Business Technology: Getting Perspective On The Global Market

The United States accounts for about 40% of worldwide investments in IT, and most major IT companies are located here, so if anyone believes the United States should be the focal point of the global IT economy, perhaps they can be forgiven. But, Bob Evans and Brian Gillooly say, we risk being victims of our own provincialism.

Perhaps we can be forgiven. Or at least considered shortsighted, we who believe that the United States must be the center of the geopolitical, financial, and IT universe. After all, the United States accounts for more than 20% of world GDP; it's got the fourth-highest gross national income; it's a country where a 5% growth in its economy can raise global GNP by a full percentage point; it accounts for about 40% of worldwide investments in IT; and most major IT companies are located in the United States. So for those of us who believe the United States should be the focal point of the global IT economy, perhaps we can be forgiven. But we risk being victims of our own provincialism.

To say that is to take nothing away from the U.S. economy or its participants and the animal spirits that have combined to make it the most powerful engine of growth, innovation, and progress on the planet. But it is to say that the rest of the world's not exactly just sitting on its hands, either. As Wall Street Journal columnist George Melloan wrote last month, "The International Monetary Fund estimated last September that the people of this planet would produce an estimated $40 trillion in goods and services in 2004 (gross production measured in local currencies), racking up a phenomenal annual growth rate of 5%."

In that context, despite the evidence and obvious strength of the United States to drive not only the worldwide IT market but also the global economy in general, our country must remain one of the partners, albeit a strong one, in a matrix of countries. Companies in the United States--the business-technology vendors and the customers that use business technology to drive their companies--must abandon the dangerous notion that our businesses have all the right strategies, that they develop all the best technologies, and that all other companies must link to us.

"It's hard to explain the sense of duty that a U.S. soldier has. But, you know, we've committed to something great over there. And my soldiers are again returning to Iraq with the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment. And I feel like I need to be there, too."

--Army Capt. David Rozelle, speaking to "Good Morning America" on his decision to return to Iraq after losing a foot to a land mine in a previous mission there

As with many critical issues, such an adjustment will take some hard and at times uncomfortable work. What's the right balance between being U.S.-centric and global-centric? When you operate in a few dozen countries around the world, what exactly does "offshore" mean? Or its silly derivatives, "near-shore" and "right-shore"? As consumers demand increasing levels of customization, will you be able to achieve that if your company views its primary business as "America" and everything else by that charming tag, "Rest of World"?

J. Orstrom Moller, an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School, believes that in the next decade or two, China and India will create an economic powerhouse that will rival the United States in terms of strength and effectiveness. "High-tech industries account for more than a fair share of this strong economic performance," writes Moller. "China is second only to the U.S. with regard to mobile phones, has 75 million people having access to the Internet, and is the world's biggest producer of personal computers. India is among the leading software countries in the world, attracting foreign direct investment not only in manufacturing, but also for research and development, from high-tech leaders around the globe--including the United States."

These profound changes are jarring enough in the abstract--but, when you've got to help lead your own company's transformation to a global enterprise, it can get particularly tough. Because many in your company--as well as outside your company--are looking to you for an example: Is all this stuff just a lot of ankle-biting from alarmists, or is it clear and critical thinking from visionaries? To try to help you and others answer that question and see the significance of the global market, we have created a compelling new format to our annual spring InformationWeek Conference. Instead of highlighting primarily U.S.-centric views to U.S.-centric companies, this year we've invited executives from three of the most important regions of the globe to come share their stories, from their viewpoints, and merge those insights with those of our domestic participants to create a more well-rounded view of the global IT landscape. You'll hear from executives from Volkswagen in Germany, General Motors in China, and Nasscom, the independent software-industry standards organization in India. Leading us off with our keynote workshop is renowned business philosopher Ram Charan, who himself is so international, he doesn't even own a permanent home, instead making globetrotting and learning about different business strategies his way of life. Others who'll be there as speakers and presenters include former Microsoft chief operating officer Robert Herbold and CIOs from more than a dozen companies.

InformationWeek's Spring Conference global discussion, titled "The Borderless Enterprise: Global Technology, Customers, And Standards," begins April 10 at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Fla. To learn more about the conference and how you can become part of it, please visit We hope you can join us at this strategic globally oriented event. Contact our Conference Concierge today and ask about our special hotel gift-certificate offer available only to qualified InformationWeek readers by calling 800-450-1840.

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Bob Evans's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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