04:52 PM
Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl

Editor's Note: There Are No Quick Replies In This Age Of Uncertainty

Do you ever get an E-mail message with the subject line "quick question"? But when you open it up and read it you realize that while the person may have quickly thought of the question or quickly typed it, coming up with the answer is anything but quick. These are the same people who'll ask you to "whiteboard" something (by the way, that means to use a whiteboard and erasable marker to illustrate key points of a discussion) or who ask you to give them a "411 on that question" (that means they're asking for information). It takes me about 10 seconds to type: "How is radiant energy subdivided and applied to processes such as the transference of energy in a molecular scale?" While the average physicist might be able to give a quick answer, most of us probably need to do a little research on quantum theory before answering.

Here's another quick question: How do economists feel about the state of the economy? Lately, that's a lot like asking two film critics their opinion of a new movie. "Riveting, suspenseful, a must-see," says one. "Boring, predictable, wait for the video," says another. Some economists are optimistic and expect a recovery in the second or third quarter. Others don't expect to see clear signs of improvement until the calendar says 2003. Depending on which indicators you rely on or which financial advisers you trust the most, opinions vary widely among consumers as well.

So what's a business-technology manager to do in this continuing uncertain climate? That's another quick question that doesn't have a quick answer. But in this week's issue, we explore that issue in-depth for you. What technologies, regardless of cost, must be implemented now to ensure a company's competitive positioning when the economy recovers? What technologies can't wait, even if they don't have a measurable return on investment? How will companies continue to improve customer service if customer-relationship management projects are knocked off the priority list?

Our annual Outlook 2002 strategy survey reveals that most business-technology managers expect budgets to stay flat this year. Some 33% will actually increase their IT spending, while 17% will decrease. With caution as a driving principle, managers have some tough decisions on where to spend, where to cut, and what can wait. For more on which technologies top the priority list and how some companies are dealing with uncertainty, read "Save Or Spend?".

Happy New Year!

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