Wriston, Walter B.
Do you have a formal information strategy? by Walter B. Wriston for the Financial Executive
Timely information has always conferred power, both in the commercial and in the political marketplace. But as the availability and timeliness of information continues to increase, some of the more traditional sources of power are declining. Natural resources, which used to be a national treasure upon which political power was built, are now relatively less important than they were yesterday. Our accounting systems simply are not keeping pace with the changes taking place in the world. All of this has, or should have, a profound effect on the corporate structure and the way we manage our organizations.
Today, management structures are being flattened and sharply reduced by those who really understand the impact of technology on business. The need for layers of management is being reduced everywhere, when information becomes available to more and more people at all levels at a faster and faster rate. It is now possible, in this country, to access approximately 3,000 data bases. This is a national resource that is without parallel anywhere in the world.
One of our leadership tasks for tomorrow will be to design communication protocols and access to these data bases which are important to our own businesses. It is in this area where artificial intelligence may have its strongest impact in the near term. Anything that enhances the value of a company's data, and makes it more available to executives who lack computer skills in general, cannot help but improve the performance of our companies. Artificial intelligence may be the key to tying together not only your internal MIS system, but in relating your company's data to outside information about the marketplace.
Corporations may have to develop a formal information strategy, just as they've developed a formal business strategy, or a formal financial strategy. As all successful companies are market driven, timely access to market information must not only be put in place, but it has to be linked to the internal MIS system.
To further complicate matters, technology is redefining not only products, but also the delivery of services. It may not be enough to make yesterday's products better and more cheaply. We have to find and fill new market needs, and deliver these products at less cost. And if your controllers are smiling at your cost savings, so are your competitors' controllers. Your profits may not increase unless you improve your relative position, and that means employing information technology, not only to take out hard costs, but to generate soft savings through new management techniques and structures.