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Technology—A Business Essential
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John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, is a 57-year-old executive who is keenly aware of the value of technology in today's business environment. "The great leaders of the future will absolutely know technology. Not from a geeky perspective, but from a practical business approach," he said this week in a USA Today interview.

"What gets an executive into technology is…understanding what technology can do to achieve personal or business goals," Chambers observed. "Any CEO who is good will grasp what technology can do to enable their business strategy, achieve their productivity goals, their cost savings, enable their movement into new markets. They'll absolutely use it."

Even for executives who acknowledge and embrace technology as essential to their business, choosing the technology best suited to their company's needs and deciding when to adapt or transition to new technology carries risks and myriad uncertainties.

Federal Computer Week carried an article this week (March 19, 2007) that provides insights on how government agencies make decisions about what new technology to install. The article reveals strategies that might work equally well in the corporate world. It also highlights strategies federal agencies have borrowed from business.

(You'll find the full article, "Cures for the compulsive gadget grabber," by Alan Joch, at http://www.fcw.com/article97924-03-19-07-Print.)

The article cites four steps the Naval Postgraduate School's New Technology and Innovation Center (NTIC) uses to evaluate new technology:

1. Evaluate compatibility.
When a particular technology looks like it might fill a need, NTIC analyzes the technology to determine how it fits with the existing infrastructure.

2. Check what's on the market.
NTIC staff visit high-tech and education conferences to stay current on new introductions. They also share information about products and vendors with colleagues at other institutions.

3. Hold a demo derby.
After narrowing its short list to two or three contenders, the center invites the vendors to demonstrate their projects. Before the companies leave, they're asked to provide test products for the center to analyze.

4. Try it in a small way.
When a possible fit is found, the center begins with a small project and solicits input from all potential users.

"A lot of people get hung up on just the technology and what features it might have, but technology is only one of three other considerations that have to all be put together," said John Thomas, a vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton. People, workflow, and existing infrastructure components contribute to IT success, he notes in the article. "It is those four dimensions that play into the picture of how you develop a return on what you invest to resolve a problem."

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