Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Technology and Business Strategy

I just read an article that has lots of business implications.

Enterprise IT that gives front line workers access to information allows them to make better decisions while in the field. In this way, management can empower them more in what they can make decisions about.

On the other hand, when we give managers smart phones and facilitate 24/7 communication, frontline workers have the ability to ask their managers to decide various issues that come up. This allows us to empower front line workers less and tie them more closely to corporate policy.

So it is important for companies to decide on a strategic balance between command/control and empowerment based on the kind of work that is needed and their business strategy. Then they need to hire the appropriate kind of worker, train them in a way aligned with the strategy, and implement the appropriate technology(ies). More Enterprise IT enables front line empowerment. More mobile communications enables more control by the chain of command.

Green that earns Green

Businessweek had a great article in the April 4-10 issue “Sustainability meets the profit motive.” The main subject was that companies have found some great ways to make money that also decrease their environmental footprint. Their point was that when an environmentally beneficial change is also profitable, it is much easier to implement. Companies like to be good corporate citizens, but they can only go so far.

For example, PepsiCo has a potato chip factory that captures the water from the potatoes during frying and uses it to wash the next batch, landscaping, etc., saving $1 million a year in water. Wal-Mart switched to a corn-based package for its fruit that saves $200k/year. There are other examples too.

As an individual, I can choose to pay more for a greener version of a product because it is important to me. But companies find it much harder. So it’s great to hear about innovators who are making inroads in sustainable process improvement that are easy for companies to implement because they make money, not cost money.