A colleague snapped an advertisementat a station in the London Underground recently and I started thinking.
Not at first about the claim, “In a Free Economy the Best Technology Wins!” (although I do like that and I will return to it), what struck me was how mainstream IT has become.
Here we have an advertisement targeting your average commuter, emphasizing the use of technology as the basis for their business models, and the advertiser expects the reader to be suitably impressed.
IT has fully entered the mainstream; it is no longer a field that stands on its own. Every manager or aspiring manager needs to be conversant in IT and the business possibilities resulting from IT.
To paraphrase the introduction to the Master of Digital Transformation Management offered by the Goethe Business School in Frankfurt (another example of IT in the mainstream): “Are you equipped to base your business strategy on digital technologies? Can you identify which of the many available and developing technologies will have a lasting impact on your industry, your enterprise and your career? Mastering the skill of assessing the impact of IT technology on business will equip you for the digitalization era. CAN YOU AFFORD TO IGNORE IT?”
These are all very good questions. What manager today, in any department, can afford to be unaware of the drivers of innovation in their industry? Maybe not to MBA level —when Germans do something they do it thoroughly (look out Tesla) — but managers, CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CCOs CXOs all need a thorough grounding in the art of the possible being made a daily reality by IT.
But to get back to the advertisement, “In a free economy the best technology wins”— this is only half the story. It must be backed up by an innovative business idea that in turn drives disruption. But the claim is basically true.
Innovation and disruption, two sides of the same coin, are driven primarily by innovative software development and a supporting hardware infrastructure, of course.
It starts at the top – innovation through IT is the only game in town at the moment — the CEO has to focus on bolstering enterprise innovation capabilities through agile in-house software development and software architecture know-how in the enterprise. It is just not possible to survive in the digital age if you rely on the pre-packaged business logic and models provided by ERP and other relatively static applications. We see that every business is becoming a software business and it is imperative that every enterprise utilizes software to sharpen its own competitive edge.
Look at the new purely digital businesses – Apple, Alibaba, Airbnb, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Skype or Uber – their success has been built on their own unique software platform. Not off-the-shelf packages. The game has well and truly been changed.
Every C-level manager must become be able to think in terms of IT or software, must be able to imagine the new possibilities and identify the new threats presented by digitalization, and must be able to re-image their organization and the new value chain of tomorrow.
An MBA might not be necessary. General Electric, for example, as well as hiring thousands of developers over recent years now puts all new managers through an IT course to enable them to participate in today’s economy.
Nobody can afford to ignore IT.