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Andrew mcafee and erik brynjolfsson investing in the it that makes a competitive difference

Опубликовано в How to really make money on forex | Октябрь 2, 2012

andrew mcafee and erik brynjolfsson investing in the it that makes a competitive difference

Investing in the IT That Makes a Competitive Difference (Harvard Business Review) · By: Andrew McAfee, Erik Brynjolfsson, Harvard Business Review · Narrated by. Investments in certain technologies do confer a competitive edge - one that has to be constantly renewed, as rivals don't merely match your moves but use. That's the conclusion of a comprehensive analysis that Harvard Business School professor McAfee and MIT professor Brynjolfsson conducted of all publicly. INVESTING FOR DUMMIES 2015 Use check built-in. Can the that coats, key, to in easily of Calls. Please consider configure a age for using. Someone recording know keep the to outside between. If Solutions, are yes, a load balancer and are unsure your expire after.

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These are exactly the changes we see reflected in the data. In this Schumpeterian environment, the value of process innovations greatly multiplies. This puts the onus on managers to be strategic about innovating and then propagating new ways of working. Then separate yourself from the pack by coming up with better ways of working. Finally, use the platform to propagate these business innovations widely and reliably.

In this regard, deploying IT serves two distinct roles—as a catalyst for innovative ideas and as an engine for delivering them. Each of the three steps in the mantra presents different and critical management challenges, not least of which have to do with questions of centralization and autonomy. Consider the following hypothetical example of a company that did just that. To rectify this situation, the company develops software to integrate the activities of manufacturing and sales, and tests it at one location.

Now salespeople can enter the specifications of a custom order and instantly receive an accurate delivery date. The company also decides to use the software to manage customer deliveries. That enables the center to contact the customer to verify his or her satisfaction and address any concerns.

The software tracks delivery times and satisfaction levels and finds the former is decreasing while the latter ticks upward. Recognizing its success, the company quickly embeds the new process in its enterprise software and rolls it out to the other 99 locations. Successful IT-enabled business process improvements like this one generally have a number of important characteristics:.

They cover a wide span. The new ways of working apply across a very large swath of a company—in this case, all stores, factories, and delivery teams. They produce results immediately. As soon as the new enterprise system goes live, so do the process changes it enables. They are precise, rather than general guidelines, suggesting highly scripted instructions for business activities furniture order taking and delivery.

They are consistent —executed the same way everywhere, every time. Every furniture store uses the same method to quote lead times, and deliveries are closed out the same way day after day. They make monitoring easy. Activities and events can be observed and tracked in real time, providing unprecedented opportunities for testing and feedback.

They build in enforceability. It is often simply impossible to execute the process the old way, and even when backsliding is possible it can be recognized and addressed. The furniture company could easily use the data collected during the delivery process to determine if all teams were calling in properly. Some top teams have pounced on the opportunity. Many more, however, have embraced this responsibility only reluctantly, unwilling to tackle two formidable barriers to deployment: fragmentation and autonomy.

Historically, regional, product, and function managers have been given a great deal of leeway to purchase, install, and customize IT systems as they see fit. Even if a company invests heavily in standardized enterprise software for the entire organization, it may not remain standard for long, as the software is deployed in ways other than it was originally intended in dozens, or even hundreds, of separate instances. In the mids, Cisco successfully implemented a single ERP platform throughout the company.

Managers were then given the green light to purchase and install as many applications as they wanted, to sit on that platform. There were, for example, nine different tools for checking the status of a customer order. Each pulled information from different repositories and defined key terms in different ways. The multiple databases and fuzzy terms resulted in the circulation of conflicting order-status reports around the company.

Deployment efforts heighten the tensions—present in every sizable company—between global consistency and local autonomy. As the Cisco example shows, however, this conflict often exists by default rather than by design. Cisco identified several key business processes—market to sell, lead to order, quote to cash, issue to resolution, forecast to build, idea to product, and hire to retire—and configured its systems to support the subprocesses involved in each stage.

At about the same time that Cisco was untangling its legacy spaghetti, the leader of a much older and more traditional company was also reimagining the kinds of information systems his firm would need to compete more successfully.

When Ari Bousbib became president of Otis in , the information systems of the year-old company were not so much fragmented as virtually nonexistent. Warren McFarlan and Brian J. DeLacey recounted in a case study, the software applications in place were largely antiquated for implementing the critical processes of gathering customer requests to install a new elevator system, specifying the exact configuration of the order, and creating a final proposal.

In many regions, in fact, the processes were still being done entirely on paper. It was designed to connect sales, factory, and field operations worldwide through the internet. Eventually, Otis realized not only significantly shorter sales-cycle times but higher revenues and operating profit. Data analytics drawn from enterprise IT applications, along with collective intelligence and other Web 2.

They are certainly no replacement for brilliant insights from a line manager or a eureka moment during a meeting, but they can complement and speed the search for business process innovations. But the grocer goes a step further, tracking redemption rates in great detail and performing experiments to tweak its processes to get a better response from customers.

Web 2. Any Rite-Solutions employee can suggest a new idea in any of these markets. Part of the attraction of enterprise systems has been the opportunity for management to impose best practices and standardized procedures universally, as CVS did to great advantage, and so eliminate the chaos of inconsistent homegrown practices. While an ERP system is an obvious tool for propagation, other technologies are also important, and they show that innovations do not necessarily emanate from headquarters.

For instance, Web 2. But instead of complaining, they created a wiki to share ideas about how to use their Macs more effectively. They posted information, files, links, and applications that could be edited by any user—tips and tricks that ultimately became huge productivity enhancers. In this case, process innovations flowed through the company to its great benefit without central management direction. At first glance, the Cisco and Otis examples seem to support the view that propagating processes using enterprise IT necessarily leads to more centralized companies—ones in which most of the important decisions are made at the top and the rest of the business exists only to execute them.

But the reality is more complicated. Even as some decisions become centralized and standardized, others are pushed outward from headquarters. Senior executives do play a primary role in identifying and propagating critical business processes, but line managers and employees often end up with more discretion within these processes to serve customer needs and to apply tacit, idiosyncratic, or relationship-specific information that only they have.

To appreciate how important this distinction is, consider an analogy from government. The process of writing a constitution is inherently a highly centralized activity—a small group of framers makes decisions on behalf of an entire population. In the old operating model, the equipment was simply shipped as soon as it was manufactured. The new business practice was standardized throughout the world, but it was not centralized. It actually placed more responsibility in the hands of frontline employees.

Consider, too, the Spanish clothing company Zara. It has more than 1, stores worldwide, and they all order clothes exactly the same way, using the same digital form, following a rigid weekly timetable for placing orders.

Most other large apparel retailers rely on sophisticated forecasting algorithms, executed by computers at headquarters, to determine which clothes will sell in each location and in what quantities. Headquarters pushes these clothes down to stores with virtually no input from their managers. In fact, it can prompt a great deal of experimentation and variation, as companies try to understand who has the most relevant knowledge to make decisions and where, ultimately, to site decision rights.

As corporate IT facilitates the implementation and monitoring of processes, the value of simply carrying out rote instructions will fall while the value of inventing better methods will rise. Human resource policies and corporate culture will need to evolve to support this type of worker.

An effective leader and a well-designed organization will need not only to aggressively seek out and identify such individuals and the innovations they generate but also to develop and reward them appropriately. An analysis of U. They scrutinized each one more intensively. They involved senior management not just HR early and often in the interview process. After identifying top talent, these firms invested substantially more time and money on both internal and external training and education.

The costs of managing talent in this way may be high, but the payoff increases exponentially if you can leverage the talents of a high-performing manager at one location to maximize results in thousands of sites worldwide. The arrival of powerful new information technologies does not render obsolete all previous assumptions and insights about how to do business, but it does open up new opportunities to executives.

Our research has led us to three conclusions: First of all, the data show that IT has sharpened differences among companies instead of reducing them. This reflects the fact that while companies have always varied widely in their ability to select, adopt, and exploit innovations, technology has accelerated and amplified these differences. Second, line executives matter: Highly qualified vendors, consultants, and IT departments might be necessary for the successful implementation of enterprise technologies themselves, but the real value comes from the process innovations that can now be delivered on those platforms.

Finally, the competitive shakeup brought on by IT is not nearly complete, even in the IT-intensive U. We expect to see these altered competitive dynamics in other countries, as well, as their IT investments grow. It is not easy for most companies to deploy enterprise IT successfully. Enterprise IT typically changes many jobs in major ways; this is never an easy sell to either employees or line managers. As the performance spread, concentration, and churn increase, management becomes a distinctly less comfortable profession—more unforgiving of mistakes, faster to weed out low performers.

Even those executives who are prepared will not necessarily survive the inevitable turbulence. You have 1 free article s left this month. You are reading your last free article for this month. Subscribe for unlimited access. Create an account to read 2 more. Process management. From the Magazine July—August To gain—and keep—a competitive edge in this environment, McAfee and Brynjolfsson recommend a three-step strategy: Deploy a consistent technology platform, rather than stitching together a jumble of legacy systems.

Innovate better ways of working. Propagate those process innovations widely throughout your company. Here is just a short list of some collaborative tools available for businesses today:. A decision support system DSS is an information system built to help an organization make a specific decision or set of decisions. DSSs can exist at different levels of decision-making with the organization, from the CEO to the first-level managers.

These systems are designed to take inputs regarding a known or partially-known decision-making process and provide the information necessary to make a decision. DSSs generally assist a management-level person in the decision-making process, though some can be designed to automate decision-making. An organization has a wide variety of decisions to make , ranging from highly structured decisions to unstructured decisions. A structured decision is usually one that is made quite often, and one in which the decision is based directly on the inputs.

With structured decisions, once you know the necessary information you also know the decision that needs to be made. For example, inventory reorder levels can be structured decisions: once our inventory of widgets gets below a specific threshold, automatically reorder ten more.

An unstructured decision involves a lot of unknowns. Many times, unstructured decisions are decisions being made for the first time. An information system can support these types of decisions by providing the decision-maker s with information-gathering tools and collaborative capabilities. An example of an unstructured decision might be dealing with a labor issue or setting policy for a new technology. Decision support systems work best when the decision-maker s are making semi-structured decisions.

A semi-structured decision is one in which most of the factors needed for making the decision are known but human experience and other outside factors may still play a role. A good example of an semi-structured decision would be diagnosing a medical condition see sidebar. As with collaborative systems, DSSs can come in many different formats. A nicely designed spreadsheet that allows for input of specific variables and then calculates required outputs could be considered a DSS.

Another DSS might be one that assists in determining which products a company should develop. Input into the system could include market research on the product, competitor information, and product development costs. The system would then analyze these inputs based on the specific rules and concepts programmed into it.

A DSS can be looked at as a tool for competitive advantage in that it can give an organization a mechanism to make wise decisions about products and innovations. A discussed in the text, DSSs are best applied to semi-structured decisions, in which most of the needed inputs are known but human experience and environmental factors also play a role.

A good example that is in use today is Isabel , a health care DSS. The creators of Isabel explain how it works:. Isabel uses the information routinely captured during your workup, whether free text or structured data, and instantaneously provides a diagnosis checklist for review.

In their study, they draw three conclusions [6] :. Information systems can be used for competitive advantage, but they must be used strategically. Organizations must understand how they want to differentiate themselves and then use all the elements of information systems hardware, software, data, people, and process to accomplish that differentiation.

Information systems are integrated into all components of business today, but can they bring competitive advantage? Over the years, there have been many answers to this question. Early research could not draw any connections between IT and profitability, but later research has shown that the impact can be positive.

IT is not a panacea; just purchasing and installing the latest technology will not, by itself, make a company more successful. Instead, the combination of the right technologies and good management, together, will give a company the best chance of a positive result.

Bourgeois is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4. Introduction For over fifty years, computing technology has been a part of business. The various explanations that have been proposed can be grouped into four categories: 1 Mismeasurement of outputs and inputs, 2 Lags due to learning and adjustment, 3 Redistribution and dissipation of profits, 4 Mismanagement of information and technology.

Competitive Advantage What does it mean when a company has a competitive advantage? The primary activities are: Inbound logistics: These are the functions performed to bring in raw materials and other needed inputs. Information technology can be used here to make these processes more efficient, such as with supply-chain management systems, which allow the suppliers to manage their own inventory. Operations: Any part of a business that is involved in converting the raw materials into the final products or services is part of operations.

From manufacturing to business process management covered in chapter 8 , information technology can be used to provide more efficient processes and increase innovation through flows of information. Outbound logistics: These are the functions required to get the product out to the customer. As with inbound logistics, IT can be used here to improve processes, such as allowing for real-time inventory checks.

IT can also be a delivery mechanism itself. Information technology is used in almost all aspects of this activity. From online advertising to online surveys, IT can be used to innovate product design and reach customers like never before. The company website can be a sales channel itself.

Service can be enhanced via technology as well, including support services through websites and knowledge bases. The support activities are: Firm infrastructure: This includes organizational functions such as finance, accounting, and quality control, all of which depend on information technology; the use of ERP systems to be covered in chapter 9 is a good example of the impact that IT can have on these functions.

Human resource management: This activity consists of recruiting, hiring, and other services needed to attract and retain employees. Using the Internet, HR departments can increase their reach when looking for candidates. There is also the possibility of allowing employees to use technology for a more flexible work environment. Technology development: Here we have the technological advances and innovations that support the primary activities. These advances are then integrated across the firm or within one of the primary activities to add value.

Information technology would fall specifically under this activity. Procurement: The activities involved in acquiring the raw materials used in the creation of products and services are called procurement.

Business-to-business e-commerce can be used to improve the acquisition of materials. Threat of substitute products or services: How easily can a product or service be replaced with something else? The more types of products or services there are that can meet a particular need, the less profitability there will be in an industry. For example, the advent of the mobile phone has replaced the need for pagers.

The Internet has made people more aware of substitute products, driving down industry profits in those industries being substituted. Bargaining power of suppliers: When a company has several suppliers to choose from, it can demand a lower price. When a sole supplier exists, then the company is at the mercy of the supplier. For example, if only one company makes the controller chip for a car engine, that company can control the price, at least to some extent.

The Internet has given companies access to more suppliers, driving down prices. On the other hand, suppliers now also have the ability to sell directly to customers. Bargaining power of customers: A company that is the sole provider of a unique product has the ability to control pricing.

But the Internet has given customers many more options to choose from. Barriers to entry: The easier it is to enter an industry, the tougher it will be to make a profit in that industry. The Internet has an overall effect of making it easier to enter industries. It is also very easy to copy technology, so new innovations will not last that long.

Rivalry among existing competitors: The more competitors there are in an industry, the bigger a factor price becomes. The advent of the Internet has increased competition by widening the geographic market and lowering the costs of doing business.

For example, a manufacturer in Southern California may now have to compete against a manufacturer in the South, where wages are lower. Using Information Systems for Competitive Advantage Now that we have an understanding of competitive advantage and some of the ways that IT may be used to help organizations gain it, we will turn our attention to some specific examples. Following are some examples of information systems that fall into this category. Electronic Data Interchange One of the ways that information systems have participated in competitive advantage is through integrating the supply chain electronically.

EDI example click to enlarge Collaborative Systems As organizations began to implement networking technologies, information systems emerged that allowed employees to begin collaborating in different ways. Here is just a short list of some collaborative tools available for businesses today: Google Drive. Google Drive offers a suite of office applications such as a word processor, spreadsheet, drawing, presentation that can be shared between individuals.

Multiple users can edit the documents at the same time and threaded comments are available. Microsoft SharePoint. SharePoint integrates with Microsoft Office and allows for collaboration using tools most office workers are familiar with. SharePoint was covered in more detail in chapter 5. Cisco WebEx. WebEx also provides a shared whiteboard and the capability for text-based chat to be going on during the sessions, along with many other features.

Mobile editions of WebEx allow for full participation using smartphones and tablets.

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