by Gary Beach

Invest, Don’t Spend

Jul 01, 20052 mins
Business IT Alignment

George Steinbrenner, principal owner of the New York Yankees, issued a terse news release as his team was mired in a losing streak early this season. “Enough is enough,” said boss George.

Steinbrenner’s admonition seemed to have worked, as the Yankees emerged from their slump, at least temporarily. (And went back into one shortly thereafter.) And his quote stuck in my head as I traveled across the country recently thinking about the future of our industry.

In Cambridge, Mass., at our May CIO Leadership Conference, I heard Harvard Business School Professor Warren McFarlan proclaim in his keynote: “This is the most exciting period ever for information technology. CEOs who think the dotcom boom came and went and now it is back to business as usual are dead wrong.” I agree, Warren. Smart companies are investing in IT for strategic advantage.

On the flight to Las Vegas I read a Fortune interview with Carol Bartz, CEO of Autodesk. Answering a question about tech industry pessimism, Bartz said, “Five years after 2000, people either believe the tech industry is going to come back, or they have gone totally into a black mind-set that says it never will, and woe is us. The Chinese are optimistic, the Japanese are getting optimistic, and we are stuck in the mud. That is nonsense.” Go Carol!

In Las Vegas, I heard Bob Suh, chief technology strategist for Accenture, say that while tech spending is rising, tech investments are not. According to Suh, spending is tactical while investments are strategic. Are you spending or investing?

On the flight home, I was reading Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tom Friedman’s new book, The World Is Flat, and it synthesized all the above. Particularly the comment of one Chinese mayor who told Friedman, “Today, U.S. firms are the architects, and developing countries are the bricklayers. One day I hope we will be the architects.”

Wake up, America! If our companies do not start soon to strategically invest in technology and a technically skilled workforce, we will be the bricklayers of the 21st century.

George is right. Enough is enough.