At the British Open recently, patrons were advised ''NO Mobile phones are permitted on the course''.
Sometimes I wonder if senior management switch on the snooze button when discussing IT issues. For the head of IT, it's often a tough call to compete for budget when the slick-talking sales and marketing director takes the floor with an irresistible new brand strategy and an alluring promise of increased market share as well as share price triumph. Applause!
Let's face it; it's more sexy to show off a new ad campaign than discuss how your internal business systems are making profits rise. Don't get me wrong. As business owners we need to spend big on communicating to our customers, but if we can't actually deliver what we promise or what customers actually want, they will forever distrust us and our schmick propaganda. Julia and Tony take heed!
So, what is the right amount to invest in IT to support customer service and build revenue? Is 2 per cent of budget enough to keep pace with your competitors? Is 8 per cent too high? What benefit does IT provide to customers and staff? Will your shareholders be happy with reduced earnings per share in the short term but superior longer-term annuity income if you spend more on IT now?
I'm just back from a sojourn overseas and it's heartening to see that some businesses do see the power in investing in technology to support a positive customer experience. The benefits can have an almost immediate effect on your bottom line. Word on the street was that Qantas had just spent a tidy sum in improving internal systems to boost customer service. Sitting in the international departure lounge, its investment was clearly evident as queues and processing for Qantas check-in were shorter and quicker than those of any other airline. Fantastic.
At the platinum level, I watched in awe as the Dallas Cowboys, with their $1.2 billion Arlington showpiece, took technology and consumer-relations management to an elite level. Premium seating sold on a 10-year basis, high-definition video screens commanding attention even as the game goes on, company product launches daily on the playing field, real tours, virtual tours, and extraordinary merchandising from T-shirts to rocket-shaped wood heaters.
Back in Melbourne, global quantity surveyors Rider Levett Bucknell also seem to get IT. Faced with an old system that lacked flexibility, they moved to new software so they could be more responsive to client needs. They outsourced the change. Buying in expertise allows businesses to start projects quickly, control capital costs, reduce the risks of implementing new technology and, importantly, gives them a location for where the buck stops.
And staff? Have they got the technology to make them more productive? I remember having a conversation about this with an accountant in Fitzroy 18 months ago after watching his star bean-counter painstakingly switching spreadsheets between multiple windows on a tiny screen. ''What about giving him two screens so he doesn't have to switch all the time? ''Nah, why spend $600 on that?'' ''I dunno ... maybe he'll be faster and bill an extra $200 a day for you!'' Breath wasted. Some folks just don't get it.
Back in that meeting the sales and marketing director has just finished his pitch to the CEO. Head of IT, it's your turn. ''How about we match the sales and marketing budget with the IT budget and invest in improving service and delivery. Sales will increase all by themselves. I heard it worked in Dallas.''
Peter Hannan is the founder and owner of Hannan IT, a Melbourne-based software and computer infrastructure firm.