The WSJ has published a Business Insight Interview with MIT’s Peter Weill on IT Savvy, his (excellent) recent book, co-authored with Jeanne Ross. The interview covers a few of the main ideas of the book, standardization for innovation, IT as strategic asset vs. liability, creating digital platforms, and the importance of connecting projects. A couple of excerpts:
BUSINESS INSIGHT:Your newest book is about IT-savvy companies. How do you define IT savvy?
DR. WEILL: IT-savvy companies make information technology a strategic asset. The opposite of a strategic asset, of course, is a strategic liability. And there are many companies who feel their IT is a strategic liability. In those companies, the IT landscape is siloed, expensive and slow to change, and managers can’t get the data they want.
IT-savvy companies are just the opposite. They use their technology not only to reduce costs today by standardizing and digitizing their core processes, but the information they summarize from that gives them ideas about where to innovate in the future. A third element is that IT-savvy companies use their digital platform to collaborate with other companies in their ecosystem of customers and suppliers.
So, IT-savvy companies are not just about savvy IT departments. It’s about the whole company thinking digitally.
BUSINESS INSIGHT: You’ve done some research that suggests IT-savvy companies are more profitable than others. Tell me a bit about that.
DR. WEILL: The IT-savvy companies are 21% more profitable than non-IT-savvy companies. And the profitability shows up in two ways. One is that IT-savvy companies have identified the best way to run their core day-to-day processes. Think about UPS or Southwest Airlines or Amazon: They run those core processes flawlessly, 24 hours a day.
The second thing is that IT-savvy companies are faster to market with new products and services that are add-ons, because their innovations are so much easier to integrate than in a company with siloed technology architecture, where you have to glue together everything and test it and make sure that it all works. We call that the agility paradox—the companies that have more standardized and digitized business processes are faster to market and get more revenue from new products.
Those are the two sources of their greater profitability: lower costs for running existing business processes, and faster innovation.
DR. WEILL: The real secret to IT-savvy companies is that each project links together—like Lego blocks—to create a reusable platform. IT-savvy companies think reuse first. When they have a new idea, the first question they ask is: Can we use existing data, applications and infrastructure to get that idea to market fast? When we look at the impact of reusing processes and applications, we see measurable benefits in the top and bottom lines.
The book also covers defining your operating model, revamping your IT funding model, allocating decision rights and accountability, driving value from IT and leading an IT Savvy firm. Consistent with Ross and Weill’s other works, the book is research backed and calls out case examples.