Building a Business – an IT company

November 4, 2011

What is it with IT?

In all our assignments Technology plays a role. Does that make us an IT Consultancy, as the newspapers and media are consistently calling us?

Nothing wrong with being an IT company by the way, because of all the fast growing companies in The Netherlands, more than 25% is active in the IT sector. On average in this sector revenues have increased 166% in the last three years, against 129% increase for all fast growing companies across all industries.

I am happy to say that we did better than that, but not sure I should be happy to be in the group of “IT companies”. Is there any non-IT company? Can anyone still do business or have a meaningful life without Information, Communication and Technology? I don’t think so.

Triggered by Qhuba winning an FD Gazellen Award, and by an article about the growth of the importance of the IT sector, BNR Newsradio called me yesterday, and asked about the reason for growth in economic challenging times.

What I tried to tell them was that in my opinion we have arrived at the third stage of maturity in the technology industry.

111103 – BNR

At first, companies could save money using IT. Technology was used to automate manual labour. No more need for typewriters; bookkeeping could be done electronically and the planboard could be used generating new ideas instead of planning. Lots of advantages and a better life.

In stage two things got out of hand. Everything was automated, the IT industry and IT departments became powerful forces, and synonymous for “Expensive, Dangerous and Slow”. Outsourcing and ERP were the flavours of the decennium. It became more important to save money on IT, than with IT. I am still trying to find one outsourcing project that really delivered on the business case that was the basis for the decision to outsource in the first place.

Meanwhile on a personal level technology was completely adopted, and extremely successful. Consumerisation… Don’t we all have better tools at home than at work?

And now we are in the third stage: Technology as in integral part of the business model and the strategy of companies. No more demand-supply, no more business-IT alignment. And please no more megalomaniacal projects.

Let us for argument’s sake assume that all companies have only three business processes: idea to market, market to order and order to cash.

In stage one (saving cost with IT) we saw most energy being directed at automating the order to cash processes: how to procure and produce, deliver, invoice and account for stuff.

Now companies can use technology to create new business model, new offerings, and to collect, connect and analyse both information and people: Idea to market. That sounds like Innovation and like Effectuation: generate ideas, embrace opportunities and involve real people.

Also on the commercial side and on the customer intimacy side technology can be put to use. Companies can really interact with the market. And I mean interact as in “Interaction” not only “Transaction”. We can get to know, communicate with and support existing or potential clients, and they with us. This is crucial to the success of businesses and will reshape the traditional concepts of the Market to order process.

If bringing people together that understand how to integrate business and technology into new models, and how to executing these models to delight your customers means that you are “in IT”, than I am proud to be an entrepreneur in the IT sector.