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The anti-Nicholas Carr thing

May 02, 2005

"It was the coolest thing I've been involved in ever since I've been in business," Xcel Energy CIO Ray Gogel tells Computerworld. "It's the anti-Nicholas Carr thing: Let's see what we can do with IT to help change the business." OK, Ray, you've got my attention. But what exactly is this "thing" you're talking about? Turns out Xcel has teamed up with its six biggest IT suppliers, led by IBM, to form a 45-member advisory board to collaborate on technology projects that will help Xcel transform its business.

What's noteworthy is the vendors' generous commitment of time and money to the effort. Gogel was able to get suppliers to make the big investments by agreeing to let them keep any intellectual property they develop in the course of the projects. Explains Gogel: "The companies that try to facilitate these types of arrangements typically want to own the IP. Instead, we're trying to take advantage of being the first [customer] to do it and leave the IP to the vendors." The tradeoff is that the vendors can sell the same IP to other energy firms. Gogel, in other words, is treating IT not as a strategic asset to defend from competitive replication but rather as an important tool for achieving real business results. That is cool. And smart. But I have to say it sort of sounds like a Nicholas Carr thing to me.

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