A Brief History of the Computer Sector in the 20th Century featuring IBM, Tandy, Apple, DEC and good ole Wang Computer!
Going back to the 1960′s, IBM was the 800-pound gorilla in the mainframe business whose technology supremacy went unchallenged. Superior performance at IBM went virtually unabated into the 1970′s. IBM were the blue suits bearing information-based mainframes to help companies use data to run their large businesses with greater know-how about their customers, products, operations, and financial performance far more adeptly than any other competing mainframe technology could. IBM was considered the masters of product innovation largely due to their world-class business practices and industry expertise.
However, competition entered into the picture as they missed the advent of the new information-based technology - the mini-computer - which, if they would have had the right analytic capabilities in place, they would have seen it coming. Minicomputers were technologically simpler than mainframes but with stronger computing power while requiring less resources to run them. To be fair, it wasn’t just IBM that missed the advent of minicomputers. It was virtually every mainframe company in existence at that time. This new technology virtually wiped out the entire mainframe business such that no mainframe business would be a major player in the minicomputer business at all.
Exit IBM. Enter Digital Equipment Corporation. DEC virtually created the minicomputer business along with a few other aggressively managed companies like Data General, Prime, Wang Computer, Hewlett-Packard, and Nixdorf. Did DEC and others in the minicomputer business learn any lessons from IBM’s big miss on the minicomputer market so as to not repeat the same mistake? Of course not.
The story of DEC’s demise rings almost too tellingly true to IBM’s mainframe debacle of the 1970′s. In fact, the management gurus and business journals missed it too. Digital Equipment Corporation was considered by all who had some insight into the company’s operations as being the ultimate technology company for decades to come. For certain it was a featured company in the McKinsey Study that became the stellar 1980′s management book, In Search of Excellence. DEC seemed destined for monster success. Still, despite all this fanfare, DEC missed the next wave in computing technology, the desktop computer market.
The desktop computing market was predictably seized not by DEC or one of its minicomputer compadres but by Apple Computer, Tandy, Commodore, and IBM’s PC-division. (Yes, IBM can’t be held down for long!) What happened next? Like Rick Blaine says in the movie Casablanca, “Play It Again, Sam.” Apple, Tandy, IBM and the rest of the desktop computer gang focused on making the best desktop computers they could but ended up missing the next new, new thing. Apple Computer and IBM lagged 5 years behind bringing the latest-and-greatest technology rage to the market: portable computers. That market was owned by Silicon Graphics, Sun, and Apollo – all newcomers to this market.
In each case, the leading companies mentioned were regarded as the gold standard given their product excellence and operational execution only to be quickly pushed aside by an out-of-nowhere, technologically superior solution that reset the market’s expectations rendering the prior leader’s solution frumpy and stale. Missing emerging trends in the marketplace and not adapting to them quickly enough can ring a death knell for most companies. Think Wang, Silicon Graphics, Apollo. For others, this misstep can set them back 5 or even 10 years before they’re back on their feet again.
As a note, in the above example, I simply chose the technology sector but we could have easily used the retail merchandising sector (Think Sears vs. Nordstrom) or retail books (Think Barnes & Noble vs. Amazon), or Automotive (Think GM vs. Toyota). Each situation is an example of a failure to see the changing landscape.
This responsibility to identify these threats and opportunities lies squarely on budgeting, forecasting and predictive analytics processes.
This requires businesses to get the lower value tasks automated as much as they can so that they can off-load these process management steps to take on added capacity for these analytic practices.
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