The Reasons For Investing In It Projects
Information Technology Essay (part 2)
In the following pages, we’ll explore why the link between technology and competition has become much stronger and tighter since the mid-1990s, and we’ll clarify the roles that business leaders and enterprise technologies should play in this new environment. Competing at such high speeds isn’t easy, and not everyone will be able to keep up. The senior executives who do may realize not only greatly improved business processes but also higher market share and increased market value.
How Technology Has Changed Competition
The mid-1990s marked a clear discontinuity in competitive dynamics and the start of a period of innovation in corporate IT, when the internet and enterprise software applications—like enterprise resource management (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and enterprise content management (ECM)—became practical tools for business. Corporate investments in IT surged during this time—from about $3,500 spent per worker in 1994 to about $8,000 in 2005, according the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). (See the exhibit “The IT Surge.”) At the same time, annual productivity growth in U.S. companies roughly doubled, after plodding along at about 1.4% for nearly 20 years. Much attention has been paid to the connection between productivity growth and the increase in IT investment. But hardly any has been directed to the nature of the link between IT and competitiveness. That’s why, with help from Harvard Business School researcher Michael Sorell and Feng Zhu, who’s now an assistant professor at USC, we set out two years ago to compare the increase in IT spending with various measures of competition, focusing on three quantifiable indicators: concentration, turbulence, and performance spread.
In a concentrated or winner-take-all industry, just a few companies account for the bulk of the market share. For our study, we focused on the degree to which each industry became more or less concentrated over time. A sector is turbulent if the sales leaders in it are frequently leapfrogging one another in rank order. And finally the performance spread in an industry is large when the leaders and laggards differ greatly on standard performance measures such as return on assets, profit margins, and market capitalization per dollar of revenue—the kinds of numbers that matter a lot to senior managers and investors.