Picking your shots in the internet economy

A common term that IT managers have used to describe their job is firefighter: The one who saves the day by putting out tech crises.

          A common term that IT managers have used to describe their job is firefighter: The one who saves the day by putting out tech crises.

          Today a better image might be of a performer in a three-ring circus, keeping multiple balls in the air while the world watches closely. IT executives keep companies running, but with the demands of e-business they need to juggle an increasingly long list of relationships -- a line of business executives, suppliers and outsourcers, and fellow IT staffers.

          Despite the endless talk about the New Economy, the goal of successful IT executives has been remarkably consistent: aligning IT and business strategy. This notion has been behind successful corporate strategy for as long as people have been drawing network diagrams.

          When asked what has changed, many IT and business leaders will give the same answer: speed. With the wave of CEO interest in IT-driven business opportunities and the torrid rate of technology development, IT experts are at the centre of a whirlwind.

          The most logical way for IT executives to find the ever-shrinking window of opportunity is to pick the project that will deliver the biggest business impact and outsource what's not strategic.

          After a year of listening to how dot-com start-ups will eat the lunch of slow-footed corporate America, the last six months to nine months has been a period of e-business initiatives that will have lasting impact. (This is also the same time frame in which the speculative stock market bubble begin to deflate.)

          In many cases, the transition from maintaining back-room operations and end-user equipment to high-profile forays into e-commerce has been difficult. But the changes can create the lasting binds between corporate factions that are needed to reposition a company around the customer. And when it comes to synthesising strategy and officiating between different parties, IT's experience could come in handy.

          Is IT at risk of being shut out of e-commerce strategy?

          Write to Martin LaMonica.

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