Firms embrace, but fail to execute IT as key strategy

More companies now recognize technology as important business asset but few take pains and necessary steps to sufficiently make IT palpable, tech consultancies say.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor on

Most enterprises today recognize IT as integral to their overall business strategy, but not all have executed or invested enough to execute this realization, note tech consultancies, who advise firms to go further by actively tweaking existing implementations and tapping new technologies.

Ho Wah Lee, head of advisory at KPMG Singapore, said the importance of IT in a company's business strategy is "now a reality, and no longer just a PowerPoint presentation".

And in terms of IT utilization across industry verticals such as banking and healthcare, Ho told ZDNet Asia that it is easy to spot differences between high-performing and mediocre companies.

High performers, he said, embrace and continuously utilize IT as a key differentiator in their business strategy, integrating it across all parts of the organization. Mediocre performers, in comparison, see IT as a "necessary evil" and "short-term fix", implementing it only because "everyone else is doing it or it's part of a required [industry] standard", he explained in an e-mail.

He added that leading companies also continuously review, finetune and improve their IT implementations, and do not exhibit the "don't fix unless broken" mentality that is typical of average performers.

More than a mindset

Michael Broberg, vice president of U.S. strategic technology solutions at Hitachi Consulting, concurred, noting that high-performing companies take IT out of the backroom and adopt technology throughout all areas of their business, including supply chain, logistics, customer and channel management, as well as corporate functions such as legal, finance and human resources.

"Technology is no longer just a way to support a business but a way of doing business," Broberg said in his e-mail. However, while most large organizations have internalized this perspective, not all have made the necessary changes or investments to get ahead of the curve, he said.

Some resist changing internal processes that have been ingrained for years, while others may have legacy systems and processes that are complex and not conducive to rapid changes, he explained.

Ho added that leadership is also often a key factor. C-level executives may not fully embrace IT because they view other business issues with higher priority, or prefer to maintain status quo.

They may also adopt a "short-term" view on IT implementations and are not willing to impact key corporate financial indicators, he said, noting that strategic investments in IT may not yield immediate results and returns on investments (ROIs) are sometimes difficult to quantify or articulate since the benefits can be intangible.

Leveraging new technologies
Patrick Lopez, senior manager of U.S. strategic technology solutions at Hitachi Consulting, noted that enterprise mobility has driven more companies or left them with little choice but to utilize IT as a core requirement of their overall business strategy.

Lopez observed that enterprise users today want easy, immediate access to technology, and expect business tools to be developed for mobile platforms.

James Bostock, advisory services partner at Ernst & Young, noted in his e-mail that organizations looking to further enhance and better utilize their IT spend ought to tap areas such as social media, mobile apps and mobile devices. These new technologies have the potential to generate new businesses or new markets for companies, he said.

Steve Garrou, vice president of outsourcing and cloud services at Savvis, pointed to the consumerization of IT as the "new wave of influence" as both employees and consumers demand increased mobility. Businesses today need to empower their employees to work from any place, at any time, to successfully achieve their business needs, Garrou in an e-mail.

By adopting emerging technology such as cloud computing, companies can focus on newly-founded excess capacity--time and money--on activities core to its success, have quicker time-to-market, leaner costs or create new products, services or capabilities to remain competitive and differentiate themselves from others who have yet to adopt the latest technology, he explained.

Lawrence Goh, executive director of Accenture Asean, iterated that high-performing organizations that have already integrated IT across their overall business strategy, understand how to adopt new technologies securely as new information is pumped into application architectures for use throughout the company.

Goh highlighted that since the tech consultancy started its High Performance IT Research in 2008, the gap between high-performing and mediocre IT users has been widening. High performers are reaping the benefits of positioning "IT as a partner and growth engine for their business", and thus, continue to hone this capability, he said in an e-mail.

CIO as business leader, not just tech leader
Bostock remarked that the more progressive companies no longer view IT simply as an efficiency-enabler and have CIOs who claim a "bona fide seat" at the table with their management team. Advice from CIOs should be sought in driving the business forward in areas other than improving efficiencies.

Garrou concurred that CIOs have seen their roles shift from technical planning to strategic planning, where they focus not only the latest technology and trends but also on ways IT can help achieve business objectives.

Broberg added that CIOs today need to "think differently from CIOs of the past" and understand the ins-and-outs of the business, how it operates and what drives profits.

However, he emphasized that understanding the importance and opportunities associated with technology is not the sole responsibility of the CIO, but all business leaders within the organization. The CIO should not be the only channel introducing new ways of leveraging IT to change the paradigm of the business, he advised.

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