While IT professionals address the day-to-day operating problems and issues such as Y2K compliance, the real challenge then emerges: how to sustain the competitive edgeThe value of IT to an organisation is becoming more evident than ever before. Because IT is so closely linked to the organisation's total operations it is becoming evident that successful organisations must have a successful IT department. In most organisations this will involve effective integration with the public face of the organisation, indeed IT applications may well become the public face. IT has clearly moved from just a backroom operation.
Typically, an organisation's IT success will be apparent through superior customer service, rapid revenue growth and reduced cycle times. It will most likely be generated by the outcome of many projects in four closely related areas, * The focus on business needs; * An ability to finish most projects on time and on budget; * Effective communication between departments; and * Targeted use of technology.
The question then is which type of applications will lead to the perceived contribution of the IT department to the organisation's success. Applications in this category for most organisations are likely to include:
* Customer service systems;
* Data analysis and data warehousing;
* Electronic commerce;
* Enterprise resource planning;
* Sales-force automation;
* Supply-chain management; and
* Web-based technology.
Of course, not all of these will be applicable to every organisation. However, it is applications of this type which are likely to generate a successful public and in-house image for the IT department. Clearly, successful IT managers are able to be guided by the organisation's strategic issues and use new hardware, communications and software technologies to create competitive advantage for the organisation. This advantage will not only be in terms of reduced costs due to IT but increasingly through increased revenue.
Once acceptance has been gained and the contribution of the IT department has been recognised by the organisation and its customers another challenge then emerges: how to sustain the competitive edge once it has been achieved. It seems that the IT professional will never be able to relax, there will always be another mountain to climb, another goal to be achieved. This is the good news. The bad news is that we will often have to achieve it with less resources. 1999 is off to a promising start.
Graham Penn is general manager of research for IDC Australia