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In a recent trip to San Francisco, I was remarking to a tech executive that it seemed like the number of "for lease" signs in the office buildings had doubled since the last time I had been there. Even though the flow of venture capital is dismal, he proclaimed that now is the ideal time to start a company.
Think about it. Start fresh--no legacy systems to worry about, no complex integration to manage because of mergers, acquisitions, or a bunch of internal systems that don't communicate with each other, no messy retrofitting or exorbitant spending to meet new regulations, a large talent pool to hire from, and the ability to start with a corporate philosophy that profits actually matter. Oh, yeah, and cheaper office space.
But for "old" companies that have to deal with those kinds of things, it's also a good time to invest in IT for business innovation. Take a look at what the 100-year old VF Corp. is accomplishing ("New Fashion") as part of a large-scale effort to build a common systems architecture. Let me give you the net-net, so to speak. That is: Technology investment can separate the winners from the losers in a highly competitive industry.
Examples like this reinforce our belief that technology continues to drive business innovation. I bring that up because over the past few weeks we've discussed a recent Harvard Business Review story titled "IT Doesn't Matter," a shortsighted article about the significance of an industry that to many of us seems to have boundless innovation. I think it's worth noting that every day we see examples of how technology is being used to improve customer service, to create real-time businesses, and to enable a level of collaboration in supply chains that shrinks the world.
So I guess if you believe IT doesn't matter, you also believe eating chocolate shrinks your clothes.