As the global technological revolution accelerates, a wave of creative destruction is overtaking the infrastructures of many of the world’s medium and large companies. Some are doing a better job than others of getting ready. But none are immune from the effects of change.
Take Corning, which has capitalized on more than a few revolutions in its 160 years, from the glass for Thomas Edison’s light bulb and early railroad signals to Pyrex cookware and the Gorilla Glass in your smartphone. It pioneered technologies ranging from mass production of TV picture tubes to optical fiber cable. Today’s Corning is a $23B behemoth with leadership expertise in many cutting edge technologies.
Other companies emulate Corning’s use of analytics. In rolling out its global Strategy and Capital Allocation Framework last year, Corning proudly claimed its heritage as “a company that has weathered the changing tides” and vowed to accomplish the thing that lesser businesses can only dream of: “Increase its probability of success and maximize the return on innovation.”
Whoever wrote that line probably winced, then, when the company announced that it had suffered a mega-million dollar software snafu. Earnings per share swung from positive to negative this April with a remarkable $.65 sweep and Corning reported losing $100M in sales and $40M in profit due to “the impact of a manufacturing software implementation issue.” While shares were losing 7 percent of their value, investors were wondering how Corning – a company with world-leading IT, strategic planning, consultants, and technicians – could screw up a software implementation to the tune of $140 million.
In truth, the software issue wasn’t Corning’s fault, nor the vendor’s. It probably wasn’t even remotely predictable in spite of the company’s reams of data. As hardware and software mesh in new and unexpected ways, the difficulties of integrating them have increased exponentially. So it went for Corning, and so it goes sometimes for every other company whose lifeblood depends on making computers, machines, and people talk effectively with each other.
The difference, of course, is that companies like Corning can weather a $140M hit. Can your business?
If the answer is “no,” be comforted to know that there is an alternative—which is to venture into new technologies with a trusted partner at your side. Good strategic planners and consultants generally save (and make) businesses much more than they cost, whether it is for large multi-billion dollar corporations or your own business. And today, a new generation of smaller scale options can mitigate risk and open up strategies for businesses of any size. It is a perfect example of where technology that helps you can save you from technology that can hurt you.