IT Investment and Priorities Out of Sync in U.S. Manufacturing

While 72 percent of information technology (IT) managers at build-to-order and engineer-to-order manufacturers rank becoming customer value-driven as their highest priority, only 25 percent have plans to evaluate the front-office infrastructure and processes often crucial to customer value, according to a research report released today by software maker Cincom Systems (<>).

“Best Practices in IT Front Office for Build-to-Order Products” (<>) discusses the findings of a report from a technology perspective on the state of mass customization and build-to-order practices.

Of the IT managers surveyed, about 85 percent ranked becoming customer value-driven, reducing costs and introducing new technology as their highest priorities. Many of these priorities could be met with a knowledge-management system. However, knowledge management ranked last in priority with only 34 percent ranking it as “important” or “very important.”

In addition, many IT managers at these manufacturing companies considered a number of measures highly important in their organization. However, seven of these important metrics were seldom tracked despite being eminently trackable, especially if front-office and back-office systems are automated and integrated.

The seven metrics of high importance -- but relatively low tracking -- are:

1. Quality of data
2. Order rework
3. Customer-facing time for sales reps
4. User adoption of IT systems
5. Quotation rework
6. Win rate
7. Perfect order rates

The survey results show that there is “a lack of understanding among IT professionals as to the potential impact of front-office automation and integration with back-office systems to the bottom line,” says Jim Wilson, Cincom Program Director and author of the report. “Success of customization efforts appears to be holding back initiatives in this area.”

Cincom Systems targeted the survey at senior IT managers at 1,840 manufacturers of complex industrial, electrical and transportation equipment and systems.

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