How Can Enterprises Transform IT from a Commodity to a Differentiator?

Few businesses of any meaningful size navigate commercial life without using technology to some extent, large enterprises are highly reliant on technology. This reliance on IT is in itself not a competitive advantage – technology plays a mere commodity role.

Yet it’s blindingly obvious that some companies are very successful at turning IT into an advantage that differentiates them from their competitors. But how exactly can technology be turned into a competitive advantage?

Start at the Top

Too often businesses treat technology just as they treat buildings and facilities, by appointing a skilled manager and simply informing tech teams of changing requirements, rather than involving technology experts in business decisions from the start.

Instead, CXO leaders must understand that their choice of technology strategy can have just as much impact on their business as their choice of employees, product or market. Business leaders must therefore take to involving their technology teams throughout the decision-making process.

Appointing a business-savvy technology leader at the C-level is a start as this will help ensure that technology is incorporated in strategic decision making. CIOs and CTOs are also well-placed to highlight where technology can be used to game-changing effect.

Right Point on the Technology Curve

Technology buzzwords can have a lot of appeal, but as much as it is tempting to jump on the latest technology bandwagon companies should resist deploying new technologies when the benefits are not clear. On the flipside, lagging behind when a wave of technology is changing your industry can be very costly in the long run.

The answer lies in monitoring emerging technologies, implementing cutting-edge tech such as blockchain, AI and natural language processing as soon as evidence of real benefits emerge. Do so quickly and these technologies can act as a differentiator. Wait too long and your business risks merely making use of an established technology as a commodity.

Focus on both Efficiency and Fundamental Change

Efficiency can be a differentiator just as much as fundamental change can put your company ahead of the competition. When seeking competitive advantage via a technology strategy, companies should avoid fixating on just one of these two elements.

First, while technological advancement can trigger fundamental changes in a business that results in huge competitive advantages, the more incremental advantages brought on by efficiency improvements such as technologically-enhanced business processes can be easier to achieve and more permanent in their effects.

That said, technology-driven competitive advantages that truly change the business landscape inevitably involve deeply transformative efforts. Hence senior business leaders should focus on technology as both a mechanism for continuous improvement that brings enduring competitive advantage, and a method to disrupt the business landscape.

Choose your technology partners carefully

Most companies provision technology services using a mix of in-house expertise and outsourcing. Even where most of your technology provisioning is in-house, carefully choosing technology partners can open the doors to transformative change.

Technology partners that are experienced with companies operating in your field can better assess the opportunities for technological advancement in your business. The right technology partner will also go the extra mile, rather than simply mine your business for profit.

Finally, just as with your internal technology staff, involving technology partners at the C-level can be beneficial. Senior executives may feel they do not want to deal with suppliers but bringing the right technology partner into the boardroom can help unlock technology-driven competitive advantages.

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