What does information technology look like globally?
In the 1600s, information was restricted due to high transportation costs and high governmental barriers and political influence, so citizens had little knowledge about cultures, locations and things outside of one’s own country. Those with power held the most access to information (i.e. Scientists worked for sponsors with deep pockets, or governmental agents with political agendas), and the ease of dispersion of this information was limited.
However, as disruptive innovations broke down transportation barriers and increased the ease with which information and knowledge crossed country boundaries and dispersed globally, the people responsible for innovating became powerful.
Indeed, this “old world” view demonstrates a hybrid process of centralized and decentralized information keeping. Because their world was so small, citizens executing “corporate-wide” (or state-wide, as it were) initiatives were easy and predictable. They were responsive to local requirements and could change direction quickly – a perfect hybrid since scale had not yet occurred.
But as technology improved and distance between cultures and peoples decreased, bureaucracy and the need to maintain low costs with high responsiveness increased; a shift toward a decentralized model occurred. Responsive to local requirements but expensive to scale globally, decentralized institutions inevitably created fractions within the higher order of corporate operations. (Indeed, there is a reason why they call it a “Balkanized Mess”)
Today, the question becomes what does distance mean to IT?
A. Corporate-wide initiatives are enacted with minimal costs
B. Business-unit strategies are responsive to local requirements
C. Information hoarding (or lack of IT knowledge) presents challenging governance issues
D. A Balkanized Mess
Indeed, the answer could be all four. The larger issue is how global organizations can transmit data effectively, efficiently, and provide resources to all global business units while managing costs and responding to local needs. For example, Ford recently announced their resolution to a growing costly global scale issue: the global car. Manufactured with standard pieces, this new Ford fleet would be comprised of elements from vehicles they already produce globally (thus, saving costs), but would also be of a smaller size (thus, appealing to local demand requirements). Understanding its core competencies and core customer base, Ford utilized business intelligence to streamline their operations profitably. Ford was able to change an expensive global distance by using intelligence from a hybrid organizational structure.
So, when you take out your smart device and pull up a web mapping service application, make sure you tip your hat to those citizens of the 1600 century world who didn’t know what city was next door. As technology made smaller the world around them, organizational structures evolved to the point where today IT is the glue which connects all business units globally.