How IT Greases the Wheels
By Tony Kontzer
My longtime family friend and financial advisor recently told me that he believes money is simply the grease in life. Money, he argues, does not do anything other than make the business of living life easier.
It later occurred to me that IT plays exactly the same role in the world of corporate business processes: it's the grease that makes those processes possible.
Don't just take it from me, though. UniGroup CIO Randy Poppell said as much during a recent interview with CIO Insight's Brian Watson.
Here's Poppell on how a focus on business-IT alignment at UniGroup has enabled IT to more effectively help its partners on the business side move shipments more effectively:
"Over the years, we've been able to show them how to better enable their business with technology, and at the same time, create some new thinking for them in how they approach the business. It's been good to see them grow and think about business problems in a different way."
Poppell's experience is emblematic of one of the IT world's truly positive developments during the recession--namely, more widespread focus on the IT-business alignment front. Like Poppell and his team at UniGroup, many IT departments have taken advantage of the downturn to a) strip their operation down to meet the bare-bones needs of the business, and then b) try to leverage what remains to deliver maximum business value. In the process of doing this, two important things happen: IT helps to bring down costs, and IT helps to fuel revenue-generating activities. If that isn't greasing the wheels of business, I don't know what is.
So while industry watchers ponder whether CIOs are destined to one day find themselves masters of little more than a commodity--effectively making them 21st century versions of the Chief Electrical Officers of a century ago--there are clearly plenty of opportunities for CIOs today to make their value known.
No one on the business side will call IT a commodity so long as it provides the needed grease--in the form of competitive advantage and business process transformation capabilities. And never have those contributions meant more.