Are You a Technology Company in Sheep’s Clothing?

by Peg Bogema

Okay, I admit, being a technology company isn’t exactly the same as being a wolf.

But I am not clever enough to think of a witty way to pose the question, so you’ll have to bear with my half-baked attempt at humor.

Here is the real issue:

Many (too many) companies do not realize that they have grown into technology companies.

Let’s take the fictitious Grocery Delivery Company (GDC) as an example.

Twenty years ago, GDC took grocery orders over the phone and wrote them on a piece of paper. Or maybe they provided customers with a list of groceries and had them check off what they needed. GDC purchases the groceries and delivers them.

Along comes the Internet.

Now GDC provides a list of groceries online. Customers log in, check off what they need, pay for everything by credit card and await the little white delivery truck.

Is GDC a technology company?

From GDC’s perspective, the answer is no. They are heavily invested in delivery trucks and delivery personnel. They are heavily invested in managing relationships with customers and vendors. The amount of time spent on the technology side of the business is infinitesimal by comparison.

But—and this is very important—GDC would not be able to run the business if its online services went down.

And another but—if Better Grocery Delivery Company (BGDC) opened its doors with a superior online presence, GDC quickly lose its dominance in the market.

When Stout Systems is hired to perform a technology assessment, we run into this fundamental misunderstanding a lot: companies with massive dependence upon custom written software or

Web applications treating their IT Departments like they are incidental to the business. More often than not, the IT Department is central to the business. In fact, in the age of ubiquitous network connectivity, IT systems act as the central nervous system of every company.

One could definitely argue that a hospital is not a technology company. Oh, there’s a lot of technology in a hospital. But it is doctors, nurses, beds, operating rooms, and so forth that are at the core of the business. However, hospitals are savvy enough to recognize that without their IT Departments, they are dead in the water. Without information—patient scheduling, staff scheduling, facilities scheduling, patient records, etc., etc., etc.—the hospital functioning would grind to a halt. So hospitals grant their IT Departments as much respect as any other branch or department of the operation.

As we move further into the information age, companies will have to revisit how they view themselves. And they may just have to raise the IT Departments’ roles in their organization to a more dominant position!
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