In many industries, superior technology integration - the approach used to choose and refine the technologies employed in a new product, process, or service - is the key to achieving superior productivity and speed, and superior products. Access to great research is still immensely important, but if a company selects technologies that don't work well together, it can end up with a product that is hard to manufacture, is late getting to market, and does not fulfill its envisioned purpose.
Technology integration has become much more important - and challenging - for obvious reasons. The number of technologies from which companies can choose has burgeoned. Both the breadth of technologies in a product or process and the potential sources of those technologies have increased considerably. Product life cycles have shortened dramatically, forcing companies to develop and commercialize new technologies faster than ever. As a result, the advantage now often goes to the companies most adept at choosing among the vast array of technologies and not necessarily to companies that create them. A radical change in the approach of U.S. companies to technology integration helps explain the resurgence of the U.S. electronics industry in the 1990s. But one size does not fit all. Indeed, an approach that works well in one country may not be the best for another. To be effective, an approach must suit the local culture and conditions. The Millennium marks a watershed. After 2000, companies will not survive long unless they join a threefold revolution - in management itself, information technology, and global markets. The three feed off each other. The radical changes in management have become inseparable from those in technology. Without either the global revolution could never have developed such power. The technology of information and communications did not create the triple revolution, but is the great enabler. Technology is expediting the onrush of organisations into brilliant new modes of management: not only global, but interactive, innovative, collaborative, anti-hierarchical, user-friendly. But the technology and its suppliers are themselves changing at critical speed, which puts further intense pressure on managements. They cannot stand still: they have to ride the revolution. It did not spring full-born out of cyberspace. The late Twentieth Century revolution in management was accelerating well before the Internet rewrote the business books: the first Website opened as late as 1993. The revolution is being driven by irresistible forces: fragmentation of markets, anarchic technologies, more demanding customers, intensified competition and general over-capacity have all helped to undermine the old principles of business economics. Old-style physical strengths have been superseded by intangibles. As the battle switched to the arena of ideas, the IT revolution both sponsored and responded to management's unstoppable advance into the era of 'globalisation and knowledge'. Both depend heavily on the information powers of hardware and software and the connective abilities of telecommunications - as the Harvard Business Review acknowledged in a landmark celebration of its 75th birthday. Nothing in the first seventy years had hinted at the seismic upheaval of the five ending in 1997. The special edition included a chart of the long progress since 1922 from 'scientific management' (whose chief hardware was the stop-watch) to the Age of Information. As the chart maps the approach of the Millennium, the Internet, Intranets and Extranets combine as a great arrow, swooping upwards. Whether the purpose is measuring results, adding value, running sales and marketing, or managing people, the leadership of organisations now hinges on present and future digital breakthroughs.
The New Corporate Armoury
The new corporate armoury includes integrated...