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In 2003, IT Didn’t Matter. Does It Matter Now? | @CloudExpo #AI #DX #DevOps #DigitalTransformation

Maybe there’s more to digital transformation than meets the eye?

In 2003, Writer Nick Carr shook up enterprise C-suites around the world with his seminal article for Harvard Business Review he provocatively titled IT Doesn't Matter.

Fresh off the dot-com crash but before cloud computing took off, Carr observed that the belief that IT's strategic value increases in parallel with its potency and ubiquity was seriously mistaken.

His central thesis: "What makes a resource truly strategic - what gives it the capacity to be the basis for a sustained competitive advantage - is not ubiquity but scarcity. You only gain an edge over rivals by having or doing something that they can't have or do. By now, the core functions of IT - data storage, data processing, and data transport - have become available and affordable to all."

Carr then explained how proprietary technologies can provide strategic advantage, but over time, technology becomes more valuable when people share it, thus limiting such advantage as its value increases.

Writing during the rise of Web 2.0, as social media and other collaborative technologies rose to the fore, his admonition that such tech would provide value but no strategic advantage to its consumers now rings true, as social media are free and available to all.

In the decade following his article, cloud computing further cemented Carr's perspective. Compute, storage, and network resources have become simple utilities, available at the proverbial turn of the faucet. The value they provide is immense, but the cloud playing field is amazingly level. Carr's quote above presaged the cloud to a T.

Today, however, we're in the digital era. Mark Andreesen's ‘software is eating the world' prognostication is coming to pass, as enterprises realize they must become software companies to remain competitive.

The value IT brings to such companies is unquestionable. If Carr's conclusions hold up, however, such technology will become less strategic as it becomes more ubiquitous - suggesting that digital enterprises are in for a world of hurt.

Perhaps we should set aside his conclusions as more applicable to a decade gone by. Or maybe there's more to digital transformation than meets the eye?

Differentiating Strategic from Tactical Competitive Advantage
Many people simply think of strategy as long-term while tactics are short-term. Or perhaps strategy is what a business wants to accomplish and tactics are how it achieves those goals. Neither characterization is particularly precise.

Carr, however, pinned down the definition of strategic when he wrote that strategic resources give companies a sustained competitive advantage.

It's important to note, however, that tactical resources can also provide a competitive advantage - they simply won't be able to sustain it.

Carr's observation that many IT resources provide no competitive advantage whatsoever is very true today. After all, putting your app in the cloud gives you no competitive advantage, because your competition can easily and cheaply to the same thing, thus gaining the same advantages that you have.

Not all technology is as ubiquitous and frictionless as the cloud, however. As a result, in periods of broad-based innovative disruption like today, some technology may very well provide tactical competitive advantage.

For example, many cybersecurity vendors provide this advantage to their customers. Having better cybersecurity than your competition gives you an advantage, after all, because the hackers will just target them instead of you.

Such an advantage is tactical, however, because all your competition needs to do is buy the same (or equivalent) products to even the playing field once more.

Given the turbulent state of the cybersecurity market, therefore, shrewd choices of technology can give you an edge - for a while. Once everybody has the same capabilities, however, then nobody has an advantage over anybody else.

Seeking Strategic Competitive Advantage
The one question remaining about Carr's 2003 article: in today's digital world, can software provide strategic competitive advantage to enterprises?

I add the word enterprises to the previous sentence, because software generally does provide strategic competitive advantage to vendors. In fact, in our analyst briefings with such companies, among the first questions we ask are what the vendor's differentiators and barriers to entry are.

In other words, we ask what makes them different, and how are they keeping their competition from doing the same thing: aka, what is their strategic competitive advantage.

Such advantage inures to the vendor to be sure - but not its customers, since the vendor wants to sell the same product to as many customers as possible. The vendor cashes in, but any competitive advantage its customers gain from its products are tactical and thus short-lived.

Is DevOps the Answer?
With the rise of Agile methodologies and now DevOps, enterprises are getting much better at building their own software, in the hopes that the software they are creating is increasingly likely to give them strategic competitive advantage.

In fact, given that vendors (as well as open source efforts) are building increasingly sophisticated enterprise software, we could argue that the only reason enterprises still build bespoke software at all is to gain such an advantage. Otherwise, they'd simply buy all of their gear off the shelf.

Enterprises were building bespoke software in the years leading up to 2003 as well, of course - and in many cases, this software afforded strategic advantage. Carr mentioned several examples, including American Airlines' SABRE reservation system - the gold standard across the airline industry for decades.

Carr, however, threw cold water on this trend. "The opportunities for gaining IT-based advantages are already dwindling," he wrote. "Best practices are now quickly built into software or otherwise replicated. And as for IT-spurred industry transformations, most of the ones that are going to happen have likely already happened or are in the process of happening."

We could argue that improvements in the speed and quality of bespoke enterprise software have staved off Carr's dire warning - at least for a time. To be sure, companies that are successful with DevOps are able to deliver better software faster - and the pace of deployment only continues to accelerate.

The question for enterprise software development efforts broadly, however, is whether such acceleration provides strategic, or merely tactical advantage. After all, if every enterprise in an industry - say, every retail bank, for example - gets fully up to speed with DevOps and continuous deployment, then we could easily argue they will soon level the playing field once more.

In enterprises' mad rush to implement strategic technology ever faster, perhaps they are doing no better than the Red Queen in Through the Looking Glass - running as fast as they can simply to stay in place.

Carr's dismaying conclusion runs rampant once again.

The Intellyx Take: Digital Transformation Outside the IT Box
We thus appear to be at an impasse. Vendors can achieve strategic competitive advantage for themselves, but end up leveling the playing field for their customers.

Enterprises can gain tactical competitive advantage by transitioning to DevOps more successfully and more quickly than their competitors, but such advantage is inherently short-lived - and the timeframes are growing ever shorter.

Carr's conclusion is truer now than it ever was. Given the increasing pace of change in software innovation, any competitive advantage is less and less likely to be strategic - for any particular piece of technology.

Only by building the capability to continually improve our technology over time can any company - enterprise or vendor - hope to maintain any kind of strategic advantage long-term.

Carr was right - as far as his argument went. But he missed the digital transformation paradigm shift from the focus on IT to the ability to change.

At Intellyx, we say that digital transformation is not about transforming to a particular ‘digital' state. It's about adopting change as a core competency.

As the pace of change continues to accelerate, the fundamental truths that Carr brought to light become even more urgent. The window of opportunity for strategic advantage for any piece of technology is shrinking to nothing.

Any company that thinks that digital transformation is about technology or who believes that they will ever achieve a final, digitally transformed state is doomed to fail.

IT matters even less than it did in 2003. The only way to remain competitive long term is to up your game and get better at change overall. How fast are you willing to run without going anywhere?

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. Intellyx publishes the Agile Digital Transformation Roadmap poster, advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives, and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, none of the organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers.

DevOps at Cloud Expo taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world.

Download Show Prospectus ▸ Here

The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.

DevOps at Cloud Expo will expand the DevOps community, enable a wide sharing of knowledge, and educate delegates and technology providers alike. Recent research has shown that DevOps dramatically reduces development time, the amount of enterprise IT professionals put out fires, and support time generally. Time spent on infrastructure development is significantly increased, and DevOps practitioners report more software releases and higher quality. Sponsors of DevOps at Cloud Expo will benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities through:

  • Featured on-site presentation and ongoing on-demand webcast exposure to a captive audience of industry decision-makers.
  • Showcase exhibition during our new extended dedicated expo hours
  • Breakout Session Priority scheduling for Sponsors that have been guaranteed a 35 minute technical session
  • Online advertising in SYS-CON's i-Technology Publications
  • Capitalize on our Comprehensive Marketing efforts leading up to the show with print mailings, e-newsletters and extensive online media coverage.
  • Unprecedented PR Coverage: Editorial Coverage on DevOps Journal
  • Tweetup to over 75,000 plus followers
  • Press releases sent on major wire services to over 500 industry analysts.

For more information on sponsorship, exhibit, and keynote opportunities, contact Carmen Gonzalez by email at events (at) sys-con.com, or by phone 201 802-3021.

@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and is co-located with the 21st International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world.

@DevOpsSummit  2017 Silicon Valley
(October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA)

@DevOpsSummit 2018 New York 
(June 12-14, 2018, Javits Center, Manhattan)

With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo, October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.

Track 1. Enterprise Cloud | Cloud-Native
Track 2.
Big Data | Analytics
Track 3. Internet of Things | IIoT | Smart Cities

Track 4. DevOps | Digital Transformation (DX)

Track 5. APIs | Cloud Security | Mobility

Track 6.
AI | ML | DL | Cognitive
Track 7.
Containers | Microservices | Serverless
Track 8. FinTech | InsurTech | Token Economy

Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo 2017 Silicon Valley
(October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA)

Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo 2018 New York 
(June 12-14, 2018, Javits Center, Manhattan)

Download Show Prospectus ▸ Here

Every Global 2000 enterprise in the world is now integrating cloud computing in some form into its IT development and operations. Midsize and small businesses are also migrating to the cloud in increasing numbers.  

Companies are each developing their unique mix of cloud technologies and services, forming multi-cloud and hybrid cloud architectures and deployments across all major industries. Cloud-driven thinking has become the norm in financial services, manufacturing, telco, healthcare, transportation, energy, media, entertainment, retail and other consumer industries, and the public sector.

Cloud Expo is the single show where technology buyers and vendors can meet to experience and discus cloud computing and all that it entails. Sponsors of Cloud Expo will benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities through:

  • Featured on-site presentation and ongoing on-demand webcast exposure to a captive audience of industry decision-makers.
  • Showcase exhibition during our new extended dedicated expo hours
  • Breakout Session Priority scheduling for Sponsors that have been guaranteed a 35-minute technical session
  • Online advertising in SYS-CON's i-Technology Publications
  • Capitalize on our Comprehensive Marketing efforts leading up to the show with print mailings, e-newsletters and extensive online media coverage.
  • Unprecedented PR Coverage: Editorial Coverage on Cloud Computing Journal.
  • Tweetup to over 75,000 plus followers
  • Press releases sent on major wire services to over 500 industry analysts.

For more information on sponsorship, exhibit, and keynote opportunities, contact Carmen Gonzalez by email at events (at) sys-con.com, or by phone 201 802-3021.

The World's Largest "Cloud Digital Transformation" Event

@CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo 2017 Silicon Valley
(Oct. 31 - Nov. 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA)

@CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo 2018 New York 
(June 12-14, 2018, Javits Center, Manhattan)

Full Conference Registration Gold Pass and Exhibit Hall ▸ Here

Register For @CloudExpo ▸ Here via EventBrite

Register For @ThingsExpo ▸ Here via EventBrite

Register For @DevOpsSummit ▸ Here via EventBrite

Sponsorship Opportunities

Sponsors of Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo will benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities through:

  • Featured on-site presentation and ongoing on-demand webcast exposure to a captive audience of industry decision-makers
  • Showcase exhibition during our new extended dedicated expo hours
  • Breakout Session Priority scheduling for Sponsors that have been guaranteed a 35 minute technical session
  • Online targeted advertising in SYS-CON's i-Technology Publications
  • Capitalize on our Comprehensive Marketing efforts leading up to the show with print mailings, e-newsletters and extensive online media coverage
  • Unprecedented Marketing Coverage: Editorial Coverage on ITweetup to over 100,000 plus followers, press releases sent on major wire services to over 500 industry analysts

For more information on sponsorship, exhibit, and keynote opportunities, contact Carmen Gonzalez (@GonzalezCarmen) today by email at events (at) sys-con.com, or by phone 201 802-3021.

Secrets of Sponsors and Exhibitors ▸ Here
Secrets of Cloud Expo Speakers ▸ Here

All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.

With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo@ThingsExpo, October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-4, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.

Delegates to Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo will be able to attend 8 simultaneous, information-packed education tracks.

There are over 120 breakout sessions in all, with Keynotes, General Sessions, and Power Panels adding to three days of incredibly rich presentations and content.

Join Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo conference chair Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040), October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, for three days of intense Enterprise Cloud and 'Digital Transformation' discussion and focus, including Big Data's indispensable role in IoT, Smart Grids and (IIoT) Industrial Internet of Things, Wearables and Consumer IoT, as well as (new) Digital Transformation in Vertical Markets.

Financial Technology - or FinTech - Is Now Part of the @CloudExpo Program!

Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 21st Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will find fresh new content in a new track called FinTech, which will incorporate machine learning, artificial intelligence, deep learning, and blockchain into one track.

Financial enterprises in New York City, London, Singapore, and other world financial capitals are embracing a new generation of smart, automated FinTech that eliminates many cumbersome, slow, and expensive intermediate processes from their businesses.

FinTech brings efficiency as well as the ability to deliver new services and a much improved customer experience throughout the global financial services industry. FinTech is a natural fit with cloud computing, as new services are quickly developed, deployed, and scaled on public, private, and hybrid clouds.

More than US$20 billion in venture capital is being invested in FinTech this year. @CloudExpo is pleased to bring you the latest FinTech developments as an integral part of our program, starting at the 21st International Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017 in Silicon Valley, and June 12-14, 2018, in New York City.

@CloudExpo is accepting submissions for this new track, so please visit www.CloudComputingExpo.com for the latest information.

Speaking Opportunities

The upcoming 21st International @CloudExpo@ThingsExpo, October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY announces that its Call For Papers for speaking opportunities is open.

Submit your speaking proposal today! ▸ Here

About SYS-CON Media & Events
SYS-CON Media (www.sys-con.com) has since 1994 been connecting technology companies and customers through a comprehensive content stream - featuring over forty focused subject areas, from Cloud Computing to Web Security - interwoven with market-leading full-scale conferences produced by SYS-CON Events. The company's internationally recognized brands include among others Cloud Expo® (@CloudExpo), Big Data Expo® (@BigDataExpo), DevOps Summit (@DevOpsSummit), @ThingsExpo® (@ThingsExpo), Containers Expo (@ContainersExpo) and Microservices Expo (@MicroservicesE).

Cloud Expo®, Big Data Expo® and @ThingsExpo® are registered trademarks of Cloud Expo, Inc., a SYS-CON Events company.

More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise. As president of Intellyx, Mr. Bloomberg brings his years of thought leadership in the areas of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Architecture, and Service-Oriented Architecture to a global clientele of business executives, architects, software vendors, and Cloud service providers looking to achieve technology-enabled business agility across their organizations and for their customers. His latest book, The Agile Architecture Revolution (John Wiley & Sons, 2013), sets the stage for Mr. Bloomberg’s groundbreaking Agile Architecture vision.

Mr. Bloomberg is perhaps best known for his twelve years at ZapThink, where he created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) SOA course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, the leading SOA advisory and analysis firm, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011. He now runs the successor to the LZA program, the Bloomberg Agile Architecture Course, around the world.

Mr. Bloomberg is a frequent conference speaker and prolific writer. He has published over 500 articles, spoken at over 300 conferences, Webinars, and other events, and has been quoted in the press over 1,400 times as the leading expert on agile approaches to architecture in the enterprise.

Mr. Bloomberg’s previous book, Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, coauthored with Ron Schmelzer), is recognized as the leading business book on Service Orientation. He also co-authored the books XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996).

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting).

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