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Technology Strategies

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Technology Strategies


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  • Copyright 2002
  • Dimensions: K
  • Pages: 256
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-13-027957-9
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-13-027957-6

Coping with technology: long-term perspectives and in-depth insights for every manager.

Suddenly, the business of technology and the technology of business have become one and the same. To succeed, managers, IT administrators, developers, and users need unprecedented clarity about the role of information technology. They need the long-term perspective that can only come with an in-depth understanding of how we got here, and where we're headed. Technology Strategies provides all that, and more. Cooper Smith, former Director of Technology at Nickelodeon Digital Lab and Animation Studios, shares insights that can improve every technology decision you make, professional and personal.

  • The roles—and meaning—of today's information technologies
  • How to define IT strategies and methodologies that work—one step at a time
  • Practical solutions for today's most widespread technology-related challenges and obstacles
  • The future of technology: what's coming, how to prepare, and how to exploit tomorrow's best opportunities
  • The inherent limits of information technology—and how common sense and smarter processes can help overcome them

In Technology Strategies, you'll follow the arc of technological change, which has transformed computers from trivial add-ons to core elements of every business process, and will lead to even more profound transformations in the cming years. You'll then leverage your knowledge to make the most of technology—today and tomorrow, in your business, in your career, and in your life.

Sample Content

Table of Contents


Technology as the Strategic Advantage. But I'm Not an Engineer! What's Ahead? How This Book Is Organized.

1. The History of Technology.

The Age of Ancient Technology. Technology as Necessity.

2. The Business of Technology.

Let's Get Down to Business. New Technology, Old Ideas. Business Enters the Digital Age. The Tried and True. Moving into More Practical Matters. The Real World. The Microscopic Point of View.

3. Managing Technological Change.

Technology and the Workplace. Business Case Models: Life in the Real World. Case 1: Driven by Business. Case 2: Driven by Technology. The Trade-Offs. The Most Common People Issues. Ineffective Systems Management Planning/Implementation: The Organization Structure.

4. The Limits of Technology.

Life in the Real World. Technical Innovation Meets Business Motivation. The End of a Dynasty. The New Revolution.

5. The Future of Technology.

Technology Forecasting. The Second Industrial Revolution. The Rise of the Knowledge Base Economy.

6. The Internet.

What the Internet Is Not. Major Concepts. The Economics of Information. The End of Channels and Hierarchies.

7. Developing Technological Strategies.

The “Information-Based” Organization. Knowledge Is Power. A World of Chiefs. The Executive Challenge: A Brave New World. The New Corporate Culture. Now That We Know What Not to Do, What Should We Do?

8. Developing Business Strategies.

Understanding the Correlation Between Competitive Advantage and Organizational Alignment. Aligning the Network. The Insider's View. Aligning the Organization. Aligning for the Future. Aligning the Unknown.

9. The Integration of Technology in Our Business and Personal Lives.

The Knowledge-Based Economy. Defining the E-conomy. A Company of One. My Technology, Myself. The True Revolution. Most Frequently Asked Questions.

Appendix A: Lotus Notes, the Emerging Technology that Stayed that Way.

Appendix B: CIGNA Corporation: Laying New Organizational Roots with Reengineering.

Appendix C: Competition: Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk.

Appendix D: Couch Potatoes, Remain Seated.

Appendix E: Technology Paradox.





Technology as the Strategic Advantage

When I began writing this book I struggled with the direction I wanted it to take. Is this book to be about business, technology, or even the business of technology? I found it was hard to choose a particular direction because so much of business is now tied to technology, and so much of the interest in technology is provided by business. It finally dawned on me that if this was something I was struggling with, then others must be too.

Technology, like it not, is more a part of our daily lives than ever before, whether we are "technical" or not. Technology is inescapable, but how many of us really understand it, or more importantly, understand how to use it to our own best advantage?

Let's start with the basics. Just what is technology? The word itself takes on a transcendental meaning in our culture, as do terms like politics or religion. We use the term technology to express intangible concepts, much like the words talent, skill, and insight. Technology today is gadgets, mostly electronics, and we also recognize mechanics as a form of technology. But few of us look at technology as something much more than doodads and gimmicks. According to the following definition, technology is less defined by the items it produces than by the body of knowledge it comprises.

Main Entry: tech*nol*o*gy
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -gies
Etymology: Greek technologia systematic treatment of an art, from technE art, skill + -o- + -logia -logy
Date: 1859
1 a : the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area : ENGINEERING 2 <medical technology> b : a capability given by the practical application of knowledge <a car's fuel-saving technology>
2 : a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge <new technologies for information storage>
3 : the specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor <educational technology>
- tech*nol*o*gist /-jist/ noun

People frequently lament, "my life is controlled by technology," as they struggle to unlock their car door with a keyless entry device while simultaneously attempting to respond to the pager vibrating on their hip. Technology is the body of knowledge that is required to first implement useful tools and then to put them to practical use. Technology transcends gadgets by giving meaning to the processes that make these tools a reality and give them their value.

Which leads me to the purpose of this book: to give you a strategic advantage in your personal and professional life by providing you with insight to and instruction on the use and effects of technology, knowledge, and innovation. More specifically, its purpose is to identify and develop the concept of digital technology and the intelligence that it introduces to your complex communication and computing devices, in addition to your mundane household appliances, such as your dishwasher, toaster, and microwave.

My goal is to help you become a technologist (or at least to sound like one)-someone who understands technology. Now, there are many people who will read this, myself included, who would immediately claim no understanding of technology whatever! Few of us can sit and tell someone else just how a cellular phone works. However, it is not the role of the technologist to understand how a piece of technology actually works. That is left for the designer, the architect, and the engineer. It is the technologist's job to understand the purpose and use of specific technologies and how they can either be used separately or in combination to satisfy a particular need or set of needs. In other words, the technologist, given a specific task to accomplish, must decide not on how a cellular phone works, but if the cellular phone can help accomplish his or her goal, either entirely or in part.

But I'm Not an Engineer!

Often, people assume the term technologist is synonymous with scientist or engineer, and indeed there are times when these terms can be used interchangeably. But technologist can also be just as easily interchanged with businessman, artist, playwright, or homemaker. A technologist, essentially, is anybody who uses a tool for a specific purpose. Tools and technology are almost synonymous. However, tools are concrete objects, such as hammers, shovels, and computers, while technology is not only the tools themselves, but also the knowledge of how to use them. Let me illustrate this point with a well-known example.

Leonardo da Vinci was a technologist as much as he was an artist. There is little doubt that da Vinci was greatly gifted in a number of areas, painting being foremost among them. But it wasn't the canvas and paintbrush that made da Vinci the extraordinary artist he was; it was his God-given ability to see a subject or a view in his mind's eye and to recreate it, in detail, with the tools of his trade. In other words, anybody can put paint to a canvas, but it is vision, insight, and talent that determine whether or not that person is an artist.

The same can be said for da Vinci's insight into mechanical devices. Da Vinci was responsible for hundreds of mechanical designs, if not actual implementations, from airplanes to tanks. He dabbled in architecture, anatomy, sculpture, engineering, geology, hydraulics, and the military arts, all with success, and in his spare time he doodled parachutes and flying machines that resembled inventions of the 19th and 20th centuries. He made detailed drawings of human anatomy, which are still highly regarded today.

These achievements are even more remarkable because the extension of his own imagination redefined sources from nature (birds and tortoises) into man-made inventions-or early technologies. Since models of these technologies existed only in nature, it was left to da Vinci's imagination to just "dream up" his own mechanical versions. All the more astounding is the fact that although most of these imaginative creations have been realized in the present, such as the tank, the helicopter, and the transportable crane, hardly any were actually realized in da Vinci's own lifetime or for several generations afterward.

But, you argue, da Vinci was a genius! Laugh if you like, but imagination and the ability to extend ideas to practical use are available to anybody with a healthy amount of common sense. Every time someone "flashes" the telephone to give the person he or she is talking to the impression that someone else is calling, he or she is using technology for a specific purpose—to lose the boring conversationalist who just won't stop! You don't have to know how call waiting works technically; you just have to know what it does.

What's Ahead?

Within the last 20 to 25 years, digital technology has provided the cutting edge. What the telephone and lightbulb have done in this century, the digital chip will do in the next. Digital technology, processors on silicon wafer chips, can combine and/or support numerous diverse technologies as one! The result is a kind of pan-technology. As the digital chip introduces "intelligence" into a variety of electronics beyond desktop or mainframe computers, that intelligence in turn communicates with other intelligent devices that communicate with us.

Twenty years ago, a telephone and a television (except for the "tele") were two entirely different entities. Now both telephones and televisions are digital-telephones carry television signals and telephone calls can be made through televisions. Although this technology may not be commonplace today, there is a good deal of time, effort, and money being spent to make sure that one day it will be. It is widely expected that AOL, given the vast content and production resources of Time Warner, will provide this content to its customers via the World Wide Web. Soon, almost every sight and sound, except those provided by nature, will be digital. Because of the pervasiveness of digital technology, even the most robust technophobe will have no choice but to conform. This new pan-technology will usher in the 21st century the way the automobile helped usher in the 20th, but on a much faster and more overwhelming scale.

However, our basic living and working rules will not change, even as the landscape does. Everyone will still have to decide for him- or herself where, what, and how these technologies are going to affect everyday life. You do not have to be an engineer, a scientist, or even an artist to be a "pan-technologist." You simply need to be aware of what technology is doing, what technology can do, and what technology can do against you as well as for you. Rather than describing ourselves as either technical weenies or technophobes, we'll label ourselves as technologists because of the significance digital technology has in our personal and professional lives.

Of course, there will always be differences in terms of professional category and status. An engineer is an engineer and a sculptor is a sculptor. But soon even the sculptor will be "digitized," using the Internet to display wares, buy materials, and review other people's works. At the same time, the engineer, when transporting schematics and system designs across the Internet, will take time to muse over the latest work of our renowned sculptor. Does this mean our artist sidelines as a techie, while the engineer daydreams of being an artist?

The purpose of this book is not only to philosophize on the impact that changes in technology will have on the future of mankind, but to also use these changes to shed light on the ever-turbulent seas the information technology professional will face. Computers and the networks that linked them formally defined IT. But computers were singular entities that did specific tasks and were operated by specific people who were educated and trained to run the computer. Pan-technology is leveraging computers in television, refrigerators, and automobiles. People do not need degrees and years of training to use them.

The current trappings of the modern office environment will remain: desktops and laptops, printers and scanners, and network boxes. But even these familiar icons of "hi-tech" are undergoing rapid transformations. These transformations will have the same impact on the business environment as did the introduction of the desktop computer, and of the typewriter 50 years before. Ten years ago, business computing meant terminals connected to a million dollars' worth of equipment sheltered in its own environment. Twenty years ago, the computer was even more isolated, with only a selected few getting to see it!

As we are at the point where computer technology is all but inescapable, we have to understand how to manage this pervasive technology. Specifically, the modern information technology manager has to be part technician, part businessman-the business of technology and the technology of business are rapidly becoming one. Information technology managers, programmers, and systems administrators must re-evaluate how we look at technology's role in business. Traditionally, technology, and computers in particular, have been viewed as "add-ons," like office supplies and copiers. However, from manufacturing to insurance to publishing, technology's integration with the process of doing business has resulted in managers and financial people viewing it accordingly. Business can go on without the copier, but try running it without the corporate mainframe!

How This Book Is Organized

The best way to understand anything, in my opinion, is from the ground up. This book is generally divided into two parts:

  • Part 1 — A look at technology's past and the best way to understand it in the present.
  • Part 2 — Using this newfound understanding of technology's roots to develop practical methodology for dealing with technology for both individuals and organizations.

Chapter 1, The History of Technology, reviews the history of technology from my own perspective. It is much easier to understand technology as a whole when we understand the effect technology has had on our society since the first "society" was understood as such. By putting technology's role in the past into perspective, it is easier to put technology's role into perspective today, as well as to foresee where it is headed. Knowledge and experience can alleviate a lot of uncertainty and frustration when opting for one technology over another, or when learning how disparate technologies work together.

Chapter 2, The Business of Technology, explores the current status of technology in today's world of business in terms of its role in modern business, and as a business unto itself.

Chapter 3, Managing Technological Change, explores how to deal with technology and its shifting time, using both fictional and actual examples taken from the today's business world. These are real problems that IT managers, in particular, must struggle with every day.

Chapter 4, The Limits of Technology, explores what technology can and cannot do. In the context of a real-world technology company, creating a business, growing a business, and losing a business, we look at how technology can be a fast-track avenue to wealth and success, and how the same fast track can lead just as quickly to failure. Using the former Digital Equipment Corporation as an example, we look at both the general picture of the mesh between technology and business as well as at the individuals principally involved in shaping the direction.

Chapter 5, The Future of Technology, examines what we can expect if the current trends in technology continue in both our professional and personal lives and how to best prepare to understand and exploit those changes.

From here we move to Part 2, where we try to understand technology's impact in the "real world" from both a professional and personal perspective. How are the events that are happening around us going to affect the decisions we make and how we make them? By looking at particular cases of how technology is actually used, we can get a better understanding of how decisions, both good and bad, are made.

We will begin at the most obvious and inescapable form of technology that has come our way since the atomic bomb. We take a close look at the Internet and why it has had such an overwhelming effect in shaping not only our present-day economy, but also, perhaps, the economy of the entire 21st century.

Chapter 6, the Internet, explores the new and burgeoning universal access to computers. Computers were once reserved only for very large corporations, and then moved into medium-sized businesses and into the private homes and businesses of a privileged few. Now, the computer in one form or another is rapidly entering everyone's lives-old and young, rich and poor-all over the world. These computers (and the resulting emerging technologies) together form the Internet. This chapter will discuss why the Internet has had such a tremendous impact on our technology, economy, and way of life.

Chapters 7, 8, and 9 define strategic methodologies for both organizations and individuals. We explore what we can do to make the most beneficial decisions when dealing with this "new" economy-for ourselves as individuals as well as for the organizations we work for and support.


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