IT Management Slideshow: 8 Epic Computer Industry Failures

By Dennis McCafferty  |  Posted 02-11-2011

8 Epic Computer Industry Failures

Trailblazers can suffer from "first-mover" disadvantage.Being first doesn't always guarantee longevity.

8 Epic Computer Industry Failures

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Corporate example:Tandy foreshadowed the business application of PCs. Commodore introduced household-friendly pricing. Latecomer Dell outlasted both of them.

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Technology alone cannot guarantee success.It's part of a total, strategic package within an organization, along with an equally important business model attuned to current market.

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Corporate example:Amdahl Corp. initially leapfrogged IBM with advanced semiconductor components, but was overcome by IBM's superior research, scale and market positioning.

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Traditional competitors overshadow newer, more dangerous ones.A company will zero in on an "800-pound gorilla" while ignoring quicker, more agile competitors who eventually dominate the field.

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Corporate example:Digital Equipment zeroed in on Data General and Wang. But it ignored Sun, which overwhelmed old-line minicomputer companies with more competitive technologies, business model and sales force.

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Great success ofteneads to rapid failure.This is because success makes organizations settle into patterns and practices that aren't suited for change.

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Corporate example:Nearly the entire tech universe in the late 1990s, before the Dot Com crash. Many companies were so blinded by success they missed warning signs that undermined assumptions about gross margins.

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Assets from one period can quickly degrade into burdens.Whether assets are "stuff" (equipment, hardware, software programs) or people, CIOs and other leaders may remain committed to these even when it's not in the organization's best interest.

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Corporate example:Suppliers of mechanical calculators like Monroe and Victor Comptometer counted on training facilities and field-repair folks as strategic assets. But customers didn't need this after cheap, electronic calculators were introduced.

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Acquisition-based transitions will target the wrong assets.New ownership favors its own people/practices/equipment over the acquired assets for no reason other than personal biases.

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Corporate example: AT&T acquired and nearly suffocated NCR, in part to mollify in-house staff working on Unix and 3B microprocessors.

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Consensus results in "mushy middle" leadership.CIOs and other leaders too often seek to lead by taking "the temperature of the room" rather than holding firm to their own strategic vision.

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Corporate example:Resisting this trend, Lou Gerstner resurrected IBM's mainframes with new technology and pricing - and still built out its software/services.

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Successions are constantly ill timed.Too seldom do organizations seek to replace leadership when it should - when times are good, not bad.

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Corporate example:Wang Labs hesitated to replace An Wang, even when the brilliant founder was too ill to recover business losses sent in motion by the PC.

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