Turn your IT department from a cost into a revenue earner

Nov. 11, 2006 – Many IT departments are devoting large budgets to technologies that neither differentiate nor confer competitive advantage, according to Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas, author of ‘The Knowledge Entrepreneur’. They simply adopt widely used processes and tools from leading suppliers. Coulson-Thomas believes: ‘Imitation and copying do not lead to market leadership. They do not create new intellectual capital. They may simply impose extra burdens on staff and add to operating costs.’

Not one of 60 companies visited helps its people to emulate the success of their highest performers. The latest investigation is the latest in Prof. Coulson-Thomas’ study of knowledge entrepreneurship which has explored how companies might better exploit corporate know-how, create new knowledge-based offerings, and use a new generation of support tools to transform performance in areas critical to corporate success.

Coulson-Thomas explains: ‘With the right tools people in key roles can be helped to operate like winners and superstars by building critical success factors for the activities concerned and approaches adopted by high performers into how they work. The key is to make it easy for people to understand complex issues and perform difficult tasks.’

The Professor believes the findings are compelling: ‘Successful applications have increased the proportion of competitive bids that are won. Non-specialists have been helped to design and cost bespoke offerings and generate proposals. What works best is very different from the standard sales support and CRM tools used by most companies.’ While the examples given in the book ‘The Knowledge Entrepreneur’* were not initiated by IT departments Coulson-Thomas believes there are important lessons for IT teams:

‘Successful users of support tools make it easier for people in mission critical roles to excel in areas that are the key to competing and winning. Thus rather than focus on selling, smart companies use support tools to help prospects assess their requirements, understand what is available, and select and buy what they need. Customers can even design their own offerings.

‘Companies can provide sales staff with a tool that enables them to design bespoke offerings in areas ranging from customised bearings to complex networks – the resulting designs being produced in minutes and costed in seconds, all independently of technical specialists.’

Coulson-Thomas warns: ‘Standard offerings bought as cheaply as possible may be appropriate for backroom activities invisible to customers and unlikely to differentiate. However, if IT departments are not to be marginalised they need to understand where bespoke developments would help colleagues to compete and win.’

The Professor found: ‘Successful tools were considered business development initiatives rather than IT projects. IT departments must understand winning behaviours in important areas like bidding and how high performers operate. Attitudes, behaviours and approaches distinguish the winners. Support tools can enable ordinary people to adopt the approaches of superstars.’

Coulson-Thomas believes: ‘IT departments need to rise above equipping people to use standard corporate technologies and help key workgroups such as bid teams working on critical tasks to be more effective. Rather than spend money on infrastructure IT directors need to become more involved in revenue earning activities.’

Coulson-Thomas concludes: ‘The cost per user of focused and bespoke tools that differentiate and transform performance can be below that of many widely used offerings that do not give the acquirer a competitive advantage. This counter intuitive finding suggests many companies could redeploy their IT budgets to huge advantage.’

*’The Knowledge Entrepreneur’ by Colin Coulson-Thomas can be ordered from Kogan Page: Tel. 01903 828800; Fax. 020 7837 6348; E-mail: orders@lbsltd.co.uk or on-line from www.kogan-page.co.uk or www.ntwkfirm.com/bookshop

Colin Coulson-Thomas, Professor of Direction and Leadership at the University of Lincoln and author of ‘The Knowledge Entrepreneur’, has reviewed the processes and practices of over 100 companies and helped over 100 boards to improve board and/or corporate performance. He can be contacted by tel: + 44 (0)1733 361149; fax: +44 (0)1733 361459; or via www.coulson-thomas.com

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