The Rewards Will Follow

Just like talented, experienced people, even the best-managed and most highly regarded organizations can lose sight of priorities and goals and end up scrambling means and ends in the process. In the struggle to deal with the myriad conflicting demands that we as individuals and companies face, it's easy to find ourselves lapsing into priority drift.

That reality struck me last week as I was speaking with the president of an East Coast chapter of the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), the professional organization that has honored Computerworld with dozens of awards over the years, including Magazine of the Year in 2004 and 2006 and Best Overall Web Publication in 2006. We were discussing an upcoming webinar I'm slated to participate in, the purpose of which is to inform our peers about the ASBPE awards program from the perspective of past recipients.

The organization had sent me a list of suggested discussion points, and I was surprised to see that one of the topics centered around these questions: "Does the publication or company develop specific editorial content with a view to winning awards? If so, what have been the results? Since entering award competitions, have you changed the way you develop editorial content and research, write or edit articles?"

I told the chapter president that the questions reflected a forgetfulness of purpose. I explained that our success lies in an approach that's based on serving the needs of our readers, which is the sole determiner of our editorial content. If we do that well, the awards and recognition will naturally follow.

Our exchange was still top of mind when I read this week's coverage of the remarkable men and women in the 2008 class of Computerworld's Premier 100 IT Leaders. It also made me think about one of the judges who selected this year's class: Tony Caesar.

I first met Caesar, CIO at Head/Penn Racquet Sports, at our Premier 100 conference two years ago. It was a chance encounter in which Caesar expressed his admiration for the men and women in the Premier 100 class of 2006. I have no doubt that from that moment on, he dreamed of walking across that stage and having that medal draped around his neck.

That dream came true just one year later, when Caesar was named to the 2007 class of Premier 100 IT Leaders. But I guarantee you this: What got him there wasn't the goal of receiving a medal. It was his determination to stay focused on the needs of his company and on serving his users. In his case, it was by means of shepherding a massive, game-altering warehouse-automation project. The honor was just a byproduct of the leadership and commitment that drove the undertaking.

This year's class shares that focus and commitment. They know that when you do the right things for the right reasons, the rewards will follow. And there's another dimension to that awareness that warrants our attention.

It was articulated in a discussion I had recently with Silicon Valley veteran Bill Coleman, one of the founders of BEA Systems. Coleman made a sublime observation in explaining the approach of his newest venture, Cassatt Corp., a utility computing start-up. "What we found," he said, "is that ROI isn't a driver for people to make transformative changes."

Recognition of that verity is one of the secrets of the success of this year's class of Premier 100 IT Leaders. As Julia King writes in the anchor story of our package, "Without a doubt, streamlining IT saves companies big bucks. Yet cost savings aren't the primary force driving the IT simplification boom. What these and many other Premier 100 IT Leaders say they are striving for is nothing short of overall business transformation." Do the right things, and the ROI will follow.

All of us at Computerworld warmly congratulate this year's honorees for that maintenance of focus and for the accomplishments it yielded. Rewarding them was only natural.

Don Tennant is editorial director of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Contact him at don_tennant@computerworld.com, and visit his blog at http://blogs.computerworld.com/tennant.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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