As technology continues to progress, connectivity to improve, and standards to emerge, industries will have the wherewithal to become more networked. Since only a few large companies will be able to span the full range of products in a vertically integrated manner, most will focus on areas where they have a comparative advantage.
Customers benefit too. With access to best-of-breed products, customers are no longer forced to choose between a seamless service and a superior product. Advances in technology are easing the friction of reconfiguration and organisations are becoming more comfortable operating across product lines.
Despite the IT industry facing constant and rapid adoption of new technologies, fundamental shifts of focus in IT move at a much slower pace. Many shifts do not achieve their full potential until the next major advance comes along. But if you ask the business unit leaders in just about any company today whether they want the opportunity to leverage emerging technologies to gain competitive advantage, you can expect the same response: "when do we start?"
IT organisations are also shifting from a technology perspective to a business perspective and focusing on the delivery and support of the most valued requirements of their customers and suppliers. This focus means that there are no more technology projects, only business initiatives.
Getting business managers and IT executives on the same page is always a challenge. Business managers always want to change processes and therefore systems very quickly but they do not understand that systems are often less pliable. No matter how many times we say SOA, this is not going to change.
The way leaders manage the change process in the corporate culture with customers and in the marketplace (support for training, customer support, and promotions, etc.) often determines the success of the entire company, not just the product line or service.
Today continuous connectivity to technology, the customer, and the markets is critical for success. Focusing on delivery value for the customer by market segment is key. Value must be identified, quantified, and directed toward the specific buyers and the buying segments within market segments.
Investing in technology without adequate analysis of business requirements, buying ahead for planned future rollouts that never happen, over-engineering data centres, and failed multimillion dollar corporation-wide ERP installations have burned many organisations in recent years. Many companies are still digesting some of these prior investments. As a result, many still take a much more sceptical view of technology investments.
Len Rust is publisher of The Rust Report.