Business Technology: Redefine Your IT Mind-Set At Fall Conference - InformationWeek
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Bob Evans
Bob Evans

Business Technology: Redefine Your IT Mind-Set At Fall Conference

Want to win an expense-paid trip to InformationWeek's Fall Conference, Sept. 18-21 in beautiful Palm Springs, featuring Wal-Mart CIO Linda Dillman? Just read Bob Evans' column and answer a few questions, and you're in the running!

Some years back, I was among a group of colleagues asked to develop a mission statement for what was then the parent company of InformationWeek. Not knowing quite where to start, I asked the consultant if this should be a short phrase, a detailed sentence, a couple of paragraphs, or a three-page cure for insomnia. He offered this example: A Japanese company called Komatsu wanted to become a major force in the diversified market for road-building equipment such as graders, bulldozers, earth-movers, and other highly specialized equipment. At the time of the company's decision to make this move, it had almost zero visibility, awareness, and market presence in the U.S. So here's the big, elaborate, nuanced mission statement it came up with to lead the charge into this complex field in a totally new geographic market with deeply entrenched competition where nobody knew -- or cared -- who this new company was or what it did: "Encircle Caterpillar."

Period. End of story.

Encircle Caterpillar.

Anecdote No. 2: Last week, Microsoft named a new chief operating officer, who will head up sales, marketing, service, distribution, and IT. He is 40 years old. His first job out of college in 1986? An hourly sales associate at Wal-Mart Stores. His last job before joining Microsoft? CEO and president of Wal-Mart's Sam's Club division. One of his in-between jobs? Wal-Mart CIO.

Anecdote No. 3: Wal-Mart's current CIO and executive VP, Linda Dillman , will be a keynote speaker at the InformationWeek Fall Conference to be held Sept. 18-21 near Palm Springs, Calif., at the Westin Mission Hills Resort & Spa. The theme of this year's event is one that's no doubt a top priority for many of you: "Business Process Innovation: Using Technology to Redefine and Reinvigorate Competitive Advantage."

Generation Y was the first generation to take cell phones and Internet access for granted.... Now, they're hitting their mid-20s, and starting to take on concerns that will be with them the rest of their lives. Naturally, they're turning to familiar tools to solve those problems: blogs, Web sites, cell phones, and PDAs, observes Mitch Wagner.

-- InformationWeek blog, Aug. 3

Now, I'll admit that's not quite as compact or dramatic as "Encircle Caterpillar." But I'll match that admission with this offer: a free conference registration to the reader who sends me the best restatement of our conference theme (yes, that's called "editing" and that's ostensibly *our* job, but everybody's in the media business these days, right? So you might as well get something for your efforts! Send your ideas to .)

Wal-Mart, for reasons I can't quite comprehend, seems to be one of those companies that people either love or hate. But whichever stand you take on this company, it's just about impossible -- or at the very least dishonest -- not to admire the remarkable discipline that is an inextricable part of its culture, DNA, and IT strategy. This is a company, after all, that is marching inexorably toward an achievement no other company in the history of the world has ever got within spitting distance of: daily revenue of $1,000,000,000. Yes, in the foreseeable future, daily revenue of $1 billion (for the six months ended July 29, revenue was $148.9 billion , and that doesn't include the Christmas season). It's just not humanly or physically possible to come even close to that scale without an intensely rigorous focus on relentless and sweeping improvement of business processes. Around the clock, around the globe.

And Microsoft, which in its search for a chief executive officer could have its pick of just about any executive it wanted, picked a Wal-Mart star who not too long ago was CIO. So who wants to say CIOs aren't involved in business-process stuff?

Encircle Caterpillar.

Business-Process Improvement.

Daily revenue of $1 billion.

So what's IT got to do with it? Hey, like you, I'm probably a little subjective on this one. But that's OK, because being subjective doesn't mean it's wrong, right? Look at it the other way: could any of those three things be achieved without increasingly pervasive and sophisticated IT strategies and infrastructure? Not possible. So does our theme of "Using Technology to Redefine and Reinvigorate Competitive Advantage" ring true for you? Tell me why or why not -- the person with the best explanation will get a free registration a la the offer above.

And finally, for the grand prize: if you could ask Wal-Mart CIO and EVP Linda Dillman one question about business-process improvement and the deployment of IT to enhance competitiveness, what would it be? The best question will get a complimentary registration *plus* a VIP pass to the conference: hotel accommodations for the duration of the event, plus airfare -- send those questions to . Best of luck, and see you in Palm Springs in 6 weeks!

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Bob Evans's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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