ICIS 2012 Update

One of my research papers was recently nominated as a candidate for the Best Paper award at the 2012 International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS), the flagship conference and most prestigious gathering of information systems researchers in the world. Titled “Juggling Paradoxical Strategies: The Emergent Role of IT Capabilities”, the paper has been co-authored with Benn Konsynski, the George S. Craft Distinguished University Professor of Information Systems & Operations Management at Emory University. In this study, we assert that in the 21st century, different IT capabilities act in differing ways to individually and jointly enable or impede firms to simultaneously pursue paradoxical strategies as an emergent means of attaining competitive advantage.

Paper presentation at ICIS 2012

Paper presentation at ICIS 2012

Such an ability to follow two conflicting strategies at the same time is termed organizational ambidexterity. Firms which concurrently engage in the paradoxical strategies of exploration (or radical innovation) and exploitation (or incremental innovation) are able to address the needs of new and existing customers and thereby attain higher competitive performance. Our research finds that Transform IT capability, which leads to redefining and recreating business practices, strongly supports this instance of ambidexterity. On the other hand, IT Informate Capability, which results in greater information access across the organization, and IT Automate Capability, which facilitates automation of existing business processes, both hamper ambidexterity by ossifying business processes and reducing flexibility. Transform IT capability reduces these harmful effects. Our findings also suggest that a balance of IT Automate, Informate and Transform capabilities enables organizational ambidexterity, hitherto a challenging competitive possibility.

Data for the study was gathered from 352 manufacturing firms of all sizes in high growth sectors in India – a setting that provides an exemplar for the world’s enterprises undergoing rapid changes in the 21st century. These findings not only showcase the emergent role of IT in facing the complexities inherent in juggling paradoxical strategies, but also throw light upon previously unexplained variance in IT payoffs in the emerging economy and small and medium enterprise contexts.

A link to the paper in the conference proceedings is here.

Apple needs to do nothing radical to get $68 billion extra sales

Apple Store

Image via Wikipedia

In a report, analysts at Credit Suisse say that Apple will be able to generate $68 billion (55%) in additional sales by doing nothing.

Apple won’t have to do anything radical, however. For example Apple won’t have to introduce a low-end phone, which Credit Suisse’s analyst figure is ‘likely’ in 2012.

via Emerging Middle Classes To Boost Apple Sales By $68 Billion – Forbes.

This increase in sales will come about due to the emergence of 244 million middle class customers in the Brazil, Russia, India, China and Mexico, who will have a spending power equivalent to their American brethren. Apple will only have to continue doing what it is doing. The power of demographics!

However, Apple does not seem to be a company that will be happy with status quo. If past trends continue, one can expect Apple to make a radical play for a new market. The low-end iPhone may be Apple’s stab at the real El Dorado – the emerging middle classes who do NOT have rich world spending power and lower-income residents of Apple’s main markets. In the next 3 years, 400 million people are expected to buy cellphones in India alone. If Apple can get a large chunk of these consumers onto its ecosystem, the future cross-sell and up-sell opportunities will be immense.  There lie considerable riches at the bottom of the pyramid.

Moral of the story – The Exploitation of existing certainties has a potential $68 billion upside, but this pales in comparison to the potential of the Exploration of new opportunities. An ambidextrous approach could see Apple revenues grow many fold!

Ambidexterity starts from the top

Successful organizations are ambidextrous, i.e. they simultaneously engage in the conflicting strategies of exploring new businesses and exploiting existing ones. New research shows that ambidexterity starts from the top.

Ambidextrous CEOs

1. develop an overarching aspirational strategic outlook or identity of the organization

2. foster conflict between old and new businesses at their level and not at lower levels of the organization

3. are consistently inconsistent by adopting conflicting standards for new and old businesses

Read more at The Ambidextrous CEO – Harvard Business Review.

Image via HBR