CIOs: Now's The Time To Fight

SAN DIEGO--With corporate budgets tightening and technology spending waning, now is the chance for CIOs to step up to the plate and defend their most strategic projects. That's the glass-is-half-full attitude of Jack Cooper, CIO of Bristol Meyers Co., who spoke at an AMR Research conference here this week about opportunities in this uncertain economy for IT managers. He says that those who cave in to executive pressure and cancel or postpone IT projects that may have a significant return on investment will have short CIO careers. "This is the time a CIO makes their stripes," Cooper says.

Apparently most CIOs are defending their turf well. A new AMR Research study shows that 84% of 100 IT managers surveyed are sticking to their guns and plan to increase or maintain current E-commerce budgets in the event of an economic downturn this year. The most guarded projects focus on customer-relationship management, supply-chain management, and E-marketplace applications.

However, the survey indicates corporate IT shops nonetheless are feeling a pinch. They say IT budgets will increase only 5% to 6% on average this year, a much smaller rise than the past two years. Twenty-nine percent say they're cutting spending on technology for internal processes, including enterprise resource planning, employee portals, and infrastructure work such as desktop software and hardware upgrades. "It's a no-brainer," says Tony Friscia, president and CEO of AMR Research. "If the project can take cost off the bottom line or increase revenue generation, now there's a better case for it than ever."

In the aftermath of the dot-com bust, it will be large companies outside Silicon Valley such as Bristol Meyers that exploit and create the greatest E-business opportunities to come, says Marc Andreessen, CEO of Loudcloud Inc. and founder of Netscape. Just as the advent of suburbs and shopping malls came much later than the invention of the automobile, it will takes years, even decades before the Internet makes a real impact. (The AMR Research study shows most companies have worked less than two years on their E-business initiatives.)

Andreessen, who also spoke at the AMR Research conference, says the problem with many Internet companies is that they give up too quickly and sell out. Asked if he thinks he sold Netscape too soon, the outspoken Internet veteran was, for once, at a loss for words. The adage must be true: Experience is wisdom.

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