By Tom Peters
Do you embrace the new technologies with child-like enthusiasm and a revolutionary’s zeal?
Sysco bet the company. On the new technology.
The food distribution giant delayed for years IS/IT maintenance projects that others would have declared essential. Instead the IS/IT budget was aimed squarely at a “bet the company” strategy to leapfrog the competition by a decade. At this point implemen- tation is on track, and the CIO claims that his boss (the CEO) is squarely staking his career on this enormous, transforming project.
IS/IT is a mere “tool”—but, as in Dell-world or Sysco- world, IS/IT has the power to do ever so much more, to re-invent entire industries and upend the competitive pecking order in the process. If …
If … the boss has vision and guts. Former PepsiCo CEO Roger Enrico lays out the challenge in no uncertain terms: “Beware of the tyranny of making Small Changes to Small Things. Rather, make Big Changes to Big Things.”
Doubtless IT’s biggest challenge (and opportunity) lies in the realm of national security. Though billions upon billions have been spent on federal, state, and local IS/IT programs by well-intentioned professionals, the results have been less than satisfactory. The whole idea of thoroughly modern IS/IT is the right informa- tion at the right place at the right time. But as the Boston Globe reported on 30 September 2001, that’s hardly been the result.“In an era when terrorists use satellite phones and encrypted email,” the paper concluded, “U.S. gatekeepers stand armed against them with pencils and paperwork, and archaic computer systems that don’t talk to each other.” Which is why the following report is so stunning!
Peacekeeping in Afghanistan and Iraq has been prob- lematic, to say the least. Nonetheless, the initial warfighting in both theaters was a sharp departure from the past—driven, make no mistake, by newfound IS/IT effectiveness. Consider this startling (if history is your guide) 2002 report from Business 2.0 editor Ned Desmond, titled “Broadband’s New Killer App”:
“Dawn Meyerreicks, CTO of the Defense Information Systems Agency, made one of the most fateful military calls of the 21st century. After 9/11 … her office quickly leased all the available transponders covering Central Asia. The implications should change everything about U.S. military thinking in the years ahead.
“The U.S. Air Force had kicked off its fight against the Taliban with an ineffective bombing campaign, and Washington was anguishing over whether to send in a few Army divisions. Donald Rumsfeld told Gen. Tommy Franks to give the initiative to 250 Special Forces already on the ground. They used satellite phones, Predator surveillance drones, and GPS and laser-based targeting systems to make the air strikes brutally effective.
“In effect, they ‘Napsterized’ the battlefield by cutting out the middlemen (much of the military’s command and control) and working directly with the real play- ers. … The data came in so fast that HQ revised operat- ing procedures to allow intelligence analysts and attack planners to work directly together. Their favorite tool, by the way, was instant messaging over a secure network.”
Adios, colonels (middle managers) by the personnel- carrier load! Welcome, direct agency and inter-service, bureaucracy-free communication among those who do the work on the sharp end! It’s that simple—and that profound.
Not your father’s health care establishment:
“Our entire facility is digital. No paper, no film, no medical records.Nothing.Andit’sallintegrated—fromthelabto X-ray to records to physician order entry. Patients don’t have to wait for anything. The information from the physician’s office is in registration and vice versa. The referring physician is immediately sent an email telling him his patient has shown up. … It’s wireless in-house. We have 800 notebook computers that are wireless. Physicians can walk around with a computer that’s preprogrammed. If the physician wants, we’ll go out and wire their house so they can sit on the couch and connect to the network.They can review a chart from 100 miles away.” —David Veillette, CEO, Indiana Heart Hospital, from HealthLeaders
Nothing less than an appetite for dramatic overthrow of 250 years of Industrial Revolution enterprise struc- tures will do. As I said: It’s that simple—and that pro- found.