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Preview: Chunka Mui | Killer Platforms

Chunka Mui | Killer Platforms



Essays, Interviews, and Commentaries



Updated: 2008-08-21T11:12:05-05:00

 



BillionDollarLessons.com

2008-08-21T11:12:05-05:00

Please visit my new blog at BillionDollarLessons.com



Android Longs for Killer App

2007-11-13T09:56:46-06:00

Every new platform needs a killer app, an application so compelling that users will flock onto that platform. The first electronic spreadsheets, led by Visicalc, for example, was the application that enticed many to adopt the first personal computers. Platform...

Every new platform needs a killer app, an application so compelling that users will flock onto that platform.  The first electronic spreadsheets, led by Visicalc, for example, was the application that enticed many to adopt the first personal computers. Platform builders, however, face a chicken and egg problem.  Platforms need developers to build applications that will attract users, while developers want lots of users before investing the effort into new applications.  Every aspiring platform needs a catalyst to ignite the process.

The latest platform aspirant is Google's Android mobile device operating system, and its hoped for catalyst is a contest with ample prize money.

Android marks Google attempt make mobile devices more friendly to its search related killer apps. Google's motivation is simple. It has the ability to monetize all sorts of search-related applications and users clearly want them, but mobile devices are awful at enabling such applications.  So Google has taken matters into its own hands and developed a new operating system.  It hopes Android will become a spawning ground for robust mobile applications and, in the process, attract a lot of users who will inevitably use Google.

Google has already taken two major steps to launching Android. First, it is giving Android away for free by making it open source. Second, it has built a broad alliance of industry players around the system.  (Whether these heavyweights will be friends or foes has yet to play out.)

Google just announced a third step, this one targeted at engaging the developer community.  It has launched the Android Developer Challenge, a $10 million prize pool for “cool apps that surprise and delight mobile users.”  Prizes range from $25K to $275K.  As Google co-founder Sergey Brin said in a statement, "We've built some interesting applications for Android, but the best applications are not here yet and that's because they're going to be written by developers."

The initial buzz seems positive.  Within just just a few days, the Android Developers Group has several thousand members and an active conversation.

It is interesting to see how this plays out.  One issue will be how Google nurtures and develops its developer community.  By offering prize money, it has diverge from most other open source efforts which rely on social capital as motivation. Now that it has gone down the economic route, will it provide other innovative “API’s” to the revenue stream that Android enables? How might it still use social capital techniques to encourage participation and collaboration?

Stay tuned.




One Laptop Per Child...Every Child

2007-11-12T16:31:04-06:00

OLPC is an education project, not a laptop project. Children are a mission, not a market. -- Nicholas Negroponte As you might know, the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Foundation has been working for several years to produce an ultra-low-cost,...

OLPC is an education project, not a laptop project. Children are a mission, not a market.  -- Nicholas Negroponte

As you might know, the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Foundation has been working for several years to produce an ultra-low-cost, powerful, rugged and versatile laptop designed specifically for kids in developing countries and for the purpose of education.

The laptop is now in mass production and, starting today and for a few weeks only, the OLPC Foundation is launching “Give 1 Get 1,” a program that allows you to donate a $200 laptop to a child in a third world country and, in return, buy one for yourself.

It’s a beautiful machine, conceived, designed, and built from scratch for a noble purpose.  Here's a link to a detailed review.  There are many reasons you might want to have one.  For now, the only way to get one is to support an even better cause.

Here are some links that provide more information:

I’ve already contributed, I hope you’ll consider it too.




Forum de la Innovacio 2006, Barcelona

2007-09-02T21:07:12-05:00

Here's a link to a video interview that I did for the Forum de la Innovacio, held in Barcelona in October, 2006. The forum is hosted by the Generalitat de Catalunya.

Here's a link to a video interview that I did for the Forum de la Innovacio, held in Barcelona in October, 2006.  The forum is hosted by the Generalitat de Catalunya.

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Content Aware Image Resizing

2007-08-29T11:39:11-05:00

Some fascinating work: The related paper is here: Shai Avidan, Ariel Shamir Seam Carving for Content-Aware Image Resizing ACM Transactions on Graphics, Volume 26, Number 3, SIGGRAPH 2007

Some fascinating work:

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The related paper is here:

Shai Avidan, Ariel Shamir
Seam Carving for Content-Aware Image Resizing
ACM Transactions on Graphics,
Volume 26, Number 3,  SIGGRAPH 2007





Peer Pressure Advertising

2007-08-24T11:28:20-05:00

Facebook.com is reportedly working on a system that allows advertisers to target users not just on basic demographic information like gender, age, and location, but also based on preferences, interests and other information in their personal Facebook pages. Taking the...

Facebook.com is reportedly working on a system that allows advertisers to target users not just on basic demographic information like gender, age, and location, but also based on preferences, interests and other information in their personal Facebook pages.

Taking the approach one step further, the system would also allow what might be called peer pressure advertising, targeted advertising based upon information about a user’s friends and connections in the social network.  The possibilities are intriguing.  Imagine the millions of boys (of all ages) who will be defenseless against ads calculated by examing the preferences, wishes and desires of their female friends.

It will be interesting to see whether users accept this level of data mining, or will they perceive it as a violation of their social contract with their social network host?  It is a risky and perhaps ill-conceived strategy.  One aspect of the stickiness of social networks is that when users decide to leave, they tend to leave together.  They take their friends with them.




Facebook vs. MySpace

2007-06-29T11:06:30-05:00

A couple of recent articles highlight contrasting platform strategies at Facebook and MySpace as they battle for the lead in social networking. An article in The Wall Street Journal, “Facebook Gets Help From Its Friends,” describes how Facebook is opening...

A couple of recent articles highlight contrasting platform strategies at Facebook and MySpace as they battle for the lead in social networking.  An article in The Wall Street Journal, “Facebook Gets Help From Its Friends,” describes how Facebook is opening its platform to applications from third-party developers.  This is not a revolutionary change, as many other sites including MySpace do so as well.  Facebook was actually notably behind in leveraging third party developers.  Facebook, however, goes one step further than MySpace by allowing third party modules to include revenue generating capabilities that its competitor keeps for itself, like retailing and advertising. 

At the same time, an article in The New York Times, “MySpace, Chasing YouTube, Upgrades Its Offerings,”  describes how MySpace is taking a step in the other direction.  In an ever shifting friend or foe calculation, MySpace is taking steps to outdo and nudge out YouTube as the preferred choice for member to member video sharing.  Video sharing, much of it enabled by YouTube was one of the capabilities that helped to propel MySpace usage.  Now MySpace wants to own that capability, as opposed to being satisfied with it helping to promote usage of its site. 

MySpace's move is a classic platform tactic: allow third parties to launch modules and then incorporate the most popular ones into the platform itself.  Microsoft has done this over and over again, most notably with the web browser.  And, as with Microsoft and the web browser, the move can be defensive as well.  Popular modules can have their own platfrm aspirations.  Netscape certainly did.  As does YouTube, which is experimenting with its own social networking capabilities.




Personalized Medical Monitors

2007-04-11T12:49:05-05:00

The March/April 2007 issue of Technology Review has a very interesting article on personalized medical monitors. The article by Jennifer Chu describes innovative work by MIT’s John Guttag to discover the emergent knowledge buried within the huge amounts of data...

The March/April 2007 issue of Technology Review has a very interesting article on personalized medical monitors.  The article by Jennifer Chu describes innovative work by MIT’s John Guttag to discover the emergent knowledge buried within the huge amounts of data generated by certain medical tests.

An excerpt: 

Today's physicians are bombarded with physio­logical information--temperature and blood pressure readings, MRI scans, electrocardiogram (EKG) readouts, and x-rays, to name a few. Wading through a single patient's record to determine signs of, say, a heart attack or stroke can be difficult and time consuming. Guttag believes computers can help doctors efficiently interpret these ever-­growing masses of data. By quickly perceiving patterns that might otherwise be buried, he says, software may provide the key to more precise and personalized medicine. "People aren't good at spotting trends unless they're very obvious," says Guttag. "It dawned on me that doctors were doing things that a computer could do better."

For example, Guttag and his colleagues are analyzing brain wave recordings of children with epilepsy, before, during, and after seizures, in order to identify seizure patterns specific to each patient.  The hope is to develop a noninvasive monitor that can detect the onset of a seizure and activate an implant that stops the seizure in its tracks.  (The implant already exists.)  Another application area is large scale cardiac data analysis.  Many heart attack patients wear monitors that record heart activity.  Cardiologists review the records for known danger patterns but this review is after the fact and it is easy to miss an abnormal pattern in thousands of minutes of dense waveform recordings.  Guttag and his team are comparing EKG records from hundreds of patients, some of whose attacks were fatal. Their goal is to understand the similarities and differences between those who survived and those who didn’t, and in the process identify significant patterns that can then be monitored in real time.  In both these cases, and many others, mountains of data exist, the key is to focus on what knowledge can be amassed.





Update

2007-04-11T11:35:21-05:00

My entries to this blog have been rather sparse lately, primarily because I’ve been focused on a new book project on strategic failure patterns (in collaboration with Paul Carroll). I'm happy to report that the new book is moving along...

My entries to this blog have been rather sparse lately, primarily because I’ve been focused on a new book project on strategic failure patterns (in collaboration with Paul Carroll).  I'm happy to report that the new book is moving along nicely.  Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin, has signed on as the publisher and we’re busy doing the research and writing.  The target publication date is early 2008.   Learn more about the book, tentatively titled “The Devil's Advocate, Avoiding the Strategic Mistakes that Cost Companies Billions,” at our book blog.

Now that The Devil’s Advocate is moving along, I’ll try to be more active on the focus of this blog, namely killer platforms and emergent knowledge.




Edge Technologies -- Reader Discussion

2006-04-06T16:28:13-05:00

This is a discussion area for my essay on "Edge Technologies," which was published in the April issue of Optimize Magazine. Please share your questions and comments here, or feel free to contact me directly.

This is a discussion area for my essay on "Edge Technologies," which was published in the April issue of Optimize Magazine.  Please share your questions and comments here, or feel free to contact me directly.




Emergent Knowledge - Reader Discussion

2006-03-31T12:08:45-06:00

This is a discussion area for the final version of my essay on "Emergent Knowledge," which is now available on Amazon.com. I look forward to your comments and suggestions as I continue to explore the Killer Platforms arena. (You might...

This is a discussion area for the final version of my essay on "Emergent Knowledge," which is now available on Amazon.com.

I look forward to your comments and suggestions as I continue to explore the Killer Platforms arena.  (You might also be interested in seeing the comments on an earlier draft version of this essay.)

Also, consider writing a review of the essay on Amazon.com.

 





DX Summit

2006-03-15T16:13:06-06:00

Emergent Knowledge: The Spark for Information Advantage Here are the slides for my March 7, 2006, presentation at the DX Summit, one of DiamondCluster International's DiamondExchange programs. The presentation was based in part on the Amazon eDoc of the same...

(image) Emergent Knowledge:
The Spark for Information Advantage

Here are the slides for my March 7, 2006, presentation at the DX Summit, one of DiamondCluster International's DiamondExchange programs.  The presentation was based in part on the Amazon eDoc of the same title.

The overall theme of the conference was "Creating an Information Advantage."  Here is the description of my presentation from the conference program:

Some might argue that from a strategic standpoint, information technology doesn’t matter. But few would argue that the information that rides on top of information technology also doesn’t matter. Competition often depends on data; those with better information slaughter those with less. In this presentation, Chunka Mui, co-author of "Unleashing the Killer App," argues that emergent data is changing the strategic landscape in a range of industries. This class of data was once impractical to gather but is now made feasible by advances in technology. Emergent data related to product and process conditions, customer preferences, and other environmental factors is sparking numerous innovations. As such, it offers one promising route to developing asymmetric knowledge and information advantage. Chunka explores different kinds of emergent data, the competitive opportunities they are yielding, and the challenges of taking advantage of such information.




MIT Enterprise Forum

2006-01-10T16:50:50-06:00

Below is an essay motivated by my presentation to The MIT Enterprise Forum's Annual Innovation and Technology Forecast conference. It is still a bit rough around the edges, comments and suggestions welcomed. You can also download the essay in PDF... Below is an essay motivated by my presentation to The MIT Enterprise Forum's Annual Innovation and Technology Forecast conference. It is still a bit rough around the edges, comments and suggestions welcomed. You can also download the essay in PDF form; and also get the presentation slides.  10 January 2006 Information Technology’s Disruption on Business: Extend the Edges, Transform the Core Whenever I am asked to make technology forecasts, a few words of caution jump to mind: Never mistake a clear view for a short distance. Existing technologies will continue to get better. We always overestimate technology in the short term and underestimate it in the long term. With those provisos, a couple of recent examples highlight some of the major trends that I see playing out over the next few years.  The first example started with a letter that I received last month from my mortgage holder, ABN AMRO.  The letter, a not so personalized one from the firm’s CEO, explained that a magnetic tape with all my account information had gone missing.  It had disappeared while being sent via DHL to one of the credit agencies.  The letter emphasized that there was no evidence of foul play. Still, as a precaution, the company suggested that I consider putting a fraud alert on my credit report and offered three months of free credit monitoring.  It apologized for any inconvenience.  A few weeks later, I received another letter from ABN AMRO.  This one happily reported that the tape had been recovered.  It seems that a DHL employee had come across an unlabelled package, opened it, and seeing some information inside, returned it to ABN.  There was still no evidence of foul play but the offer of free credit monitoring was extended to a year. The second example comes from General Motors.  GM has launched a program where car owners with OnStar equipped cars (now available on about 75% of GM models) can sign up for a monthly email from their car.  The email gives status information on major car modules such as the engine, transmissions, airbags, etc.  It warns of any trouble signs and also reminds the owner about any scheduled maintenance.  In the course of compiling the email, GM retrieves and analyzes over 1,200 trouble codes from the car.  There is a range of obvious benefits for the customer.  GM also benefits, gaining a wealth of performance data about their vehicles in the field.  As I look over the next five years, I think that the most exciting science and the most stunning inventions will happen in genomics, biotechnology and nanotechnology.  Even with the latest scandals in Korea, it’s clear that spectacular basic science has been done and we are poised for major scientific breakthroughs and inventions. But as I think about business innovation, I think that the most economic value will be driven by information technology.   This is because the basic infrastructure has been laid to enable mass utilization of digital technologies.  New developments can ride on the coattails of the Internet and related technologies. We are poised for mass adoption.  In fact, one way of thinking about the next five years is that we will start fulfilling the promises of the last five years.  Because of its greater economic influence, I’d like to focus my comments on information technology and its influence on business.  Unless you are a technology vendor [...]



Preview: Emergent Data

2005-11-10T15:42:22-06:00

This article explores different kinds of emergent data, the competitive opportunities they are yielding, and the challenges of taking advantage of such information. The most valuable uses of emergent data are often unforeseen secondary effects, that is, applications that lay outside the original purpose for generating or collecting the data. If companies design their business platforms to integrate streams of emergent data and make that data available across the enterprise, they can generate greater value. And the most effective platforms, the killer platforms, will be those that are designed to facilitate a series of innovations rather than isolated applications. [The is a pre-publication draft.  You can download a PDF of the entire essay here.  Please join the discussion by clicking on the "comments" button below.  I'm looking forward to your criticisms, witticisms, and queries.  As a small token of appreciation, I'll make sure to send a complimentary copy of the final essay to all respondents.] Killer Platforms | Emergent DataThe Spark that Ignites Information Advantage by Chunka Mui "Too Much Information"A few years ago, I asked Mike McGavick, the chief executive officer of Safeco Insurance Cos., to name the most disruptive development on his industry’s horizon.  McGavick, known in the industry for his thoughtfulness, answered: “too much information.”  McGavick was not referring to the perennial problem of analyzing huge quantities of information in his data warehouses. Instead, he was worried about the strategic opportunities for and the potential challenges of handling much better and perhaps perfect information. McGavick was anticipating what I describe as emergent data, classes of information that were previously impossible, or at least impractical, to gather but now are made feasible by advances in information technology. In a range of industries, including insurance, financial services, healthcare, and complex consumer and industrial products, emergent data is changing the strategic context in which companies manage their organizations, products, customers, and markets. In the right hands, new information about product and process conditions, customer preferences, and other environmental factors are sparking numerous innovations. But, because these data types are just appearing, their strategic significance is often not well understood, so it is usually ignored, and rarely leveraged. This article explores different kinds of emergent data, the competitive opportunities they are yielding, and the challenges of taking advantage of such information. The most valuable uses of emergent data are often unforeseen secondary effects, that is, applications that lay outside the original purpose for generating or collecting the data. If companies design their business platforms to integrate streams of emergent data and make that data available across the enterprise, they can generate greater value. And the most effective platforms, the killer platforms, will be those that are designed to facilitate a series of innovations rather than isolated applications. To read the entire essay ... Download the PDF file.  EmergentData.pdfHere is an outline of the paper: “Too Much Information” Collisions in Insurance and Beyond Emergent Data and Business Innovation Classes of Emergent Data     Identity     Location     Health and Diagnostics     Preference     Operations Emergent Data and Information Advantage Platform Plays Guidelines for Getting Started   [...]



Amazon Update

2005-08-09T13:36:04-05:00

Amazon.com recently posted its second quarter, 2005, results. You can find the company's investor presentation here. Highlights include: revenue was $1.75 billion, up 26% year over year gross profit was $450 million, up 32% year over year operating profit margin...

Amazon.com recently posted its second quarter, 2005, results.  You can find the company's investor presentation here.

Highlights include:

  • revenue was $1.75 billion, up 26% year over year
  • gross profit was $450 million, up 32% year over year
  • operating profit margin was 6% down from 6.2% the prior year but up from 5.7% in the prior quarter
  • sales related to third-party merchants was 28% of unit sales, up from 24% the prior year.  (This is significant because it represents the value of the Amazon platform as a revenue generating asset.)

The quarter marked the tenth anniversary of the company.  Sales in Q2, 1995, were $2.2 million.  By most measures, it has been a pretty remarkable ten years.  Amazon is both a direct success story and, as I wrote about it my recent essay, a significant contributor to the raising customer expectations for all companies, online or offline.

Of course, no company can afford to stand still and there are those who question Amazon's viability.

As Justin Lahart pointed out in his "Ahead of the Tape" Wall Street Journal column, Amazon's 21% growth compares to a 24% increase in total U.S. eCommerce sales (as reported by the US Commerce Department).  The market leader is really a market laggard?  Although Lahart doesn't come out and say it explicitly, the column is tellingly entitled "Up the Creek." 

Lahart reasons that Amazon suffers from the same competitive fate as other large companies, i.e. that the Internet progressively gets more powerful and easier to use.  Thus the online giant will have to continually contend with challengers who might leverage the underlying technology as well, or better, than it does.  "With technology whittling away at the economies of scale typically enjoyed by large companies, smaller companies may have advantages that they haven't in the past."  This, of course, is a point with which I completely agree.

While investors should take heed, Lahart's observation about Amazon's challenge should give other businesses little comfort.  Because, as Lahart goes on to note, "If this is true, Amazon won't be the only public company in the country that needs to worry about a proliferation of tiny competitors nipping at its heels."  And that might be the most insightful point of all.  It also reminds me of the old joke of two hikers who encounter a grizzly bear.  As one races away, the other pauses to tie his shoe laces.  Appalled, the first one shouts back "What are you doing?  You can't outrun a bear."  The other looks up and says, "I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you."




Killer Platforms

2005-08-04T16:51:40-05:00

In Unleashing the Killer App, Larry Downes and I helped popularize the notion of a “killer app.” We defined a killer app as “a new good or service that establishes an entirely new category and, by being first, dominates it,...

In Unleashing the Killer App, Larry Downes and I helped popularize the notion of a “killer app.”  We defined a killer app as “a new good or service that establishes an entirely new category and, by being first, dominates it, returning several hundred percent on the initial investment.”  We predicted that the Internet and its related technologies would be the driving force behind a wide range of killer apps in almost every industry.  Even with the hindsight of the Internet bubble, it is safe to say that we were mostly right about the significance of the Internet.  Yet we were wrong in at least several respects.  First, we were wrong to define killer apps as necessarily being first.  As the contrast between Alta Vista and Google demonstrates, better design often trumps being first. But perhaps the more subtle and significant mistake we made was to focus on killer apps at all.  That problem is that killer apps, as even the name implies, are single applications. 

It is not just generals that fight the last war.  Business writers do it too.  We focused on killer apps because that was the traditional quest of Silicon Valley technologists and venture capitalists.  And, there’s not doubt that numerous individual applications, including the Netscape web browser, PayPal, and Google, have made billions for entrepreneurs and investors.  Any company that has a guaranteed killer app should probably divest itself of the rest of its business and focus on capturing the value of that killer app.  But the effect of the Internet has been broader and deeper than just the unleashing of individual killer apps.  More significant has been the wholesale transformation of commerce, communications, and culture.  And the task of most other organizations, i.e., those without sure-fired killer apps, is to adapt their existing businesses as that market transformation demands.

Rather than launching killer apps, companies focused on their existing businesses should strive to create killer platforms. Each organization’s business platform is comprised of the knowledge, skills, processes and information technology necessary to operate the business.  Killer platforms are business platforms that effectively and efficiently leverage the assets of the organization today and allow for rapid adaptation and innovation.  Ideally, rather than force companies into all-or-nothing mindsets, killer platforms position companies to unleash a whole series of killer apps.   Killer platforms, in essence, are modular platforms that facilitate continuous innovation--both incremental and transformational.




Innovation Dogma

2005-07-26T12:01:23-05:00

Competitive advantage is as beautiful and as fleeting as a rose in bloom. And, just as a beautiful scent soon goes unnoticed, yesterday's competitive differentiators just become part of the price of doing business tomorrow. Rapid change, especially in the... Competitive advantage is as beautiful and as fleeting as a rose in bloom.  And, just as a beautiful scent soon goes unnoticed, yesterday's competitive differentiators just become part of the price of doing business tomorrow.  Rapid change, especially in the realm of information technology, spawns endless debates about the timing of innovation.  Nicholas Carr captures the zeitgeist of today’s technology pessimism when he offered "new imperatives for IT investment and management" under the chapter title, "Managing the Money Pit." [i]  His recommendation is "follow, don’t lead."  Others argue that since competitive advantage evaporates quickly, the most value accrues to first movers.  Some pundits evade the question with convoluted parsing, recommending instead that companies try to be first finishers. Another debate rages about the appropriate aspiration of innovation.  Should innovation be pursued as a series of incremental improvements, or in the form of transformational efforts that redefine the rules of competition?  In a recent special issue of Harvard Business Review on top-line growth, two thoughtful consultants made opposing recommendations.  Gary Hamel advised companies to “raise the ratio of radical innovation to incremental innovation,”[ii] while Michael Treacy argued, "breakthrough innovation should be the growth strategy of last resort."[iii]  It is a heated argument, with strong views at both sides of the slippery slope that separates the two positions. The unexciting answer to the questions of timing and aspiration is that there is no universal approach, and academic (or anti-academic) dogma should not dictate strategic choices.  The right approach depends on the nature of the business situation, the characteristics of market, the life cycle of the products, the relative capability of organization, and the audacity of your competitors, just to name a few factors.  Organizations can not, and should not, decide whether to go first, second, incrementally, in one big jump, or not at all, until they know the nature of the opportunities in front of them.  As the historian, Ithiel de Sola Pool, wrote, “technology shapes the structure of the battle but not every outcome.”  The first step is to do the hard work of understanding the implications of  new technological capabilities in the context of your business.  Only then can you pinpoint specific opportunities, assess potential risks and rewards, and make choices about what to pursue.  The danger of technology pessimism is that opportunities are never considered.  The danger of unbridled optimism is that innovation always becomes an exercise akin to "a bridge too far." Perhaps the best advice on this matter comes from Peter Drucker, who offered this principle:   "Innovation begins with the analysis of opportunities.  The search has to be organized, and must be done on a regular, systematic basis."[iv]  Drucker urges companies not to subscribe to romantic theories of innovation that depend on "flashes of genius" or charismatic figures who are "touched by the muses."  Instead, companies must strive to master the practice and discipline of innovation.  That requires settin[...]



A few words on Nicholas Carr's "IT Doesn't Matter"

2005-04-20T16:42:45-05:00

Nicholas Carr’s argument builds on some grains of truth, but it is incomplete and reaches erroneous conclusions. Throughout its history, aspects of IT have always slid towards commoditization. Today, for example, when you buy the same standardized computer hardware and... Nicholas Carr’s argument builds on some grains of truth, but it is incomplete and reaches erroneous conclusions.  Throughout its history, aspects of IT have always slid towards commoditization.  Today, for example, when you buy the same standardized computer hardware and software packages as your competitors and then, as you must, modify your company to the “best practices” defined by those vendors, you should not expect any competitive differentiation.  You are buying a commodity.  As such, you should wait as long as you can before you buy, minimize the cost, and focus on implementation risks.  Program management is key; there is massive downside if you get the implementation wrong and little upside for getting it right. You would laugh your building manager out of your office if he tried to justify a new plumbing or electrical system on the basis of its strategic differentiation; you should do the same if your CIO makes that kind of argument for your next general ledger or ERP system.  In some situations, information technology is a potential money pit and you need to act cautiously. The weakness of the argument is that it doesn’t consider that, even as some IT becomes commoditized, newer technologies enter into the strategic picture.  Strangely enough, it is not that author doesn’t recognize new uses of technology.  Instead, he just sweeps them aside. Consider, for example, important qualifications buried in the book’s preface:  “I am talking about the technologies used for managing information inside and between companies in what has come to be called the developing world.  I am not talking about the use of IT in the home or its incorporation into consumer products ... And I am not talking about its use in emerging markets.”  And, perhaps in his farthest reaching equivocation, the author writes that his “meaning of IT does not encompass the information that flows through the technology.” Hello?  Defining terms to exclude some of the most interesting, and most strategic, developments in information technology?  That is a tricky device that makes for good rhetoric but not valuable discussion.  IT doesn’t matter, as long as you ignore the trend towards IT-infused products, such as phones, games, iPods, cars, health-care, and insurance.  IT doesn’t matter, as long as you ignore the growing sophistication in emerging markets like India and China that is driving strategic trends like outsourcing and integrated supply chain management.  And, IT doesn’t matter, as long as you ignore the information that IT enables, much of which would not exist, much less be used to enable business strategies or facilitate operations, without the underlying IT. While convenient, the qualifications create a false dichotomy.  The technology that doesn’t matter anymore is built from the same basic components and knowledge as that which the author himself acknowledges as “ripe for innovation.”  While different in application, they are the same in substance.  Yes, some aspects of information technology have become well understood and should be treated as utilities.  Some sophisticated information technology departments already do this, and in so far as Carr’s book encourages others[...]



Write an Amazon Review

2005-01-30T17:30:47-06:00

If you enjoyed Killer Platforms: The Amazon Experience, or even if you didn't, consider writing a review of the essay on its Amazon reader review page. As an incentive for thoughtful reviews (both positive and negative), I will for a...

If you enjoyed Killer Platforms: The Amazon Experience, or even if you didn't, consider writing a review of the essay on its Amazon reader review page.

As an incentive for thoughtful reviews (both positive and negative), I will for a limited time personally send a free PDF of the essay to a colleague and friend of your choosing with my compliments.  Just write the review and let me know when it is posted on Amazon.  In your message, include the name, email address, and any note that you want me to include to the recipient.  (I might also include a note of my own.)




Reader Discussion: The Amazon Experience

2005-01-30T17:11:54-06:00

This thread is for reader comments and questions on the essay Killer Platforms: The Amazon Experience. (For a text version of the essay, see the essay's posting on this blog.)