IT is the unseen eighth habit of business

A new report has identified seven key attributes of successful UK businesses - and no surprise, all seven are supported in some way by IT.

The Seven Habits of Ambitious Companies report, sponsored by HP, describes the key aspects top companies have in common. All successful companies have big ideas, stay focuses, build momentum, put people first, encourage communications, manage innovation and listen to their conscience, the report found.

"There's been an accusation against UK business that it's not that ambitious," said report author George Tovstiga, of Henley Management College. "Our findings have not substantiated that. We've found strong examples of ambition. Maybe UK businesses don't talk about it as much as Americans, but it's there."

But those seven habits aren't enough on their own - companies need to back it all up with a solid IT infrastructure.

"IT is the hidden eighth," said Richard Wright, HP's vice president personal systems group for the UK and Ireland. "It is key to business and helps enable the rest of the habits."

For example, IT can be a tool to "put people first" - one of the key aspects of business success. Wright noted that flexible working or home working, both supported heavily by technology, fit into this aspect.

As well, the report noted IT helps companies realise their big ideas and innovate, while keeping them streamlined enough to stay focused and agile. Collaboration technology can help overcome hurdles and keep momentum, while no company can survive without modern communications. And, IT can let companies obey their conscience, by cutting energy use, for example.

But - as with any aspect of modern business - none of the ambitions work without a solid IT backing. "It doesn't work unless the infrastructure is there," said Henley.

"How does IT support business, rather than IT for IT's sake," said Wright. "By looking at seven different habits, we can more specifically see how IT can be an enabler."

Aside from enabling change, ambition and innovation, IT frees up business resources - particularly ever scarce time, said Henley. "From a management perspective, a strong IT platform frees up resources," he said. "What really keeps many companies from having a future focus is their fire fighting, dealing with daily issues are holding them back. A good IT structure frees those resources."