The Level Playing Field is About to Kill You

In 2003, Nicholas Carr stated brilliantly that “the opportunities for gaining IT-based advantages are already dwindling.” Carr argued that IT was basically an infrastructural technology, not proprietary at all, and not strategically advantageous. Using historical examples of industrial technology like railroads and electricity, Carr made the case that IT’s ubiquity was not necessarily a competitive advantage, that adoption and standardization were the culprits to falling prices and profit margins.

Fast forward to 2017, where the $2 trillion global spend on IT has almost doubled to $3.7 trillion. IT has added cloud to the on-premise, scaled to support social media, commerce apps. and Big Data projects. Yet IT is no closer to being the silver bullet today than it was in the early 2,000’s. Processes remain stiflingly manual, and the software code cycle is often stalled, or buggy, or both.

Today’s CIO is in the crosshairs, having made the investment in the standard infrastructure and web services, but no further along in terms of innovation and responsiveness to the business.

We realize these are generalizations, but they do have import at the operational level. If you are a CIO, look at your software testing cycle. Are you able to handle daily releases smoothly? Do you have enough testors to ramp up quickly to check for bugs, fix the issues, and then test again to make sure the customer-facing instance is clean? Is your test cycle is at least halfway automated? We didn’t think so.

When you are managing the IT load in an idea economy, there is simply no time for innovation. If you are not automating at least 60% of your IT processes, across 100% of IT functions, we believe you are a sitting duck.

You may have found ways to hold the line on IT spend, or possibly reduce it in single-digit percentage, but this should be no reason to brag. Your competitors and best-in-class peers all have the same IT arsenal you do. Carr pointed out that best practices and standardization are the silent killers, because we believe them to be competitive, when in fact they are not.

Look at the debris field this year in the retail, big brand names falling by the wayside, with more to follow. We’re betting they had huge IT investments that they could not make relevant or responsive to the demands of consumers and frictionless electronic commerce.

The new success metrics are cycle time and the speed of your code cycle. Your pervasive deployment of technology is not a lethal weapon. It could be a millstone.