The Building Blocks Of Global Competitiveness
C.K. Prahalad and M.S. Krishnan
Innovation and growth in a global market require a focus on quality and results, not just cost. Outsourcing is just one piece of the complex puzzle.
Talk about the global IT market almost invariably focuses myopically on outsourcing and, in turn, the job-loss debate. We believe it's time to broaden the discussion to illuminate a more strategic and ad-vantageous approach for U.S. businesses: innovation and optimization of global resources in a competitive landscape.
There's no doubt that the loss of well-paying jobs in the United States creates a climate of animosity and fear. However, in considering total business strategy in a global economy, outsourcing is but a small fragment of the shifting dynamics of innovation and competitiveness. We suggest that capitalizing on global resources is a critical element in the process of innovation in a global market. The latest challenge for business-technology managers is coming to terms with a new competitive reality: how to achieve lower costs, high quality, rapid innovation and change, as well as manage complexity while offering customers personalized experiences. These challenges will drive the value-creation process. Global competition will force companies, large and small, to compete differently, and the search for ways to manage in this environment calls for new capabilities--ones embedded primarily in managerial processes, decision analytics, and behaviors.
The search for new skills can't be confined to one country or a region. Leveraging offshore resources won't be a one-way street in the flow of investments or jobs. Though China, India, the Philippines, Thailand, and other countries endowed with an abundance of talent at low cost are currently prominent, the focus may shift in the future to some other, as yet unknown, region. For the time being, India is the hotbed: Bharati Televentures in India has signed a $750 million IT-outsourcing deal with IBM; Infosys Technologies and Wipro Technologies plan to expand their U.S. subsidiaries and consulting operations and hire more than 1,000 new consultants. Separately, non-U.S. companies' investments for setting up U.S. subsidiaries doubled in 2003, to $82 billion.
Though outsourcing is rarely considered a path to business innovation, we believe that companies that optimize global resources will emerge as winners. IT infrastructure for remote delivery is becoming commonplace, so the search for new resources--in the form of cost, motivation, talent, and teamwork--has never been more intense. The perspective on outsourcing must shift from a focus on cost arbitrage to one encompassing a global search for resources and methodologies for leveraging resources. That's the new basis for innovation. We've just started scratching the surface of the business benefits of managing global resources; companies that focus on building a core competence in managing remote delivery--that is, managing for innovation, influencing without ownership, and learning to work in intercultural teams across time zones--will have a clear advantage.
Three Stages Of Business
The principal reason for this is the evolving nature of global companies. In the past, companies were firmly rooted in the traditional "make and sell" paradigm. They focused on internal efficiencies of design, development, and manufacturing (make), and persuading consumers to buy what they offered (sell). The business model has been shifting to "sense and respond"; companies sense what consumers want and respond rapidly. This approach requires companies to develop business-technology systems for an active and systematic understanding of evolving customer needs and market opportunities. It includes both customer-facing technologies that provide the knowledge of what customers need and internal development and logistics systems to deliver on those needs. In turn, the entire management process must become responsive. Sense-and-respond companies often are models of best practices.
Now, businesses are migrating to an even more advantageous position--"anticipate and lead"--requiring yet another overhaul of internal management processes and systems. Anticipate-and-lead businesses focus on innovative, or next, practices. As companies move from a make-and-sell to an anticipate-and-lead model, their pace and rhythm change. The new model puts pressure on traditional systems and processes. For example, in the make-and-sell world, managers focus on products; in a sense-and-respond environment, they increasingly have to deliver a solution that may require the support of multiple companies and a global supply chain. No single business has the full range of world-class capabilities to deliver the entire solution. As we move to the next phase, the real source of competitive advantage will be in creating unique experiences for consumers, one at a time, by leveraging global resources.