We hear loudly and often that organizations need to understand key business processes that underlie any sort of planned technology automation. This after all is the precursor to what we're calling "operational" business intelligence, which seeks to optimize the use of information in the unique context of given business users. But, ahead of this, most businesses don't clearly define and prioritize the core competencies they ought to be controlling internally, and which they should partner or outsource. Leveraging core competencies for growth - and wringing maximum efficiencies from non-core tasks - sounds simple enough, but we see exceptions all the time: overtaxed IT departments that can't deliver a report or build a Web site without months of lead time; a key R&D innovation stuck in the pipeline for lack of attention. How important was that report or Web site to a company's immediate differentiation? Why did an important innovation get lost? It makes one very doubtful of a company's ability to react to incremental business dynamics in what we all agree is a fast-changing world.

Tom Koulopoulos, president and founder of Delphi Group, tries to tackle these questions from an executive perspective in his new book, Smartsourcing: Driving Innovation and Growth Through Outsourcing. This book, written with EMC's Tom Roloff, deals with global dynamics that more often will require sensible, trustworthy and profitable partnerships, but to our eyes it is equally a manual for project portfolio management. Interestingly, the book says almost nothing about leveraging internal information assets, and that seems to be on purpose. Instead, Koulopoulos provides a historical and forward roadmap for building strategic partnerships, sharing risk and optimizing innovation. It starts the need to nail down the five or 10 things that are key to a company's growth - and separately understanding that core competency is a moving target. The responsibility for this can be placed nowhere but at the feet of senior executives.

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