The Need for Innovation Underscores People in IT

SAN MATEO (03/20/2000) - In an industry that emphasizes the benefits of automation, it's ironic that the single most important asset in the business today is people. In the last 30 days we at InfoWorld have had the pleasure of hosting two events to help keep us in touch with the needs of our readers. The most recent event was a gathering of our Corporate Advisory Board, or CAB, which is made up of IT executives from a number of respected, high-profile companies, including Colgate-Palmolive Co., Nestle, Visa, and Gannett.

Prior to the CAB meeting, we invited a dozen chief technology officers to a breakfast to discuss the agenda for our upcoming CTO Forum conference in May.

Both events are part of our ongoing efforts to stay in touch with our readers, and in this case both groups agreed that their top business issue was hiring and retaining people. Despite the plethora of new business models and technological innovations that are literally changing the world as we know it, that world still revolves around human beings.

Over the years, hiring and retaining people has always been one of the top 10 issues facing managers, but never before has this particular issue been as dominant a factor as it is today. Of course, a red-hot economy with low unemployment rates contributes greatly to this fact, but even in bad times finding talented people is a chore.

Even Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has weighed in on the people as an asset in his recent comments about how a general shortage of workers may actually threaten continued economic expansion.

What all this brings home is that, although technology may drive the business, it's the people who use the technology who really make the business. Just as clear is that if you give those people substandard tools, they're liable to go elsewhere out of frustration.

Similarly, if you stick to outdated business models, your best employees are apt to jump ship to work for more innovative companies. Salary, benefits, bonuses, and perks all play a role in helping to keep people, but unless you can deliver the infrastructure necessary to let those people compete, these items usually amount to little more than throwing good money after bad.

At InfoWorld, we're in the midst of two projects that we hope will raise the visibility of the people who further business goals through the use of innovative technology.

The first project is our annual InfoWorld 100, an ambitious supplement that highlights how different IT groups have used technology to advance the aims of their organizations. This year we'll be focusing exclusively on innovative e-business projects.

Frankly, it's a tough job trying to rank the efforts of one IT group over another, but we feel it's worth the effort. After all, people, the most important asset in your company, need to be recognized for their contributions.

So if you've got an e-business project up and running or in the works, we invite you to visit InfoWorld.com to find out how to get your organization considered for the InfoWorld 100 special report.

Meanwhile, our second major people initiative is related to the CTO Forum, where we plan to name the CTO of the Year. In the last few years, the CTO has emerged as a critical individual who balances the business and technology models in your company. As most of you well know, trying to accomplish that task successfully when you're dealing with constantly changing business models and unstable technology platforms can be incredibly challenging and often quite frustrating. Arguably, this is the toughest job in all of IT, and we think it should be recognized as such with the launch of our first annual CTO of the Year award.

Given the May 15 time frame of our conference, we're already quite far down the road in this process. (The deadline for submitting entries is Friday, March 24.) But if you feel that a CTO in your organization stands head and shoulders above his or her compatriots, we invite you to visit InfoWorld.com to nominate that person.

Michael Vizard is editor in chief of InfoWorld.

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