Business Technology Strategy for a: Specialty Chemicals Company

Business Technology Strategy for a: Specialty Chemicals Company

Anne Wilms (Villanova University, USA) and Stephen J. Andriole (Villanova University, USA)
Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 8
DOI: 10.4018/jitr.2010070102
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This paper focuses on the development of a business technology strategy for a large global specialty chemicals company. The requirement was to develop a strategy that aligned with the company’s business strategy, which is not an uncommon requirement for business technology strategies in the 21st century. The expectation was that information technology (IT) would cross the operation-to-strategic chasm and start to generate some significant ROI. The paper explores the elements of the “strategic strategy” (versus an “operational strategy”) as well as ongoing challenges to make both operational and strategic technology work. The authors illustrate a number of strategy development principles that students should internalize as they assess other cases and develop their own business technology strategies.
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IT at SpeChem has evolved to the point where it can transition from an efficient provider of computing and communications services to a significant enabler of business growth through differentiated information capabilities that directly support SpeChem’s business strategy. SpeChem is part of the specialty process industry (Smith, 2005; Seider, Seader, & Lewin, 2004; Aftalion, 1991; Brandt, 2006; Chandler, 2005; McCoy, 2006; American Chemistry Council, 2002; Norris & Brink, 1977). As such it relies upon information technology for operational effectiveness and strategic impact (Chemical Information Technology Council, 2010; American Institute of Chemical Engineers, 2004).

The investment in a single instance of the SAP ERP application as the primary transaction platform for the company (and the corresponding investments made in infrastructure), for example enables the company to pursue initiatives that directly support the corporate operational and strategic strategy. SAP has allowed SpeChem to consolidate and standardize; it has also enabled the company to reduce costs. In addition to the SAP transaction engine, SpeChem has invested in a global computing and communications collaborative infrastructure that permits the company to take the business technology partnership to the next level.

The tracking of new technology can further reduce costs and enable business growth. Some of these technologies include business intelligence (BI), collaboration, Web 2.0 technology, virtualization and unified communications, among others SpeChem continuously tracks to identify high impact opportunities.

The transition of IT to a deeper business partnership is possible because of the investments SpeChem made in both applications and infrastructure over the past several years – and because the company has a set of specific strategic business objectives with which to align. Transitions of this sort are only possible if the right investments have been made in processes (like governance), technology (like standardized applications) and people (like professional development through education and training). SpeChem made these investments while reducing technology costs. It also made investments in organizational structures that have been designed to increase the understanding of, and responsiveness to, the businesses through improved business relationship management, more disciplined project and program management, and programs that help technologists better understand the business environment in which the company operates.

The business technology strategy reflects IT’s expanded commitment to the business value of IT and the continuing emphasis on cost-effective infrastructure. It also reflects the ongoing transition of IT from an infrastructure provider to a strategic business partner.

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