Finding Your Way to the Edge

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2001-02-26 Print this article Print

It's fatal to fall behind the leading edge of it, just as it would be fatal not to know about overnight delivery

Its fatal to fall behind the leading edge of it, just as it would be fatal not to know about overnight delivery. Both atoms and bits have to get there when theyre needed, just to keep you in the game. Thats why a halfhearted IT budget isnt a cost-cutting gambit; its a postdated suicide note. Youve already decided to let yourself die, its just a matter of time before you flatline. But IT isnt the No. 1 technology on the list of Things a Business Leader Needs to Know. Its not a question of whether IT is important; its a question of whether knowing more about IT will make you a better competitor.

I just compared IT with overnight delivery as something that you have to be able to use. You rely on jet aircraft and the national traffic control network, but you dont have in-house staff evaluating jet engines and monitoring the local airport radio: You leave those tasks to airplane sellers and pilots, often called ASPs. Or did those initials mean something else to you?

At some point, using hosted services through an application service provider will be as ordinary as shipping a package by Airborne or FedEx. Sure, in the early days of air transport, the high risk of moving goods by air made it a sporty game: If you wanted a plane and a pilot on call, you had to have them on your balance sheet and payroll.

Likewise for a server farm today—but less so every quarter.

When outsourced ASPs are the most reliable, most cost-effective IT option, everyone will use them. What, then, will be the compute-intensive technology (flexible manufacturing? real-time simulation?) that sets you apart?

And if youre an IT professional, what will be your role in making your employer the leader in its field? Thats the next chapter in competitive convergence.

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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