Few companies earned a good return on the IT investments they made in the 1990s, argued Ray Lane, general partner at venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Only a handful of companies such as FedEx, McKesson, Merrill Lynch, and Sabre Holdings are exemplars of profitable tech investments. And those examples pre-date the '90s tech boom. "Those are precious few for the work that's gone in," said Lane, who previously was president and chief operating officer at Oracle, where he spent eight years. "Who's our IT bell cow today?" he asked.
Innovation, of course, isn't a one-size-fits-all package. While it comes from the many "next big things" that our industry has consumed, it also comes in increments that help improve productivity, increase efficiency, drive new revenue, and make customers happier. But one thing is certain: Innovation can't stop just because business is slow or the economy is weak.
"The metabolism of business is speeding up--you need to keep innovating," said Don Tapscott, author of The Naked Corporation, who spoke about "business webs" that engender IT-enabled relationships, IT-embedded products, increased intelligence, and strategic controls, among other attributes.
The Business of Going DigitalDigital business isn't about changing code; it's about changing what legacy sales, distribution, customer service, and product groups do in the new digital age. It's about bringing big data analytics, mobile, social, marketing automation, cloud computing, and the app economy together to launch new products and services. We're seeing new titles in this digital revolution, new responsibilities, new business models, and major shifts in technology spending.