Business Technology: A Trip To The Cafeteria, Part VII - InformationWeek
05:32 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans

Business Technology: A Trip To The Cafeteria, Part VII

So the former CEO of Enron has been indicted and could face up to 325 years in prison and his former CFO will probably do at least 10 years and you've noticed that in all those corporate scandals the bull's-eye seems to be hung on only CEOs and CFOs and treasurers but so far no CIOs have been called out and while you're not exactly disappointed about that you're also wondering if it's somehow an indicator that CIOs still aren't considered full partners in the executive suite or on the other hand maybe it's a sign that the character and courage needed for the job have kept you and your peers out of such messes and you're looking forward to bringing that up over lunch with your pal the general counsel and you're wondering what you'll have for lunch today which reminds you that last night your CEO asked the executive team to think about the big question of "what business are we in today" and to come up with a strategic plan answering that question over the next month and while the answer for lunch will be either meatloaf or lasagna or fish tacos it's not quite so cut and dry for defining what business your company's in or isn't in and you keep thinking about the CEO's recurring theme of whether we're in the business of selling the stuff we make or are we in the business of creating what our customers need and you could see around the table the massively differing reactions from the

"[Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's] borrowings have skyrocketed in the last decade. As of Dec. 31, Fannie Mae's outstanding debt stood at $961.7 billion, up nearly fourfold from $201.1 billion a decade earlier. Freddie's debt, meanwhile, was at $744.8 billion, more than 15 times the $48.5 billion in borrowings it held a decade before."
--The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 25

lines-of-business heads who have fought almost every single change-driven initiative you've brought to them versus those LOB heads who've not only embraced many of your new ideas but indeed have begun coming to you with some of their own like the one division president who found a two-person startup doing some revolutionary work with RFID readers and introduced you to them which led to the proposal that they give you exclusive rights to the technology for 12 months while you pay them a hefty licensing fee and they agree to work with your internal development team over the next year before being allowed to market their technology to the rest of the world and while you smile about that one-year head start you'll be getting you also realize that the fish-taco-enriched conversation at lunch with the general counsel will have to delve deeply into the issue of who owns the intellectual property that comes out of this year-long collaboration with the startup and how much of this precious IP can they tell or show or offer to other customers after your one-year exclusive is up but that's why you love this top lawyer so much because rather than starting each conversation with "no" and then stressing "impossible" before finishing with "never" she always says to tell her what you need to do and she'll figure out a way to make it happen and you wish that could extend to your saying "make the fish tacos go away and replace them with lemon-pepper grilled chicken" and hope her legalistic wizardry would extend that far but you know you've got to get through not only the IP discussion but also some outsourcing contracts that will result in a cancellation of a disastrous offshore project that also will have major IP implications as well as a joint-venture development center in Romania and you recall your week over there in Bucharest with mixed feelings and you hope that mixed feelings are the worst reaction your top 10 suppliers will have when you begin telling them next week that if they want to retain you as a customer then they have six months to get to production status with the financial and supply-chain enterprise applications you're using but your team has determined that such a move will save you a few million dollars in integration and consulting expenses while also reducing product-development times by up to 35% and you realize that those are precisely the kinds of results you're going to have to continue to deliver if you're going to be able to make substantial contributions in changing the company's focus from making what it's always made to delivering what customers want. And you also dump the fish tacos and go with the meatloaf.

Bob Evans
Editor in Chief

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