Innovation and IT

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jan 24

I’m a firm believer that IT can really help a business operate well.

I’m in the minority.

In support of the majority view, Nicholas Carr offers a great article called “The dubious link between IT and innovation.” In it, he quotes some good sources to back up this claim:

“There was a time, not so long ago, when the marketing of information technology was built on the myth that buying the latest software and hardware was a good way for a company to gain a competitive advantage. Install our gizmo and leave the competition in the dust! That pitch hasn’t gone away entirely, but it’s lost its punch. Nobody quite believes it anymore. In its place, though, has come a new and much fuzzier claim: IT is an “enabler” or a “catalyst” for corporate innovation. Install our latest gizmo and watch your people get all creative!”

Unfortunately, many businesses get this pitch all the time from people who sell IT stuff. In the blogosphere, it’s the same pitch that many blogs tell their readers: use this cool new tool and your life will be better.

We’re all looking at the “shiny, moving thing” instead of what the shiny, moving thing should be doing for us.

There is no tool that will make you effective unless it is used for the right reasons:

Just in time delivery of materials was not about a cool, new IT tool. Instead, it was about the business wanting to lower the inventory of parts to make products to save money. IT had to figure out a way of doing the inventory, manufacturing, purchase order, and scheduling functions in the business so the idea could work.

Delivering packages overnight was not about a cool, new IT tool. Instead, it was about delivering goods faster. IT had to figure out a distribution, tracking, and pickup methodology that would enable the business to deliver goods overnight.

Businesses wanting to know more about their customers is not about a cool, new IT tool. Instead it was about figuring out how to maintain customer loyalty, how to sell more to existing customers, and how to appropriately devote the right level of resources to the right customer segments. IT had to figure out all the sources of customer information, how to categorize customers and their purchases, and how to present suggestions to people who interface with the customers what should be cross sold to them.

If IT companies — or current IT departments — are out touting the next cool geek thing about their products to potential customers, they will continue to be a cost center that has difficulty working with the business.

And I’ll still be in the minority and rightly so: IT needs to deliver value to their businesses.