Business and technology guru Malcolm Fry seems to preach common sense, but a lot of chief executives are still paying money to listen. The British-based author and speaker tells managers their company's information technology (IT) support needs to be increasingly interwoven with everyday business practices, as the back office becomes more visible to clients due to the Internet and other technologies. In the past, the business side developed processes, and IT created the technology to support them - and a wide chasm divided the business and technology areas. Now, 'IT affects how business runs', said Mr Fry, in Hong Kong on a speaking tour. He has written four books on IT service and support, including The Help Desk and Problem and Change Management. Not only does IT become increasingly crucial - as a company develops an online presence, or through other ways - but ordinary customers now can see how the IT procedure works. For example, if you order a book online, you can easily track how long it takes to ship the tome. And if you do not like the service at one Internet bookstore, you can always try another. Mr Fry points to everyday issues at a call centre as an example. Help-desk staff members could be asked to solve 70 per cent of problems on the first call. Their manager would then cheerfully report to his boss that his workers are exceeding the target at 75 per cent. However, a percentage of the calls result from a glitch in the company software. Now, the manager could report the flaw, but then his results would go down - a difficult situation. Instead, the first thing would be to get the customer's software up and running again, then ask: 'What can we do to stop it going wrong again?' said Mr Fry, who works with Peregrine Systems, a software company which provides infrastructure resource, employee relationship and business-to-business relationship management products. His theories were supported by numbers, Mr Fry said. Behind every help-desk phone call is a wasted half hour to an hour by the client, who is trying to fix the problem. Multiply that by the 40 or so calls help-desk people are expected to handle every day, that means dozens of hours of lost productivity, and hundreds of hours in a week. If even a few calls were eliminated, the call centre could become more efficient and customers would be more productive and even happier, he said. Another example is Internet system down-time at a top-flight company. For example, if the Bank of China had its e-business system down for four hours, not only would customers be disgruntled, but also the problem would land in front of the board of directors, he argued. Mr Fry, who calls his efforts 'the direct application of common sense', says companies now need to measure not performance, but quality. For example, networking operations might aim for 99.9 per cent availability, but should have a goal of 100 per cent to push their standards to the highest possible level.