To most managers the answers to these questions will seem obvious. Expectations by customers and suppliers across the manufacturing sector are now extremely high. Except, it seems, when it comes to computers.
Our special report this week paints an astonishing picture of British industry ill at ease with information technology. Purchasing decisions based on the wrong reasons are made time and time again.
Too many people, including senior managers, are put off by a technology they cannot understand and a terminology which is littered with acronyms and buzz phrases. They have failed to understand that information technology must be seen as a tool rather than as an end in itself.
Few top managers understand that information systems provide the rules and regulations on the way a company is run. Manufacturing industry will spend around £3bn on IT this year – and often purchasing decisions are made solely by financial or IT staff. They can easily forget how important it is to focus on business benefits.
There is plenty of advice around. As the Government-backed guidelines stress, be an intelligent customer.