Finding Your Way to the Edge

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2001-02-26

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.

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