In today's environment of rapid change, most organizations now find that IT is a major determinant of competitive advantage. While this has certainly been true in the past, the pace of change with the Internet means that an ability to change rapidly is vital. Now that people are connected by the Internet and intranets ­ and customers, suppliers and business partners are directly connected by extranets ­ the one thing we are all short of is time! Many problems that we could work our way around before, given time, become critical today. For example, it has been difficult to align information systems with corporate goals and strategic directions. And changes to systems to accommodate urgent business changes take months and sometimes years to implement. But we no longer have the luxury of years or even months. Systems that cannot change rapidly may result in the failure of many enterprises. The corporate landscape will soon resemble the devastating aftermath of a major earthquake.

The pace of change is accelerating, not diminishing, with time. The only thing stable today is change itself. Just to survive, most organizations must structure themselves to change rapidly and often. And their IT departments must respond just as fast. For too many enterprises, their ability to change is decided by their IT ability to build or change systems rapidly ­ and often ­ to continue to support the changing enterprise.

Yet there is good news. Methods to overcome these problems are now available, today! Through this column and The Enterprise Newsletter (TEN ­ published free each quarter), we can all share our experiences and benefit collectively. For example, while the Internet is a major catalyst of change, it also is a wonderful resource for change. Together we can share knowledge of enterprises that are working effectively to solve these problems, and we can also now visit them easily via the Web. Here is an example:

A regional bank accomplished in a month a task that usually takes at least six months: building a top-down strategic information systems plan (SISP) to align its systems with business goals. This was a detailed, high-level strategic data model, viewed by the bankers as a "picture of our bank." I was the facilitator, and the bankers and IT staff defined this data model over two days in a facilitated joint modeling session ­ documenting it in an SISP report over an elapsed time of four weeks.

Here the power of a data model to communicate business meaning became apparent. In a group modeling session, a banker came up to the board to discuss a section of the data model. He suggested a competitive opportunity for the bank to expand its markets using the Internet for global electronic banking. He used the data model to illustrate. He was correct, but I pointed out other opportunities he had overlooked. We were deep in conversation for 15 minutes before I realized what was happening.

Let me tell you now about the bank. The banker had been speaking Korean; he knew no English for it was a South Korean Bank! I was using English; I do not know any Korean! Our only communication medium was the data model ­ but with it, we each understood precisely what the other person was saying!

So we now see that there is hope that business managers and IT people (who also speak different languages) will eventually understand each other by using a data model to communicate in business terms ­ yet also appreciate the IT implications!

From this initial four-week SISP project, the bank then developed detailed tactical and operational data models of priority areas of interest over the following four months. The IT project members then developed object-oriented process models from the data models. And they are now building systems rapidly in Java to enable the bank to take advantage of the widest future deployment capability. By using business objects built this way, they now have high object and code reuse and a rapid change capability.

You can read about this SISP project online and download the complete SISP report from the IES Web site at http://www.ies.aust.com/~ieinfo/. Click on the "Projects" link and then click on the link for the "Kwangju Bank Project." For another example, click on the link for the "IHRIS Data Reverse Engineering Project."

I welcome your contributions to his column and The Enterprise Newsletter (TEN). Please e-mail to me comments or short articles describing successes you have had or problems you have overcome in applying IT to your enterprise.

Next month, we will consider how the pace of change is bringing us to a competitive Armageddon.

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