Exploit, Don’t Enable

Dateline: August 30, 2013

Welcome to our Friday WRAP – one thought-provoking idea to think about over the weekend.

Two of my favorite IT researchers, Dr. Cynthia Beath and Dr. Jeanne Ross from the Center for Information Systems Research at MIT (CISR),  recently published a blog on the Harvard Business Review blog network about their recent work.   They suggest that company leaders can no longer accept the ambivalent results that come from an approach of IT enabling the business.  They comment,

IT leaders have long embraced the idea that the role of the IT unit, and of enterprise IT systems, is to enable business. However, when we ask CIOs how their “enabling” is going, they consistently respond that sometimes it goes well; sometimes not so much. In the digital economy, as IT becomes ever more integral to the strategic initiatives of firms, “sometimes” is not good enough. Companies cannot fritter away their valuable resources, whether in the form of money, systems, or most importantly, people.

Instead Ross and Beath propose that IT leaders must think in terms of exploiting IT for strategic advantage.  This small change in the way IT is viewed can have enormous impact on the value IT provides to the business.  They write,

We argue that leaders should stop thinking of IT as Enabling and start thinking in terms of fully Exploiting IT to strategic advantage. The word, Exploit, makes some IT leaders squirm. But the definition of exploit is “to employ to the greatest possible advantage.” More specifically, the idea is that IT leaders should refuse to allow their companies to request systems that will not be used effectively or that aren’t integral to business success.

How do you describe how IT is used in your business?  Do you think in terms of enable or exploit?

That’s a WRAP!  Have a nice weekend.

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