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Editor's Letter: IT Organizational Dynamics at Work in the Midmarket

Organizational dynamics are important in companies large and small. We take a look at some.

Organization is a great word. On the one hand, it stands for the practice of being organized -- that is, having processes by which you get things done and places to put the things you create. Take, for instance, your mail (electronic or paper): How do you manage it? An organized person has a system, with ways to spend the least possible time on the least valuable tasks, to sort through the rubbish to find what's important and then stash it someplace where it can be found later.

An organization, then, is a collection of these moving parts: processes, systems and people knit together by culture and artifacts. Though IBM and Dell are both computer makers, for example, their organizations are very different.

Our issue this month explores organization(s) on both fronts, starting with our cover story ("ITIL: The Latest Wave in Service Management"). ITIL (pronounced EYE-till or EYE-dull) is a set of practices designed to improve the service that IT provides through a combination of automation, governance and just plain process. If you need to get organized when it comes to service requests or incidents, ITIL can help you establish procedures and put tools in place to define workflows and build metrics to track efficiency. The problem for midsized organizations is that it takes time and money. So if you're like CIO Barry Paxman of Cascade Designs Inc., you might take a look and decide you can't go there. Still others like Mike Carper of Coldwater Creek Inc. have jumped in with good results. "I am not exaggerating when I say it is like a different place," he says.

If bringing order to your department is good business, organizing your data can be critical. Our feature on enterprise content management ("Enterprise Content Management: Corralling Content") explores the evolution of systems, from departmental records management systems to enterprise infrastructure. Indexing content ensures that users can find what they need to do their jobs -- and meet compliance and e-discovery mandates -- but making the case for a content management system can be difficult if you need to prove measurable return on investment.

Process and technology help you get organized, but there is much more to running an organization. Companies, and industries, are living, breathing things, dictated by changes in external forces, internal responses and innovation. This month we feature insight into two industries still adapting to the Internet: telecom (Vertical Views) and advertising ("The Ad Industry Goes Online"). As they work to deliver the new services the broadband era requires, midsized firms in both sectors are ramping up IT to meet their business challenges.

Of course, IT organizations are more than business-savvy technology units; they are also groups of people with different styles and needs. Our people-focused content this month includes a package on women in IT, starting with Thornton May's research in CIO Habitat. May's findings show the number of women in IT peaking at about one in five at midsized organizations, yet a dearth of programs out there to increase it. But women can and are attaining top IT positions ("Women in IT and in Charge"), often by taking on challenging, risky projects precisely because of their complexity and risk. The passion and leadership skill these women demonstrate are hardly gender-specific traits, though the experiences and motivations of our subjects often are. "What drove me wasn't status or position but impact," notes one, June Drewry of the Chubb Group of Insurance Cos. That's a philosophy any organization should embrace.

Anne McCrory is editorial director of CIO Decisions and the CIO Decisions conference. Write to her at amccrory@ciodecisions.com.

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