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The CIO of a large health-care system recently told me, "I could automate the employee time-management system, but why do I want to waste precious IT dollars on that when we could invest in state-of-the-art emergency-room technology?" When it comes to deciding whether to improve patient care and safety or make it easier for nurses to track their time, it seems like a no-brainer.
What if you apply that same philosophy to your own company? How much of your spending is on the stuff that improves internal efficiency or productivity, and how much is spent on caring for the customer? How much is spent on keeping the lights on, and how much is spent on gaining market share? How much is spent on complex systems integration, and how much is spent on open systems? How much of your time is spent figuring out how little you can do and still keep your company compliant with Sarbanes-Oxley, and how much is spent figuring out how to make compliance a side benefit of a new, more-valuable business process? How much is spent on safe bets, and how much is spent on game-changing technologies? If you're in IT, how much of your time is spent reengineering someone else's critical business processes, and how much is spent making your own more innovative?
Increasing efficiency and boosting productivity became necessary during the past few years of economic woes, and they're likely to be standard business practice for some time to come. That's fine, but at what point do you say, now it's time to invest in new technologies, to make innovation the top priority, to look for new ways to grow the business?
If you woke up tomorrow morning and read the headline on the front page of your daily newspaper, which would be worse: "Company X Failed At Project Y" or "Company X Lost A Big Opportunity"?
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