A study by the Economist Intelligence Unit suggests that giving people (employees) the information technology tools, infrastructure, and support they need to do their jobs effectively will help your company outdistance the competition. The study’s main conclusions are:

  • The more a company empowers its employees to make decisions, the more likely it is to perform better financially and competitively.
  • True enablers use technology to improve collaboration, encourage risk-taking, and optimize decision-making.
  • Companies categorizing themselves as “true enablers” are three times more likely to be more profitable than their competitors.
  • Compared with other types of firms, companies described as “true enablers” have a higher proportion that are more profitable than their competitors.

The study defines enablement as the organizational structures, informational technologies, and other resources that make it possible for employees to make decisions. In other words, trust your employees to make the right decisions. Not surprisingly, the study found that when it comes to IT, there is a significant “enablement gap” in most companies. Sound familiar?

Though many CIOs might disagree, most IT departments are strongly risk-averse not yet prepared to give employees the leeway they need to find information, indulge their creativity and collaborate with peers. It’s hard to feel “enabled” when you can’t get access to the Internet, or even download the latest version of Visio or Firefox. Though IT has valid reasons to be cautious in terms of loosening the controls and providing new tools – notably security – this new study suggests there is far more reason to take a leap of faith and give employees the technology platform to reach their full potential. IBM and Sun are two companies that have embraced this approach, to their benefit. Let’s hope other follow in their footsteps.