Google's Ben Fried on Competitive Advantage


I wrote recently about Google CIO Ben Fried's take on giving IT users the tools they want.

At the same time, I've been talking with other top-notch CIOs about their priorities for 2010. You'll see the results soon, but in the meantime, let's focus on one thing that each of these IT leaders mentioned: building competitive advantage.

Every CIO seeks to make IT a competitive differentiator. But in a tough year like this one, it hasn't been easy.

Google's Fried has some thoughts on that, too:

A lot of CIOs say their only job is to create competitive advantage for their company. I shade it a little differently. Creating competitive advantage is incredibly important, but I think you need to be aware that differentiation doesn't necessarily have to limit itself to competitive advantage. Competitive advantage is one important way in which a company can differentiate itself.

But more and more, people need to understand the way IT becomes part of corporate culture. Part of establishing a great company is establishing a unique culture. It's critical to find what defines your company and makes it different. It might not necessarily be making the product better or cheaper that creates competitive advantage. Technology has a unique opportunity to make your company different, and that's what CIOs need to focus on.

One thing CIOs--and other executives, I'm sure--have a hard time with is that the things that got you into that seat have very little do with the things you need to do once you're in it. You have to eliminate all sentimentality from yourself. It's very easy to want to continue doing the things that got you to where you are, but you have to realize that you have to take a broader view of the company.

What do you think? Do you agree with Fried's perspective on building competitive advantage?


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