IT professionals who reach the executive level need to know as much about business issues as they know about technology issues. In fact, 28 percent of members responding to a recent CIO Republic poll said that if they could return to school, they would study business administration.
Perhaps one reason for this interest in learning about business is that CIOs face pressure to quantify the benefit of IT projects in ROI or other measures. As a result, CIOs often need to work closely with CFOs to understand and meet business requirements. Larry Downes, author of The Strategy Machine, noted that IT executives have the opportunity to revolutionize products and lead their companies into new product lines if they’re willing to master the business side of their companies.
IT executives can use these Web sites to find business and financial information:
- BPubs.com for a specialized search engine
- Wall Street ExecutiveLibrary.com for links to about 1,500 sites
- CFO.com for business and financial information
Business publications search engine
BPubs.com, a niche search engine, provides an efficient way to find feature articles on business topics. When you enter terms in its search box, the engine combs through citations from publications that provide free, quality content on business issues. Searching or browsing through the directory yields a list of relevant articles, complete with title, author, source, and a brief abstract. Then, the full text is just a click away.
For example, suppose your IT department is going to work with HR to develop a human resources information system (HRIS) for your corporate intranet. Searching for “HRIS” in BPubs returned six links. The first two—“Calculating Return on Investment for HRIS” and “The HRIS in Small Companies: Tips for Weighing the Options”—are from HR Magazine, a source you may not usually consult.
The search engine also lists the category this publication belongs to—Human Resources: Leveraging Technology—which provides a quick way for you to browse other articles that may be of interest for IT/HR projects. Be aware, however, that the search engine can also pick up irrelevant hits because it searches your terms as a string by default. Searching for “HRIS” also picked up articles with the name “Chris” in the citation. Be as specific as possible in your search terms and try the Focus Your Search link below the search box if you get too many unwanted hits.
Because BPubs screens content, you won’t see every piece of information on a topic as you would with general engines, such as Google. But BPubs is a great resource when you’re looking for a few good articles to serve as a jumping-off point for an executive brainstorming session.
In addition to locating free business articles online, BPubs also helps you subscribe to free print publications. Just click the link on the right side of the home page to see a directory of free trade and business publications, such as eWeek, Card Technology, CRM Magazine, or Network World. When you find a title of interest, it’s easy to fill out a subscription request and submit it for approval.
An executive library
In contrast to the spare look of the BPubs home page, you’ll see hundreds of links to newspapers, magazines, and other information resources as you scroll down the home page of Wall Street ExecutiveLibrary.com. It’s a bit text-heavy, but the site is full of useful information. In addition to the extensive home page, which focuses on news and reference information, you can click links at the top for specialized directories, as shown in Figure A. The Research link takes you to the Government, Financial Market Research, and Statistics & the Economy links, as well as Business & Law and Marketing & Advertising information. The more ad-heavy Library page includes feature articles on business, but it is not generally as useful as the other pages.
|The Wall Street ExecutiveLibrary.com Web site provides links to specialized directories.|
The main attraction is the home page, which organizes sites by the types of information they offer. The News Center includes links to newspapers, wire feeds, financial news services, and television and radio sites, as well as Internet-only sources. In the Magazines, Journals, Etc. section, you’ll find links to news magazines, business publications, and technology sources. The Web Search & Computer section helps you find dozens of specialized search engines, tech support, and popular downloads. An interesting subsection lists engines that search the “Invisible Web”—databases generally hidden from public view.
Finally, the Office Reference & Toolkit section, shown in Figure B, hooks you up with business tools, encyclopedias, dictionaries, statistics, libraries, maps, and government information.
The Office Reference & Toolkit section lists links to business tools and statistics. In almost every category on the home page, you can click the more link to see a more exhaustive treatment of the topic. In all, ExecutiveLibrary claims to have links to more than 1,500 informational sites.
Although browsing the site is fairly easy, searching is not. The Search This Site link just performs a Google search on the site’s listing of links. Searching “Mac,” for example, just tells you that the site contains links to Mac Addict, Mac Central, Mac Week, and Mac World. Your other options are to perform a Google search of the entire Web or to browse Google's Web directory—nothing unique.
The CFO's view
To better understand your CFO, you'll want to check out the kinds of information finance executives find useful. CFO.com is a great place to start this quest. The home page highlights daily features and new articles are added to each channel on a daily basis.
A search of ”IT staffing” (use parentheses for a phrase search) yielded 37 article citations. Articles such as “Keep IT simple, stupid," ”How to tap India’s cheap IT labor,” and “Judging Tech? It ain’t easy” can give you insight into how financial executives measure the value of IT positions. The site also offers useful information about major business purchases, including hardware and software.