Concentration moves and streamline of processes pull outsourcing of big chunks of production, in particular information systems. Technologies of grid computing and virtualisation fuel an increase of the trend. The idea of IT being a basic service as supply of energy, and no longer being a source of competitive advantage for business, is spreading (cf IT does not matter, N Carr). At the moment, a common strategy is to hold on, being ready to adopt as quick as possible innovations. It supports the idea that winning a few months on a competitor is a win of investment capacity for further business development.
Is this an inexorable tendency?
Yet, business cases like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have showed durable competitive advantage due to IT :
* Amazon and his system of sales coupled with his supply-chain allowed to obtain and to preserve the leadership on ist activity.
* Google with a specific architecture that opens a level of unequaled performance,
* like Microsoft on its type of service
In these three cases, even if it is a necessary condition, technology was not sufficient, it has been associated with an organisational and cultural capability for an effective usage. This is the latter point that open the way of sustainable competitive advantage.
In fact, this type of competence is very hard to acquire for established corporations, while it is natural for winning start-ups.
In 2000, the idea circulated in France that no matters to be among the leaders of software industry (cf Report of the CAE – Cohen, Debonneuil) because the value laid in the usage. Others noticed that conversely there is a strong relationship between leadership and usage capability. Moreover, performing a technological awareness activity is a factor of success for an effective usage. (cf Report of the CAE – Arthus and Cette)
Therefore, this is not so a lack of sustainable competitive advantage that drives IT decision-makers, but the idea that it could not be reached without a big transformation of organizations and culture. Thus, priority swept on giving capacity to the businesses to transform itself instead of capacity to implement a technology.
In this new paradigm, information systems remain a strategic resource because they host organizations neuronal connections : communication systems, collaborations systems, knowledge management, which shapes business culture of companies and business ecosystems, like customers, suppliers, partners, employees, …
The ability of information systems to help “tacit workers” of business knowledge world to perform complex transactions, remains a way of sustainable value and a research target for CIO.
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