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Outlook 2005: A Strong Foundation

OUTLOOK 2005If you've got it, flaunt it. And business-technology leaders have plenty of enterprise software, infrastructure, and networking bandwidth to flaunt, which is why 2005 is shaping up to be a year to leverage existing systems to gain a competitive edge.

Ogilvy and Mather Worldwide, the international ad agency, will invest heavily this year to tie together diverse global systems that manage purchasing rights of intellectual property, as well as production, postproduction, and video media, among other types of data. CIO and senior partner Atefeh Riazi characterizes 2005 as the year of middleware. Success will be spurred by linking systems and enhancing tools that let employees gain quick access to information they need. "We already invested in the infrastructure, the basic enterprise systems," Riazi says. "Where's my edge? It's quicker, better access to information that's accurate."

'We can't work in silos anymore,' Ogilvy and Mather CIO Atefeh Riazi says. Photo by Stan Kaady

"We can't work in silos anymore," Ogilvy and Mather CIO Atefeh Riazi says.

Whether expanding on their foundational infrastructure or, more rarely, looking at more of a big-bang investment, there's a clear focus on payback. More than one-third of the business-technology managers surveyed--38%--say that an investment must start showing a payback within one year. In fact, 15% of companies give their CIOs four months or less to justify their IT investments.

But Ogilvy & Mather's Riazi cautions about becoming too obsessed with return on investment. Companies that rely too heavily on ROI think tactically, not strategically, she says. She cites the example of the dynamo electric machine, the direct-current generator invented in 1881, which took 25 years before it increased productivity in factories, to show that technology investments shouldn't be viewed solely on their quick return. "There's a notion that IT ROI should take three years," Riazi says. "But the investments made in the '90s on ERP systems are just providing their return today."

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