In my pre-magazine days, I worked with a guy at the electric utility company who was passionate about researching and implementing new technology. He was always finding the latest software and hardware devices to increase worker efficiency and improve the electrical system’s reliability levels. The problem was he could think of new ways to use technology to improve a process or system before most of us could even start to feel comfortable operating the one we currently had up and running. Sure, he was doing what he thought was best for the utility—and having fun doing it—but the rest of us just felt left behind.

To make matters worse, he seemed to get a new boss every few years, and each of these new supervisors would set a different priority list for what projects he should be working on. As a result, many of the projects he started never really moved to full completion or delivered the projected cost savings initially promised.

Every company has a technology guru like my co-worker from the utility. It may be an estimator who knows all there is to know about tweaking Excel files to spit out the most accurate bid possible. Or it may be a project manager who improves the company’s billing cycles by figuring out a faster way to move field data to a centralized corporate database. Every company could use at least one person like that, but for all of their innovation and forward-thinking, they aren’t the individuals who should be leading technological change within the organization.

If a company really wants to drive internal technological change, it needs an executive-level staff person who possesses technical expertise, can make decisions about which technologies are most likely to generate the highest rate of return, and has the horsepower to champion the right projects through to full completion. Only then will the company continue to succeed and stay one step ahead of its competition.

As much as I’d like to take the credit for dreaming up that concept, I can’t. A lot of the biggest electrical design firms are well aware of the benefits of enlisting a high-power employee for that role and have been taking advantage of that IT structure for several years. Whether your firm is big or small, the ideals these companies have built their technology hierarchy on are applicable in most situations. And if you were hoping to get an inside look at what some of these firms’ IT executives do, you’re in luck. In this month’s cover story, “Leading Technological Innovation From Within,” on page 42, Amy Florence Fischbach takes a closer look at how a few of the top electrical design firms in this market have addressed this issue, either by appointing a single executive or via a tag team approach through two individuals.

High-tech tools will always be a part of the business, so the ability to find the latest and greatest advances is what will set you apart from your competition—and that means choosing the right person for the job. You can either trust the guy with all the ideas but none of the follow-through or a tech-savvy exec who has the corporate muscle to finish the job. Both may know where to find what you need, but only one of them will know how to make it work for you.