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7 tips to make your business more competitive

Bob Riddell and Eric Ullman | Aug. 14, 2008
A good IT governance process creates a mechanism for business leaders to understand and make judgments about alternatives and trade-offs.

3. Prune Your Project and Services Portfolio

This is also a great time to prune your project and services portfolio. Focus on the things that have near-term, concrete benefits, and emphasize projects that deliver real, measurable cost savings in the short term. While it will be painful to mothball strategic projects and it may ultimately cost more money to restart them down the road, it's best to shut down any project that is not critical to improving the health of the company.

Be prepared to make deeper cuts than you first thought necessary. It is better to be aggressive at the outset when cutting costs, even if you have to include costs later, than to make several rounds of cuts. This exercise will also help you and other business leaders recognize critical elements of business operations and those that are extraneous.

4. Tighten Up Vendor Management

As IT shops find themselves outsourcing more functions, vendor management continues to receive increased attention. The reality is, vendors are probably better at managing you than you are at managing them. Does your favorite vendor always drop what he is doing to respond to your calls and requests? If he never says no or never pushes back on a request, it may be an indication that you have not defined his company's responsibilities in sufficient detail and it could also be an indicator that you are paying too much. You should be wary if your vendor interprets a contract to the letter and charges you for even the smallest requests.

Successful relationships with vendors require as much time and attention as are required-or more-to manage the same services internally-this cannot be a "hands-off" relationship. Treat your vendor contracts as you would treat internal projects and services. If you are unable to extract measurable business value from the services the vendor is delivering, you should stop paying for those services.

5. Upgrade Your Staff

IT departments often lack developed programs for the growth and enhancement of employees. As IT functions become more integrated into all business operations, it has become critical for IT staff to develop a balance of technical skills, business skills and "people" skills. Review the performance of your staff critically and determine how each member is performing. A performance improvement plan should be developed for those employees who do not meet the needs of the business, and you should determine whether to give employees a chance to improve. If they don't, it is time to let them go.

6. Lead (Embrace Your Role as a Change Agent)

In most companies, no one is better positioned than the CIO to assume the role of a general to lead change efforts for the organization. You have a unique view of the playing field, as well as myriad tools of change at your disposal-data, technology, process design expertise, etc. If you've done your homework, you most likely have solid working relationships with the other CXOs and a business proposition that complements, rather than competes with, their interests. In the modern business world, there is no such thing as a technology problem-all issues contain process, organization, information and technology problems.


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