Business in the Digital Economy

The aftermath of the 'dotcom bubble' saw a general waning of interest in information technology amongst executives and management students alike. Beginning with a controversial assertion from Prof Nicholas Carr that 'IT doesn't matter' (2003), the last ten years of management thinking about technology have been dominated by the view that IT is a generally underperforming commodity, unworthy of serious board attention. Paradoxically, this decline in interest in IT as a strategic enabler has occurred in parallel with the growth in some of the most widely discussed businesses in the world. These companies, which have become household names in record time, are all characterized by a profound shift in thinking about technology that places it at the very core of their business models. Such business models are characterized by serious attention to customer data, clever use of different communication channels, partner ecosystems, and a maniacal focus on continual innovation underpinned by technology standards. Their CEOs are the subject of relentless media interest, and their every strategic move discussed by analysts and taught in business schools. For such organisations, it is inconceivable that a chief technology officer would not occupy one of the most important Board roles. This wave of change has been recognized in the business trade market by a range of books dealing with the broader aspects of this cultural shift: the difficulties of dealing with change (e.g., Dan and Chip Heath's 'Switch'), the need for speed in innovation (e.g., Tom Kelley's 'The Art of Innovation'), the characteristics of the 'Net generation' (e.g., Don Tapscott's 'Wikinomics' and 'Grown up Digital'), and so on. However, the essential role and disproportionate influence of the relationship between business and IT in shaping the new digital economy is largely unaddressed in any meaningful way. Given the obvious demand for greater understanding about 'digital' business models, and the apparent popularity of 'digital gurus', it is surprising that no easily accessible materials currently exist. Instead, current provision takes the form of 'informatics'-style textbooks, periodic articles in practitioner journals such as Harvard Business Review and Sloan Management Review, as well as academic journals that are not intended for, and remain unread by, today's general business reader. The Business in the Digital Economy series presents a range of accessible titles that covers the focal areas of the business/technology interface.

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