbane City Council (BCC) is fitting EDI into its broader electronic commerce (EC) plans.

As Handby suggests, finding new business and new ways of doing business are keys to survival in today's marketplace. Unfortunately, as business continues to discover how technology can further commerce, many business people are finding it harder to define EC. For some companies, electronic commerce is nothing more than financial transactions that use information technology. For others, electronic commerce encompasses a full sales cycle - including marketing, selling and eventually discontinuing or upgrading outdated products and services.

Ultimately, anything simultaneously involving technology and business or commerce should probably fall under the umbrella of EC. And because different parts of EC are in different stages (much like BCC's initiative), perhaps it's best to divide EC into two segments - EDI and the Internet - because the two are at different points in the technology cycle.

But let's put the IT infrastructure issues aside for a moment, and address another point: how electronic commerce is changing the CIO role. The agency of change is both simple and overwhelming: the data and user needs of the new business paradigm (which EC heralds) are as different from the old-fashioned commerce model as night and day.

To this end, CIOs need to look at electronic commerce projects from a wider and more multi-functional business perspective. For many organisations, the solution will lie in incremental EC implementation, with their CIOs committing to a "correct level" of electronic commerce every year. However, the bottom line remains the same: CIOs have to drive their organisations into this game now because there's too much business leverage at stake. To wait would be a mistake.

On a final note, last month I welcomed IDG's newly-appointed CIO Andrew Birmingham to the fold. This month I'm pleased to announce that he'll be a regular CIO columnist. Initially, Birmingham will chronicle his "real-life experiences" - the ups and downs, clashes and frustrations that are part of the job. In fact, I believe he's already learning the true meaning of the curse: "May you live in interesting times".

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