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KM Summit news: Listen to customers, says Thornton May

In a decidedly intense and lighthearted display yesterday at the KM Leadership Summit, Cambridge Technology Partners' Thornton May gave some insights as to why IT isn't a smashing success.

May, director of CTP's Management Lab who described his job as "talking with smart people," said people are mostly concerned with prevention of doing things wrong, of "not being smart" about things like value, time, products/services, the Web, and What Comes Next.

For IT, May argued that the biggest question is not how IT can be used as a strategic tool to quell these fears, but rather why is IT not creating more value already in those organizations? He quoted a bone-chilling statistic from Standish Group research, that out of 175,000 survey participants, only 16% said their IT projects succeeded.

CTP's own research revealed that the average Fortune 500 company will misspend or mismanage over $100 million a year in IT money; roughly ninety cents out of every IT dollar spent today is being misspent. Illustrating the need for strong management buy-in to IT, May pointed to a statistic that only 20% of CEOs and CIOs in an organization have similar agendas. He used several examples to back up these statistics, including one company that spent $500 million on an IT project that still doesn't work properly.

Turning the conversation back towards knowledge management, May lightheartedly suggested that forgetting and exfoliating old knowledge is more important than shortening employees' learning curve. He closed by suggesting that rather than ask "are we getting smarter about KM," organizations should focus on "getting rid of the stupid people in your organization."

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