Must be written using Delta Airlines as the company of focus.
Must be at least 400 words more is better.
Must use at least 3 academic and scholarly sources cited in APA format.
1. Identify the hard and soft technology used for both the domestic and global environments. This is not about computers or software; see attachment for more information.
2. Identify the technology barriers to the company in both environments.
3. Evaluate the strategy used and how the company will protect their technology.
4. Make recommendations on how the company can overcome these. It is not sufficient to say you have no recommendations; incorporate critical thinking.
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The Technology Environment
In Week 4, we continue to look at our “Best” and “Worst” companies in light of the Technology Environment. We all
love technology, so it’s a subject most of us are probably very familiar with and comfortable discussing, but hopefully
you’ll discover a few new ideas this week. The application of Technology to business has become one of the most
critical success factors (core competencies) and has a huge impact on the success every enterprise (including the
Having said that, you might conclude that the “Worst” companies are not applying Technology very well, and the
“Best” companies are doing it right. This might be true as a generalization, but I believe you can find some counter
examples where you’ll find a “Worst” company doing Technology very well and a “Best” company that doesn’t really
emphasize Technology to a great degree.
Netflix is an interesting example; they are really selling a service, not a product (until recently when they began to
develop “content” – under contract with studios). Initially they developed a very clever, but low tech (OMG, based in
part on the USPS – “snail mail”) business model to blow their competition away! Blockbuster may have been a Best
company until Netflix showed up, but they ignored technology improvements that might have made their customers
happier and more loyal. For example, Blockbuster made you return the DVD to the same store where you rented it.
Redbox, a later competitor, said “just drop it in any “Redbox”. Made a big difference if you travel a lot. But Blockbuster
was indifferent to customer wants and needs because they weren’t looking over their shoulder. Shame on them!
So what is the “lesson learned” from the Netflix/Blockbuster story? I’d say it suggests Best companies, in general, are
applying emerging technologies that are critical to their particular business model, quickly (AKA nimbleness) and cost
effectively to lower costs and increase customer/employee satisfaction. They might not be the “Best” in every
Environment, or perhaps even in any one Environment, but are pretty good in all six Environments. Likewise the
“Worst” companies may do well in some Environments, but are missing the boat in at least one critical Environment
(e.g. customer service in the case of Blockbuster and the airline industry). If it’s the Technology Environment where they
are failing, it might overwhelm everything else they are doing right.
What do Business Theorists Say About the Technology Environment?
Most business theorists see the Technology Environment as an enabler to all the others, especially the globalization of
business. The true business experts, could be viewed as theorists, in the Technology Environment are not academician
(although of course there are some), but business leaders/practitioners. John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, a successful
developer and manufacturer of chips for pc’s and networks, was also a noted technology theorist, inventing the axiom
that the capacity and speed of pc chips doubles every 3 years. He also said (way back in the early 1990’s “voice
communication will be free” and the “internet will change the way we do everything”. All of his predictions have
already come true.
It’s worth noting that technology breakthroughs often are the result of academic research, for example the “search
engine” and the Windows interface. Other breakthroughs have been made in “garages” by dropouts (e.g. Gates and
Allen – DOS, Brin and Page – Google, Zuckerberg – Facebook, Alan Emtage – search engines). In addition,
collaboration between academia and the military was the initial creator of the internet.
Equally as important as the creators of breakthrough technologies are the practitioners who have further developed
and deployed new technology. We’ll discuss the developers like Microsoft and Apple in the next section when we
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discuss “hard technology” companies. We’ll also discuss “soft technology” companies, i.e. all the other companies
that don’t develop the new technologies directly but deploy/implement them to increase productivity,
customer/employee satisfaction, etc.
Hard and Soft Technology Companies
The distinction that we make between “hard” and “soft” technology companies (not the technology itself) in business i
a very helpful way of thinking about the Technology Environment.
Virtually every enterprise (including corporations, non-profits, government agencies, military organizations, etc.) has
been implementing new technology to improve the administrative side (accounting, payroll, HR, inventory
management, etc.) of their operations for 50 years. More recently (perhaps the last 20 years) technology has entered
operational areas of the enterprise like customer service, supply chain management, automated manufacturing,
robotics, etc. to achieve increased employee productivity and morale as well as increased customer satisfaction. This is
what we mean by a Soft Technology company – a user of technology as opposed to a developer of technology.
In the 60 Minutes segment entitled March of the Machines (probably available on YouTube) you can see how advanced
automation (robotics, artificial intelligence, etc.) is currently helping some innovative companies (sometimes called
“early adopters”) reach an entirely new and perhaps unanticipated level of efficiency, productivity and quality.
Manufacturers are working with hi-tech companies to develop these new technologies. Does this mean a manufacturer
suddenly becomes a Hard Technology company? I’m not sure, but maybe it’s not too important what it’s called, as long
as you know about it and apply it. Businesses that ignore new technology developments do so at their own peril.
We define a Hard Technology company as one actually developing/making/selling technology products – both
hardware and software – as their primary business activity. Companies like Intel (pc chips), Cisco (network chips),
Microsoft (pc software), Verizon (wireless networks), Apple (smart phones), etc. are clearly in this category. Now even
more traditional Soft Technology companies like Ford, GM, Boeing, GE, Frigidaire, etc. are building more and more
embedded technology into their products to increase profit margins and customer appeal. A new car nowadays
contains hundreds of microchips, actually small special purpose microcomputers), to implement new features
customers demand. Same with a washer, dryer, refrigerator, etc.; their control panels are looking more like the flight
deck on the starship Enterprise than an appliance (and they even come in colors too, whoopee!!!).
In addition, we are not just talking about manufacturing companies either. Retailers and fast food companies are
working feverishly to deploy wireless ordering and checkout systems to lower personnel costs. Banks and other
financial institutions have deployed ATM networks and electronic banking that customers love, at the same time
eliminating many jobs. Some banks, insurance and mortgage companies have gone entirely virtual, not only reducing
labor costs but also expensive brick and mortar facilities.
The take-away here is competency in designing and implementing technology into products and services has become
another core competency in businesses where previously it wasn’t seen as that important.
Barriers Facing Hard and Soft Technology Companies and Strategies Used to Overcome These Barriers
Hard technology companies face a myriad of challenges, notably; the cost/risk of developing new technology,
attracting investment capital, recruiting and retaining world-class developers, cutthroat competition, both domestic
and foreign, and legal barriers erected by foreign governments to protect their domestic developers and/or restrict
their peoples’ access to technology and information.
Soft technology companies include everyone else, i.e. companies buying and deploying new technology from hard
technology companies (i.e. developers). The more aggressive soft technology companies (AKA “first movers”) all face
the twin challenges of cost/risk and technology/implementation failure (see Obamacare website rollout for a good
example). Those slower to adopt new technology (we’ve discussed Blockbuster) face the very real risk of being left
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B A C K
Most US multi-nationals, in the 1990s faced the challenge of implementing global “enterprise systems” to increase
customer/supplier communications, productivity and customer service and across their global operations. Most were
operating in a “smokestack” environment, where their individual operations were highly independent of each other.
This works OK until you begin to deal with global customers and suppliers who were expecting them to coordinate
orders, service, etc. worldwide.
Did you know that the initial cost of implementing a worldwide enterprise system – like SAP or PeopleSoft/Oracle –
could approach a billion dollars (that’s billion, with a “B”)! To make matters worse, installing a so-called “new release”
of the same system every few years can easily exceed $100 million. However, technology eventually solves all
problems. So-called “cloud-based systems” have begun to lower these costs and reduce the risk of implementation
Strategies Used by Hard and Soft Technology Companies to Develop (Hard Technology Companies), Implement (Soft
technology Companies) and Protect Proprietary Technology
Hard technology companies have adopted many strategies to cope with the huge challenges they face. Maybe the
most successful has been partnering and collaborating with global business partners via the web. This includes
involving customers and prospective customers in identifying the requirements of new technologies. Another strategy
has been to build new products using core components of older systems, sometimes referred to as reusable code and
“containers” (we’re getting down in the weeds now!).
Soft technology companies have adopted similar strategies. They rely on third party consultants to implement new
technologies, and prefer to buy commercial off-the-shelf technology (referred to as COTS by the military and other
government buyers) rather than be pioneers and risk technology/implementation failures, which have cost many
people their jobs! It’s become a balancing act deciding whether to be a nimble first mover or wait for someone else to
The important take away this week is you and your organization must be focused on the future and adopting new
technology as rapidly as possible. This can be risky too if it’s not done carefully and professionally, many excellent
business franchises (brands) have exploded by introducing a new technology prematurely or simply poorly
implemented (but Microsoft seems to get away with it over and over again). Nevertheless, ignoring new technology is
more dangerous than adopting too soon IMHO. So just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean the enemy isn’t
sneaking up on you.