Network is Busy Changing Business

By Sarah Sorensen
July 28, 2009

At the crux of a recent New York Times article "Stock Traders Find Speed Pays, in Milliseconds," was the question of what the reward should be for organizations that are able to effectively leverage innovative technology to differentiate themselves and establish a competitive edge. The New York Times focused on the stock market, which is slightly more complicated in that the integrity of the system is based on maintaining a level playing field and removing competitive differences - everyone should have the same opportunity to trade and sell on the open market.

But it brings up an interesting point, businesses today are increasingly relying on technology and the underlying network that links all their digital assets and information together to improve their competitive position. In this Digital Information Age, those organizations that can quickly amass and analyze data and then capitalize on the opportunities they uncover or represent, oh and do it before anyone else, will have the advantage. I call this in my book "Network Time" - speed has always been an asset, but in today's connected world, its an imperative for ongoing relevance. If you are slow to adapt, you risk being irrelevant.

Now in the stock market example, they are talking a matter of miliseconds; for most organizations the timeframe is a little bit longer, but the difference it can make in the business' ability to compete and win is the same. And it extends across the entire business - How fast can you respond to customer requests? How quickly can you bring a product to market - from concept to delivery? How effectively can you make changes based on new market environments or opportunities?

And the answers to those questions often depend on how well you are able to leverage technology and whether or not the underlying network that connects all your people, resources and operations together can deliver the flexibility and agility you need to support your ever changing business requirements. How easy is it for employees to collaborate and share information across department lines? Do you have the mechanisms to collect and analyze information from all the inputs you need at any given time? How quickly can you roll out a new service or application? How difficult is it to adopt a new process or change a work stream?

For those who are skeptical that the network can really impact the business, the best thing to do is think about what would happen is something goes wrong with it. The Strategy Group conducted the annual Ziff Davis enterprise editorial research study and found that large businesses estimate they lose an average of 3.6% in annual revenue due to network downtime each year, with an impaired network estimated to cost companies $3 million per day or more. That's significant. And its why the ongoing relevance and sustainability of any business is closely tied to the technology underpinnings of that business.

In an interview with McKinsey, Google's Eric Schmidt observed, "One of the characteristics of time, if you look over the last couple hundred years, is that time has gotten more and more compressed. Every product cycle, every information cycle, every bubble, everything happens faster. It is because of all these network effects, where everyone is connected and everyone is talking to one another, and so forth and so on. So there is every reason to believe that those people who are really stressed out by the rate of change now are going to be even more stressed out"

That's network time! Sounds fun doesn't it!

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