September 14, 2004
Excerpts: Everything You Need to Know About Strategy - Part XI
Sysco bet the company. On the new technology. The food distribution giant delayed for years IS/IT maintenance projects that others would have declared essential. Instead the IS/IT budget was aimed squarely at a bet the company strategy to leapfrog the competition by a decade. At this point implementation is on track, and the CIO claims that his boss (the CEO) is squarely staking his career on this enormous, transforming project.
IS/IT is a mere toolbut, as in Dell-world or Sysco-world, IS/IT has the power to do ever so much more, to re-invent entire industries and upend the competitive pecking order in the process. If ...
If ... the boss has vision and guts. Former PepsiCo CEO Roger Enrico lays out the challenge in no uncertain terms: Beware of the tyranny of making Small Changes to Small Things. Rather, make Big Changes to Big Things.
Doubtless ITs biggest challenge (and opportunity) lies in the realm of national security. Though billions upon billions have been spent on federal, state, and local IS/IT programs by well-intentioned professionals, the results have been less than satisfactory. The whole idea of thoroughly modern IS/IT is the right information at the right place at the right time. But as the Boston Globe reported on 30 September 2001, thats hardly been the result. In an era when terrorists use satellite phones and encrypted email, the paper concluded, U.S. gatekeepers stand armed against them with pencils and paperwork, and archaic computer systems that dont talk to each other. Which is why the following report is so stunning!
Peacekeeping in Afghanistan and Iraq has been problematic, to say the least. Nonetheless, the initial warfighting in both theaters was a sharp departure from the pastdriven, make no mistake, by newfound IS/IT effectiveness. Consider this startling (if history is your guide) 2002 report from Business 2.0 editor Ned Desmond, titled Broadbands New Killer App:
Dawn Meyerreicks, CTO of the Defense Information Systems Agency, made one of the most fateful military calls of the 21st century. After 9/11 ... her office quickly leased all the available transponders covering Central Asia. The implications should change everything about U.S. military thinking in the years ahead.
The U.S. Air Force had kicked off its fight against the Taliban with an ineffective bombing campaign, and Washington was anguishing over whether to send in a few Army divisions. Donald Rumsfeld told Gen. Tommy Franks to give the initiative to 250 Special Forces already on the ground. They used satellite phones, Predator surveillance drones, and GPS and laser-based targeting systems to make the air strikes brutally effective.
In effect, they Napsterized the battlefield by cutting out the middlemen (much of the militarys command and control) and working directly with the real players. ... The data came in so fast that HQ revised operating procedures to allow intelligence analysts and attack planners to work directly together. Their favorite tool, by the way, was instant messaging over a secure network.
Adios, colonels (middle managers) by the personnel-carrier load! Welcome, direct agency and inter-service, bureaucracy-free communication among those who do the work on the sharp end! Its that simpleand that profound.
Not your fathers health care establishment: Our entire facility is digital. No paper, no film, no medical records. Nothing. And its all integratedfrom the lab to X-ray to records to physician order entry. Patients dont have to wait for anything. The information from the physicians office is in registration and vice versa. The referring physician is immediately sent an email telling him his patient has shown up. ... Its wireless in-house. We have 800 notebook computers that are wireless. Physicians can walk around with a computer thats preprogrammed. If the physician wants, well go out and wire their house so they can sit on the couch and connect to the network. They can review a chart from 100 miles away. David Veillette, CEO, Indiana Heart Hospital, from HealthLeaders
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.