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Book Review: Applying Tech

This book by Professor Sunil Mithas is a great read for leaders and business users who are lost in the maze of digital transformation

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Enterprises increasingly recognise that digital is a sine qua non for revenue growth and competitive differentiation. But how do enterprises provide a definition and structure to make it more relevant for their industry and business? This book by Professor Sunil Mithas is a great read for leaders and business users who are lost in the maze of digital transformation.

The foreword by F. Warren McFarlan makes a refreshing start. He tells the story of IT and management through the lens of a series of field case studies mostly written by the Harvard Business School over 60 years. The strategic impact grid laid by McFarlan in 1983, highlights the ways in which IT impacts a firms’ competitiveness and is relevant even today.

The best part of this book is its focus on practical execution. Mithas emphasises that technologies by themselves rarely change or transform anything — it is thoughtful managerial actions and leadership that drives positive change. He discusses the many components of digital intelligence around a framework of three pillars — synchronising corporate strategy and IT, governing IT and managing IT. Each chapter is replete with examples of real corporate world experiences, and brings out the key takeaways lucidly in the form of a summary.

Mithas explains how IT can be used to create competitive advantage and overcome various tradeoffs such as revenue and cost reduction or higher quality and lower costs. The importance of synchronising corporate and IT strategy is featured in much detail, including how managers should approach strategies for digital goods and businesses. Various examples such as Santander Bank of Spain, Tata Motors, etc., make for an interesting read. The ADROIT framework helps think about the role of IT in a comprehensive way. Several concepts are covered on how transformations can be managed depending on whether the enterprise is an incumbent or entrant. Mithas emphasises that no two transformations are alike and heuristics based on the past or from a different context may not hold good in the future.

This book covers aspects of good IT governance. The 4D framework for IT governance focusing on decisions, departments, dollars and delivery of IT services is informative. The author dives into details on how IT firms should be structured and covers aspects relating to funding, ownership and accountability of IT departments. He also provides guidance on how to decide, assess and justify IT discretionary investments, including decision between outsourcing and offshoring depending on various factors.

The manage IT chapters of this book explains the functional, network and enterprise IT components and their historic evolution to explain how legacy comes into being. It also talks about how managers should assess risks of IT projects, the importance of applications such as ERP and CRM and how to manage these projects.

The book gives a clear path for enterprises as they navigate through their digital journey.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Srividya Kannan

Kannan is Founder & Director, Avaali Solutions

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