The Wall Street Journal recently posted an article on making the most of your IT investments. The article presents a series of questions business leaders can ask themselves about how the company uses technology.
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At a time when a lot of distributors are considering new technology investments either to supplement what they already have or to replace their legacy systems, the article is worth a read.
For example, one question asks: Are we using technology to transform our business, or are we just adding bells and whistles to existing processes? While adding technology to existing processes can be necessary to meet customer needs or to save costs or time, that may not in and of itself differentiate your company from your competitors.
Another question in the piece looks at the role of electronic data: Is electronic data empowering your people or controlling them? In other words, are you providing the right data to front-line employees, empowering them to make fact-based decisions on a daily basis? And do they know how to use that data properly?
Last fall, I spoke with IBM's Guy Blissett, author of the latest Facing the Forces of Change book from the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors. (Read: Fight the Legacy of IT) He addressed the difference between having the data and using the data. In his book, Blissett separates his discussion of analytics from the IT chapter, which addressed distributor plans for various systems. He says: "Analytics is very data-driven and increasingly enabled by software to get that analysis done quickly and at a different level than before. But we wanted to highlight that doing the analysis is one thing – but being able to use that analysis in your business requires some new skills and capabilities on the personnel side and new organizational considerations."