Too many managers in the West are intimidated by the task of managing technology. They tiptoe around it, supposing that it needs special tools, special strategies, and a special mind-set. Well, it doesn't, the authors say. Technology should be managed-controlled, even--like any other competitive weapon in a manager's arsenal. The authors came to this conclusion in a surprising way. Having set out to compare Western and Japanese IT-management practices, they were startled to discover that Japanese companies rarely experience the IT problems so common in the United States and Europe. In fact, their senior executives didn't even recognize the problems that the authors described. When they dug deeper into 20 leading companies that the Japanese themselves consider exemplary IT users, they found that the Japanese see IT as just one competitive lever among many. Its purpose, very simply, is to help the organization achieve its operational goals. The authors recognize that their message is counterintuitive, to say the least. In visits to Japan, Western executives have found anything but a model to copy. But a closer look reveals that the prevailing wisdom is wrong. The authors found five principles of IT management in Japan that, they believe, are not only powerful but also universal. M. Bensaou and Michael Earl contrast these principles against the practices commonly found in Western companies. While acknowledging that Japan has its own weaknesses with technology, particularly in white-collar office settings, they nevertheless urge senior managers in the West to consider the solid foundation on which Japanese IT management rests.
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