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Harv Bus Rev. 2003 Oct;81(10):104-12, 138.

The real new economy.

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McKinsey Global Institute, San Francisco, USA.


During the soar-and-swoon days of the late 1990s, many people believed that information technology, and the Internet in particular, were "changing everything" in business. A fundamental change did happen in the 1990s, but it was less about technology than about competition. Under director Diana Farrell, the McKinsey Global Institute has conducted an extensive study of productivity and its connection to corporate IT spending and use during that period. The study revealed that information technology is important--but not central--to the fate of industries and individual companies. So if information technology was not the primary factor in the productivity surge, what was? The study points to competition and innovation. In those industries that saw increases in competitive intensity, managers were forced to innovate aggressively to protect their revenues and profits. Those innovations--in products, business practices, and technology--led to the gains in productivity. In fact, a critical dynamic of the new economy--the real new economy--is the virtuous cycle of competition, innovation, and productivity growth. Managers can innovate in many ways, but during the 1990s, information technology was a particularly powerful tool, for three reasons: First, IT enabled the development of attractive new products and efficient new business processes. Second, it facilitated the rapid industrywide diffusion of innovations. And third, it exhibited strong scale economies--its benefits multiplied rapidly as its use expanded. This article reveals surprising data on how various industries in the United States and Europe were affected by competition, innovation, and information technology in the 1990s and offers insights about how managers can get more from their IT investments.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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