The hardest part of the CIO job is keeping up with the never-ending avalanche of technology developments?that\u2019s what our readers tell us anyway. So we asked Ken Smith, CIO of Cleveland-based PolyOne, for some practical advice on handling the chore.\n\n \n\n\n\n\n1. prioritize Ruthlessly\n \n\nPolyOne is a $3 billion maker of elastomers, colorants, plastic compounds and vinyl resins. The company was formed by a merger of Geon and M.A. Hanna in September 2000. It\u2019s global, has numerous product lines and manufacturing sites, is doing lots of e-commerce stuff, and is in the midst of migrating the two original companies\u2019 systems onto SAP R\/3 as a common platform. Smith is busy. So he is very selective about which technologies he tries to track. "You can easily become overwhelmed by all the technologies out there, so the key is to remember that no one person can do it all. You have to ruthlessly prioritize," he says. For Smith, CRM is number one right now: "We think it has real potential as a competitive advantage." XML and wireless are next on the list. \n\n \n\n\n\n\n2. Delegate\n \n\nSmith relies on his technical staff to go out, research their areas of expertise, sort through the vapor and report back any developments that could affect PolyOne\u2019s IT setup, whether through new functionality or better cost efficiency. He says the company\u2019s experts do a great job staying abreast of their technology areas?desktops, midranges, networks and the like?but that PolyOne needs a better-defined process for capturing their feedback. Whether that\u2019s through casual lunches, formal committees or some other system, choosing a consistent method that works for PolyOne is on Smith\u2019s priority list for 2002. \nSome of Smith\u2019s staffers sit on standards committees for emerging technologies such as CXML, a chemicals-industry variation of XML. That participation gives PolyOne the chance to help steer their development. While Smith also notes that standards-setting is a slow process?his company can\u2019t afford to be paralyzed waiting for standards to coalesce?it\u2019s valuable to get involved early. \n\n \n\n\n\n\n3. Read\n \n\nBut what to read? This leads to the next tip.\n\n \n\n\n\n\n4. Use your consultants and vendors\n \n\nPolyOne uses services from Accenture for projects such as the current SAP rollout. Smith milks that relationship not only to query the consultants about their firsthand technology expertise but also to find out where to go for more. In the case of CRM, Smith says most of the reading he found on his own was "academic, not real-world." Accenture consultants pointed Smith to relevant research from other analyst companies. Staying abreast of technologies, after all, is part of the consultants\u2019 job too. Using their input is "a way of picking and choosing [the best content from analyst services] instead of joining all of them," says Smith. And consultancies such as Accenture typically have case studies detailing their own clients\u2019 technology implementations. Similarly, Smith also queries PolyOne\u2019s software and hardware vendors about their upcoming plans and the technologies likely to have an effect in their particular areas.\n\n \n\n\n\n\n5. Forget trade shows\n \n\nSmith, for one, chooses not to burn his limited time on expo floors. He says he just doesn\u2019t find them very useful, "other than for the T-shirts, maybe."