A reader recently wrote, "Technology enables me to change, and technology forces me to change." Those words sum up as well as any the good news-bad news, opportunity-crisis situation into which the increasing importance of information technology (IT) has thrust growing businesses.

Companies that find ways to apply technology effectively stand a real chance of achieving a competitive edge. Those that don't stand a real chance of being eaten alive. And that's why we'd like to present you with a foolproof, universal set of rules for successfully bringing information technology into your business. We'd like to, that is, but we can't -- there isn't any. Business has become too complex to allow for any one-size-fits-all solutions.

What we can share with you, among other things, are case studies of companies that have faced IT-related problems and seized IT opportunities. We hope that showing what other companies have done will clarify the sorts of IT strategies and decision-making processes that can help you come out on top.

Our main case studies in this issue illuminate two extreme -- but not all that atypical -- situations in which a growing company can find itself. Our cover story, "Repro-gramming the Company" ([Article link]), tells the tale of a debt-collection company that realized that its dependence on outmoded, underpowered information systems was hobbling its operations and its marketing -- so much so that the company's continued growth, and possibly its survival, depended on its taking a quantum leap in IT sophistication.

The second piece, "Riches from Rags" ([Article link]), relates the story of a once-high-flying, upscale knitwear manufacturer whose sudden, crushing problems were unrelated to any lack of IT. But just as the company was collapsing, a creative vault by its founder allowed her to completely reinvent the company around new technology.

Which model is more relevant to you: applying IT to revitalize your existing operations or coming up with an entirely new, technology-intensive way of doing business? Most managers of growing companies, if they think long and hard enough, will recognize ways in which one of those challenges applies to them. Many will realize, perhaps with a chill, that both apply.

We'll help in any way we can. Just don't ask for rules.

-- David H. Freedman, Editor