Senior Research Scientist Peter Weill

Executives make few moves more critical than their decisions about which technology-infrastructure investments will promote future strategic agility.

Aiming to pinpoint best practices, MIT Sloan Senior Research Scientist Peter Weill and his research colleagues, Mani Subramani and Marianne Broadbent, marshaled 10 years of data from 89 leading enterprises.

Detailing their findings in “Building IT Infrastructure for Strategic Agility” in the Fall 2002 issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review, they write that when companies describe their IT-infrastructure capabilities as services instead of equipment, they do a better job of putting a value on what they are buying.

Weill, who is also director of the Center for Information Systems Research, and his coauthors identified 70 IT-infrastructure services that emerged consistently from their research.

Understanding those services, the authors write, can help executives determine which investments will make sense for which strategic business initiative.

They write, moreover, that understanding whether the contemplated initiative is supply-side, internally focused, or demand-side can help managers decide whether to make the infrastructure investment on a business-unit level or enterprisewide.

Weill and his colleagues also found that leading companies are making regular, systematic, modular, and targeted IT-infrastructure investments on the basis of overall strategic direction.

If other companies can learn to recognize which IT-infrastructure capabilities are needed for which kinds of initiatives, the authors assert, they can have some assurance that the investments they make today will serve the strategies of tomorrow.

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Former MIT President
Charles M. Vest