New Year - New Budget - Now What?

OK, if you're reading this, then the world did not end on January 1, 2000. That means that you've probably finished the project you spent the last two years on--making sure your business would run on 1/1/2000. It also means that after a little rest (several minutes!) you have to start back to work on projects that will help your company succeed in the next millennium.

What will these projects be? Instead of looking back to make old software work, you need to look forward and figure out how to build new software. You have to figure out how to help your organization with all this new stuff everyone has been throwing at you for the last few months.

Oh, there's the Internet with all of its potential. With all the press the Internet received this last Christmas season, there's going to be a lot of pressure to put more dollars into making it an integral part of your IT strategy, not just a marketing department checkbox. Then there are Business Intelligence features which everyone has been hounding you for. A new data warehouse, data marts for divisional managers and even a link to these from the Internet--that at least kills two birds with one stone (what a rotten saying, especially if you're a bird!).

The reality is, that you now have to bring real IT value to your organization. Where do you start? Pick up this magazine and look at the new announcements from IBM and the other vendors. Look at the various ads scattered throughout the journal to see what's new, or better, or faster.

Actually it's easy to pick a technology and say, "This is what we are going to do next." The problem as I have seen it, is that you usually can't just pick one. There are too many people in different areas asking for a piece of your limited resources. If it were just a matter of money, it would be easy. You'd just take some cash and wing it at the wall, and presto--new applications working perfectly, interfaced perfectly, with no maintenance headaches and no problems. Oops! This is still 2000, not 2500.

So that means that you'll have to figure out how the new technology will integrate with your existing systems, where it will run, what operating system it will run on, and just how you are going to support it. Yikes, sound like fun!

Actually it is. This is, after all, what we're paid for. Not making our 10 year old programs work in the new millennium, but taking a look at the new emerging technologies and determining how they can help our business. This is where the fun (and frustration) of all this technology we use comes in.

How much can that new Business Intelligence tool that we're looking at really help? How can it develop new reports on old data that we never thought of? How can we build it so that the marketing department will leave us alone for a while? This is where we really earn our pay. It may cost us some time and money to figure it out, but the benefits will be tremendous.

Come on. This has to feel good. Now we can really start looking at how to make IT in our organizations a strategic partner, rather than a cost department. Actually, if you can't figure that out, or your company doesn't believe that this can even be done, you may want to start looking for a new job. If there is anything that has become crystal clear over the last couple of years, it's that a company that can leverage technology intelligently will beat the company that has not yet figured it out.

It may be a bit overwhelming--the choices, technologies, and strategies--but it's better than thinking of how to best set up that level break on the inventory listing. Why not come up with a query tool that allows the inventory folks to create their own level breaks! This technology exists today, the users are more savvy, and you need their help. If you can't push some of the more mundane tasks to the user departments, then you will not be able to concentrate on the bigger picture.

Of course, you could ignore all of this, and keep spending time on getting that next report out or helping Accounts Receivable balance the AR file. The users will be happy, so will management. They'll ask the users how things are going, and the response will be, "Great! Just got my query, and things are running smooth." At least until your competitor comes to the door, offering your CEO a low price for the company because you are not competing in your market space.

But don't worry too much: They probably will not realize that it was a lack of technology strategy and implementation at your organization that helped the competition grow. After all they have been spending all this needless money on new technology, and every time you heard of a failure, you felt good that you didn't try that.

Then their IT director comes over to look at what you have (now that they have acquired you) and looks around. You try to show her that everything is running smoothly, but she can quickly see that that is because there's nothing new, no new capability, nothing to take this group to the next level. Oh well. It's almost time to retire anyway, isn't it?