Profits Plus Efficiencies

This week Gartner Executive Programs released a summary of findings from a recent survey of 620 corporate CIOs to gauge the direction of business technology development. While enterprise is still reluctant to radically change spending habits, the tides are shifting as information managers are asked to make their operations more visible to the corporate bottom line, while being reempowered to make meaningful changes to infrastructure. The survey found that technology budgets, after two or three years of cuts, are being stabilized, and along with that stability has come both a great drive to get greater direct business justification from IT management and pressure to do more than simply maintain the status quo. After a few years of budget-cutting and hand wringing CIOs are being told to find ways to create and implement innovative technology once more. "In the past everybody kept assuming that [CIOs] were just going to keep taking out costs," says Ellen S. Kitzis, group vice president of Gartner Executive Programs. "But they've taken so much nonuseful cost from the budget and driven down maintenance and operational costs that there is some room in the IT budget to innovate." In the survey summary Gartner writes that "the must-do's... have taken precedence over the want-to-do's," and that means CRM has taken something of an IT back seat to problems of security and stability. Although CRM can be part of an innovation agenda, it will more likely show up as part of a broader effort, such as a knowledge-worker empowerment strategy. One of the most important findings, says Kitzis, is the realization that disappointment and failure should be learned from, rather than covered up. "CIOs rarely like to admit that their projects fail, so they spent a lot of time reviving things that were long-past dead," she says. "Now, if it's dead, it's dead. They're much better at stopping projects that aren't working" before they become real problems for the company, introducing far more inefficiencies than they're worth. CIOs ranked achieving the "single view of the customer" just fifth on the list of business trends, down two spots from previous years, and on a ranking of top-10 technology priorities CRM came in eighth place, behind storage management and Web design and content. A tick upward from the 2002 ranking, organizations do appear, however, more focused for the time being on quicker wins and technology architecture. "I think IT is being asked to do less about [CRM]," Kitzis says. "Fewer projects are being started that are CRM-only, more are being owned by business units." That gives the CRM effort more of a product and business focus, taking the onus off of IT to drive the business objective as well as the technology behind a customer relationship effort.
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