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CIOs concerned IT not providing enough of a competitive edge

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Digital initiatives may only be helping companies stay in the game, rather than giving a lift to their competitiveness. But this has been a problem that has been persisting for years. Where's the next great frontier for information technology, and how can IT step up its game? 

Photo: Joe McKendrick

The ubiquity and widespread availability of technology is a double-edged sword: it makes it easier for enterprises to step up their digital games, and at the same time, it becomes more of a "utility" that everyone simply is expected to have. Nicholas Carr, in his work from a couple of decades back, "Does IT Matter[1]," cautioned about this phenomenon, stating that the affordability and availability of technology to all has leveled the playing field, and therefore no one gains any competitive advantage. By analogy, no company gains market share as a result of having an exceptionally well-wired electrical system. For most businesses, Carr wrote, "it has been a source more of frustration and disappointment than of glory."

When Carr wrote this in 2003, he was talking about the commoditization of hardware, operating systems, networks, and storage. Today, we could be talking about digital technologies. CIOs understand this paradox all too clearly: in a recent survey from Adobe[2], only 25% of CIOs feel their work in security, cloud or modernization of platforms is differentiated from competitors. 

The question becomes: how can IT and digital technologies be employed in ways that deliver competitive advantage, that help enterprises rise above the rest with unique and potential disruptive approaches? What is the role IT needs to play?

Tellingly, only 15% of CIOs in the Adobe survey give their organizations top marks for having advanced digital maturity. More telling is that

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