Tech /business fusion: All talk, little action

Steve Hamm

The idea of merging business and technology strategy has been all the rage for the past decade, at least--yet, in practice, the two seem to be moving further apart. Chief information officers were invited to the board room table briefly, in the late 1990s, when it looked like bricks and mortar would be swept away by a dot-com tidal wave. When the threat of tsunami passed, though, the CIOs were demoted. Maybe they deserved a comeuppance. They fell for the hype (Who didn't? Raise your hand.)

I ran into the creator of the so-called Business Technology Management concept recently, and he agreed wholeheartedly. (Of course, he's in the evangelizing biz) "There are a few places where CIOs are absolutely instumental in creating next-generating business," says Faisal Hoque, CEO of consultancy Enamics Inc., and founder of the BTM Institute. "But these are a distinct minority." In fact, he believes no more than 20 top corporate CIOs report to the CEO anymore. The rest serve the CFO, COO, etc.

This is a dangerous situation. If technology and business aren't aligned, it means wasted money and lost opportunities. Few companies can afford that.

Hoque has an interesting business model. His is no traditional consultancy. It's a combination of software, business process-building methodology, and advice. He doesn't have a sales force. Everything comes by word of mouth. And, rather than employing all of his consultants directly, he has a community of technology and business experts that he calls in on engagements depending on the customers' needs. He has a dozen clients including PepsiCo and Marriott.

The BTM Institute seems like an ingenious way to had heft and credibility to his business. Hoque formed it in 2003 after he got good feedback from academics to his first book, The Alignment Effect. He recruited luminaries to be on the board, incluidng Dr. Michael Nobel, of Nobel family fame; and Harriet Mayor Fulbright, of Fulbright family fame.

A lot of other tech services companies are thinking along the same lines. IBM, for instance, has launched an initiatve around what it calls services science, to promote cross-disciplinary skills in colleges and industry.

Given the siloed nature of so many business organizations and schools, don't expect this shift to happen over night. But, at least, people are trying.

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