In the early days of computers, companies used a fee-for-shared-service model for technology. It was common to pay a company like IBM rent for use of its mainframe machines. As computers became smaller and less expensive, businesses began to purchase their own equipment and the computer rental model went the way of the dinosaur. Interestingly, we’re now seeing a return to that old model, but instead of computers, businesses are renting web and cloud infrastructure services for apps and storage.
This is great news for small- and medium-size companies, as building the data centers to run those services is exorbitantly expensive. By only purchasing the infrastructure cloud services that they need from large companies like Microsoft, Google and Amazon, they eliminate the risk of that huge financial investment.
Even better, we’ve seen recent price wars among those service providers. Some of them slashed their prices by as much as 85 percent this spring in an effort to attract and retain customers.
I sit on the board of several companies that are dependent on web services and have seen this decision to rent play out several times. A good example is Carbonite, which is launching its computer backup services across Europe and recently joined the ranks of Amazon customers for web services. The decision for Carbonite was simple: If it were to build its own data center, not only would it cost excessive funds, it would have to maintain it and then (all too soon) upgrade it. It would be akin to building its own telephone or cable company instead of simply renting what it needs from a provider like Verizon or Comcast.
A lot of attention has been paid lately to big tech companies buying up smaller firms in billion-dollar deals: In January, Google acquired Nest for $3.2 billion, Facebook purchased mobile message service, WhatsApp, the following month for $19 billion; last week, it acquired virtual reality gaming company, Oculus VR, for $2 billion. There is a lot of discussion about the motives behind these large deals. Some say they are attempts to block competition, while others maintain they are efforts to stay relevant.
I see these deals as a reflection of the uncertainty companies face as they try to identify the next big thing. This is especially true for successful companies like Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG), which are known for doing what they do tremendously well. They’ve seen similarly successful companies like Kodak struggle as technology moves on, rendering its product obsolete. As a result, companies today are eternally motivated to look outside their current business.
George Westerman (MIT Center for Digital Business), interviewed by Michael Fitzgerald
October 29, 2012
Big traditional companies get overlooked when it comes to digital transformation. But companies across all industry sectors are remaking their operations, their customer interactions, and even their business models. George Westerman tells us how they’re doing it, whether they are technology champions or beginners.
There is a fundamental change underway in the way that companies make decisions. Instead of relying on a leader’s gut instincts, an increasing number of companies are embracing a new method that involves data-based analytics. This ‘Big Data’ revolution is occurring mainly because technology enables firms to gather extremely detailed information from and propagate knowledge to their consumers, suppliers, alliance partners, and competitors.
Companies that use this type of ‘data driven decision making’ actually show higher performance. Working with Lorin Hitt and Heekyung Kim, I analyzed 179 large publicly-traded firms and found that the ones that adopted this method are about 5% more productive and profitable than their competitors. Furthermore, the study found a relationship between this method and other performance measures such as asset utilization, return on equity and market value. There is a lot of low-hanging fruit for companies that are able to use Big Data to their advantage. Read More »
An MBA on Becoming Relevant to an Industry “That’s Doing Fine Without You”
‘Tis the season for MBA students to begin looking for summer internships, and students at the MIT Sloan School of Management are no exception. In fact, just last week they took their annual “tech trek” to Silicon Valley to shake hands, flash smiles, and otherwise engage with executives at companies like Facebook, Intel, and eBay.