From the Editorial Director

Now that year 2000 is more memory than menace, IT executives are turning their attention to the other challenges and opportunities out there. Last week, I wrote about some of the things that are keeping them awake at night. That column covered seven of the top 10 issues; this week, I'll provide details about the top three items. Here they are in reverse order:

3. Measuring the business value of technology. Technology for technology's sake should have died with slide rules. It took a bit longer in relative terms, but most companies are there now. CEOs and boards of directors are requiring hard numbers and realistic payback times when they consider technology investments.

The investments will continue -- even accelerate -- but the decisions on where to spend the technology budget will revolve more than ever around return on investment for the business. In this atmosphere, IT executives who have business skills will be worth their weight in gold. The value is already showing up in salary surveys. In the 1999 InfoWorld Annual Compensation Survey published June 21, IT executives with a combination of business and technology skills reported salaries approximately 10 percent higher than those with only technology skills (see "It pays to become business savvy," www.info world.com/printlinks). I predict the gulf will widen in this year's survey.

2. Getting the most from corporate data. Like security, remote access, and finding talent, this item has been on this list since I began compiling it nearly five years ago. The Web has contributed to its continual move toward the top. A study we published a few weeks ago reiterated the value of data management. We asked InfoWorld readers how important it was to the success of their business for them to effectively manage data, information, and knowledge resources. Seventy-five percent said it was "critical," whereas 21 percent said it was "very important." We also asked them to rank the importance of specific types of data management. Here is what they said matters the most.

* Integration of diverse databases

* Tools for analyzing data and trends

* A single point for users to access varied information resources* Universally accessible large storage systems* Unified method for searching diverse data systems* Universal system for giving users access to custom or specialized systems* Internal knowledge base of processes and procedures* Systems for facilitating user collaborations and workflow* Storage systems designed for indexing and sortingWe also asked the readers to define the benefits of effectively managing information resources. The top benefit was increased productivity (23 percent), followed by competitive advantage (16 percent), and reduced cost to solve problems (14 percent). For more about this survey, see "Whichever way you slice it, the portal market will be big," www.info world.com/printlinks.

1. Enabling business initiatives. The top item on my list is cumulative.

Business today requires technology; it's no longer a "nice-to-have" element, it's a "must-have." IT executives have a great opportunity to drive the adoption of technology for business initiatives, particularly e-business initiatives. In many companies, this integration of technology and business falls into the sphere of the chief technology officer (CTO). Even if you're not a CTO, however, you shouldn't cede the electronic-business leadership to the business side.

Does my list match yours? Send comments to sandy_reed@infoworld.com.

Speaking of CTOs

We will be naming our CTO of the Year at the inaugural InfoWorld CTO Forum, which will take place May 15-17 in San Francisco, and we are in the final stages of defining the criteria for the award. I welcome suggestions from InfoWorld readers about what makes a great CTO.

Sandy Reed is editorial director of InfoWorld and has been a technology journalist for more than 15 years.

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