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.
Leaders and Winners
In each case, the winners placed technology at the center of their business strategy. In past years, "we would look at a single division project or an internally
focused project and that would be a candidate," says judge Peter Solvik, CIO and senior vice president of Cisco Systems. Now, a winning system "has to provide enterprise-level competitive advantage and strategic differentiation."
For Tufts University that meant thinking differently about what makes an educational institution great. Home to one of the nation's top-ranked medical schools, Tufts faces intense competition for students from rivals like Harvard and Dartmouth. Usually, universities maintain their cachet by hiring star faculty or building state-of-the-art laboratories. But what counts in the end is how well they teach their students. Tufts decided it could make its mark by using technology to change how its students and faculty interact.
The university built a multimedia knowledge management system for course materials, including texts, laboratory slides and recordings of professors' lectures, that students can access over the Web. The system, called the Health Sciences Database, helps students learn better by linking information across courses and providing ways for them to assess their knowledge daily. Faculty can share materials, thus saving time and money, while online feedback from students helps them use class time to focus on topics those students want to discuss most.
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This story, "2001 Enterprise Value Awards - Raising the Bar" was originally published by CIO.