Business Technology

Technology innovation was a hallmark of the 1990s, as the decade ushered in the global explosion in mobile telephony, the Internet, CRM, portable computing, and many other developments. In the decade ahead, however, the critical technology innovations to watch for will be managerial ones.

Management progress has been slow

The pace of progress in IT products has been dizzying – technology "generations" have collapsed to just years, even months – but progress in the art and science of managing information systems has been markedly slower. The consequence: a widening gap between what companies can achieve with the technology and what they actually get.
Businesses have exhibited a long-standing inability to get their leaders adequately engaged in setting priorities for IT investments and in making leaders fully accountable (along with IT managers) for ensuring that the company realizes the value of those investments. Today, the IT investment pendulum has swung in the opposite direction; bare-knuckle cost cutting has replaced exuberant spending. But at companies where business and technology management are not fully integrated, too much value is still being left on the table.

Integrating business with technology

New approaches are essential. Effective IT management in the 21st century is not primarily about surmounting technology challenges. Many of those battles have been won. Most modern challenges for IT management can be solved only by better integrating business with technology. These challenges include setting overall IT spending levels to match market and competitive needs, determining what the organization will spend on running the business as opposed to changing the business, and preparing a realistic road map for the organization's IT and business initiatives – one that serves market and business needs but controls risks and costs.
Companies can't meet these challenges with the traditional static approach where business leaders set requirements and IT managers try to implement them. That disconnect contributed to overspending on technology in the 1990s. Instead, what is needed is more communication among business and functional leaders and IT executives on business priorities and IT solutions. To define and resolve strategic IT management issues, they must work together, absorbing, digesting, and creating value from the recent technological advances and innovations.
The good news is that many senior executives recognize the cost of holding on to outdated IT management practices and IT governance structures. A growing number are motivated to improve in these areas. Many companies, in fact, have tried to integrate business and technology management, though few would honestly say they succeed at it. But this is the foundation for innovation. New IT management approaches will soon eclipse outdated ones – the stakes are too high for businesses to continue avoiding change.