4 min read

Some Kind Of Oxymoron?

There's still progress to be made before business is truly collaborative
Who didn't love George Carlin's routine about oxymorons, where he pointed out the irony of such phrases as "jumbo shrimp" and "military intelligence"? I was reminded of that routine this morning while pondering a phrase that's gotten a lot of exposure in the industry (and happens to be a linchpin of InformationWeek's editorial coverage of late). Is it accurate to say that "collaborative business" captures the essence of the transformation taking place in the business technology arena today, or is that phrase really another oxymoron? Just how collaborative is business?

Where am I going with this, and just what in the name of Bob Evans am I doing using our editor-in-chief's regular space to seemingly question the validity of our own editorial coverage? I can answer the former by clarifying the latter: Obviously, there's nothing wrong with our coverage--companies indeed are migrating to a more collaborative environment. But InformationWeek's own reliable research indicates there's still some progress to be made before we can unabashedly say that businesses are truly collaborative. The noble goal of all companies looking to succeed is to leverage technology to build intimate partnerships with each customer and supplier they touch, as well as to establish seamless integration of all of their business units. Last year, at the fall InformationWeek Conference, we revealed in our annual ranking of the 500 most innovative users of IT that the top 100 companies were far more likely to collaborate by sharing information with their customers, suppliers, and business partners than were the rest of the ranked companies. We're now in the process of updating those findings with this year's InformationWeek 500 survey, and will release those results at the fall InformationWeek Conference Sept. 9 to 12 at the Westin La Paloma resort in Tucson, Ariz. (For more information and to register, go to If those results reflect the data from our survey in May on information-sharing, in which we found that nearly three out of five companies met the criteria of a highly collaborative business, it'll be clear that progress is creeping toward truly collaborative business. Still, less than half the respondents in that survey said they share information with customers, and less than 15% share information with suppliers.

Is it any wonder, then, in considering the most important issues for our fall conference, that we'd choose "Collaborative Business" as our theme? Like E-business before it, collaborative business is a concept that's starting slowly but will sweep across the global landscape and transform every company. At the conference, we'll be exploring this concept in depth. Through the observations of noted academics, industry experts, CIOs, and InformationWeek editors, we'll give our attendees a better understanding of their own company's progress in this area and help them to move forward and execute.

What happens if companies don't execute? Don't collaborate? Don't perform to the level that customers expect? I used this quote during my opening remarks at the spring InformationWeek Conference in April, but it's too priceless not to give it the larger exposure it deserves. Having just been released during spring training by the Anaheim Angels, a clearly bewildered Jose Canseco--a one-time star slugger not known for his mental acuity--said, and I quote: "I didn't know I was going to be judged on my performance." Imagine tossing that line at your boss should you ever find yourself having to defend a shoddily prepared or overdue project. (Some of you may note that, while such a line mightn't work for you, Mr. Canseco did land on his feet after all, having been picked up last month by the Chicago White Sox. All I can say is, there's probably a bigger market for right-handed pinch hitters than there is for recycled IT executives.) Companies that dismiss the importance of collaboration will be judged on their performance by the most ruthless jury of all: their customers--and the harshness of their verdict may not be as benign as a stopover in the minors.

Brian Gillooly
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Bob Evans is on vacation