In my column last October, I addressed the profile of the typical information technology (IT) organization based upon the findings of the ongoing IT benchmark study conducted by Hackett Benchmarking & Research, part of Answerthink. In the next two columns I will continue the discussion by looking outside the IT organization to the study's findings on the impact of technology in the business as a whole and how that frames the future challenges for IT leadership. In this column we will look at the facts; in the next one, we will study the implications for IT planning.

One fact is not in doubt ­ IT is becoming more pervasive and mission critical every day. At the average company, the proportion of the workforce who are regular users of IT has grown from 53 percent to 70 percent in the last three years. For many companies, particularly in the service sector, the number is 100 percent. With the in- creasing ubiquity of IT, there is also greater visibility of its relative successes and failures. In a recent Conference Board Study, 53 percent of CEOs cited changing technology and the impact of the Internet as critical business issues. With increased visibility comes increased demand to maximize the return of technology investments, and it is in this area that the benchmarks provide some thought-provoking insights.

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