Pushing for information Featured

7:00pm EDT December 31, 2006

Research has shown that companies with better information technology have more productive employees. Other research has shown that company growth can be positively influenced with outstanding information technology. Managers who have the most useful up-to-date information are in a position to make the best possible decisions in the shortest amount of time.

“Today’s businesses need to have a competitive edge,” says John Bugado, who had years of experience as an IT executive with NCR before becoming a department chair at National University in La Jolla. “They can get it with the infrastructure provided by new information technology that enables management to make quick decisions. The companies ‘fluent’ in these new technologies have harnessed the potential to be the most successful.”

Smart Business talked with Bugado about why fluency is important and how to become fluent.

What do you mean by being fluent in new technologies?
I am talking about the ability of the business side of the company being able to communicate to the IT people what they need in the way of information, and the IT people being able to communicate to the business side what they can and cannot do for them.

This fluent communication is a two-way street. Both sides need to understand the other’s needs and terminology, horizontally and vertically. If the IT side doesn’t understand what the business side needs and how it applies, how can they be expected to come up with solutions? If the business side doesn’t understand the value of information technology and its terminology, how can they realize its benefits and values?

While the IT side of a company is extremely important in today’s economy, it is neither more nor less important than the business side. What is most important is that both sides of the business are fluent in the new technologies and what they can do for the company.

What’s the difference between horizontal and vertical fluency?
Horizontal fluency is being aware of the breadth of information technology and understanding how the technology best fits the business and related business processes. Once the overall IT architecture and the strategic roadmap is established, you then can drill down vertically into the details on how the technology works and how it is going to be applied.

How does a person become fluent in the new technologies?
One way is to read the various professional magazines, such as Computer World, Info World and Information Week. These professional publications study the issues in depth and then report on what is most important. They specialize in information such as Internet technologies, security technologies, wireless technologies and search technologies.

You could take courses that would help you become more fluent. Courses are available in technology management for business people and business courses for tech people. These will help bridge the communication gaps between business and technology analysts. Conferences can help you gain added insight. The networking and visiting between sessions at on-site conferences or classes can prove beneficial in increasing fluency. Some conferences are done as Web casts so you don’t even have to travel.

Other sources are search engines on the Internet. There are various tools that a good business person can use to keep up. The Internet is especially useful when you use ‘push’ technology to get what you need.

What do you mean by push technology?
Push technology is the opposite of pull technology, which is pulling information from the Internet or the local library. Push technology is developing a personal profile to indicate your specific technology interests and preferences. Based on the profile, search engines can filter through all the information in the Internet and push to you just what you need.

With so much information available on the Internet, it is increasingly important, and a time saver, to use push technologies.

Are there any other considerations?
There is a gap between keeping old and acquiring new technologies. The idea is to narrow the gap. You first need to be aware of how the old or current technology was being used by the business and then how to integrate the new into what you have. For example, new wireless technology uses the same basic business processes to connect and relate to customers and vendors. The difference is the flexibility and the availability of being more mobile.

Customers and vendors are demanding higher accessibility and availability. Constant evaluation and acquisition of new information technology within the business infrastructure will address these demands and narrow the gap between new and old technologies.

JOHN BUGADO is department chair at National University in La Jolla. Reach him at jbugado@nu.edu or (858) 642-8407.