April 02, 2001, 10:14 AM — WE LEARN EARLY THAT OUR FIERCEST competitors should be ourselves. We don't win, we are told, by looking over our shoulders to see how quickly our opponents are gaining on us. It's too easy to misread our competitors' pace, to stumble over obstacles in our path. Instead, we are taught to look ahead, to draw strength from within and to push ourselves, as hard as we can, forward. We become better because we imagine we can be. And we become leaders -- visionaries, even -- when our peers adopt our expectations as their own.
For nine years, CIO has honored information technology visionaries with the Enterprise Value Awards, and each year the winners surpass the standard for excellence set by their predecessors. "The bar is going up," notes Doug Barker, CIO and vice president with The Nature Conservancy and one of five independent judges who selected this year's awardees. "As technology has evolved, it's more powerful than ever in terms of what it can accomplish for an organization." Award winners are those companies that harness that power to coax ever more value from their technology investments.This year's honorees extended the benefits of information technology beyond the boundaries of a single department or production process -- beyond, even, their corporate walls. Companies know they must adapt to an economy in which survival depends on more than distributing products and services in a cost-effective way. The victors in a networked world will be those organizations that derive additional value from interactions with employees, customers and suppliers.
While many organizations struggled to identify how IT can deliver these new opportunities, the 2001 Enterprise Value Awards winners -- Tufts University, Office Depot and Harrah's Entertainment -- conceived a vision of the future and pursued it. "They clearly changed their businesses in a broad, sweeping way," says judge Patricia Wallington, former CIO of Xerox and now a consultant.
Which should come first -- identifying where there is value to be tapped or understanding how IT can extract it -- is a bit like the chicken-and-egg question. It's safe to say that all of the honorees were spurred to develop their winning systems based on a deep understanding of their businesses and the relationships that were critical to their success. They imagined how IT could help them make those relationships more valuable. This award honors that imagination.