Six experts offer their ideas on the future of the CIO role, the supply chain, just-in-time manufacturing, security, management and other issues affected by the terrorist attacks in the US.
It has become a cliché: The September 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington DC changed everything. But"everything" covers a lot of ground. What, specifically, has changed, and how does it affect the way companies do business? Even more specifically, how does this new world look from the CIO's seat? CIO asked six experts what CIOs should expect and do in critical areas including security, supply chain and staff management in this putatively altered worldGlobal Business.
Importance of IT Just Went Up
David Dobrin-President, B2B Analysts, and CIO (US) WorldView columnist.
Before September 11, many people thought we'd have a mild recession. No one believes that any more. In certain industries - like electronics - people just aren't buying anything.
CIOs need to provide timely, accurate reports on volatile business situations and do so with limited resources. For global and multinational businesses, this can be complicated. Many such companies have B2B systems with suppliers and partners. But what happens when things break down? For example, transportation across borders is no longer as reliable as it was before September 11. Companies are very high velocity these days. Even having two weeks of demand disappear creates all sorts of surprises. For example, your company may have to build up inventory, but that's expensive. What if you run out of warehouse space? The integrated supply chains companies have built can only tolerate so many variables.
Companies will have to redesign their supply chains. There will be less belief in the highly integrated, low-lead-time, low-inventory supply chain stitched together with IT. CIOs need to provide the business with the capability to be more responsive, to get advanced warnings from customers, to look at point-of-sale data from retailers and feed that back to manufacturing. In a recessionary environment, IT can make a huge difference because it can give companies early warnings about changing business situations.
Another big change will be in how business gets done. It's absolutely clear that people aren't travelling, but multinationals still have to communicate. There's a demand on IT to use the Internet and telecommunications to accomplish what travel enabled before.
Suddenly there's this huge demand for technologies such as teleconferencing and videoconferencing that previously few CIOs thought to be important. And it's not just a question of installing technology. In virtual meetings, many participants don't pay full attention. They are answering e-mail or surfing the Internet. With such technology-facilitated meetings replacing personal communications, these contacts should be shorter and occur more frequently. Virtual meetings should also be supported by documents; action items written down at one meeting should be part of the agenda at the next meeting. Essentially, meetings have to be approached with a different discipline, and that will take time to learn.
Intercompany communication on a global scale also has challenges. There are cultural issues as well as practical ones like time-zone differences. Using technology to communicate instead of face-to-face contact has implications for network support, usage policies and firewalls. The good news: for multinationals, connection to the Internet isn't much of an issue, nor is reliability. The Internet was designed for a nuclear attack.
The cost of business travel will now be spent on technology. CIOs will now be responsible for a large redeployment of resources. As communication technologies replace travel, the technology itself becomes more important. And that means that managing the technology is more important.