What Does Technology as a Competitive Advantage Mean?

by | Jul 22, 2021 | Technology Strategy

When ZAG sat down and put together its vision, technology was naturally at the heart. Making technology work for an organization led the entire team to agree that it could be seen as a competitive advantage. And while the catalyst for so many operational improvements can be tied back to technology investments, there’s a significant disconnect at times between the costs associated and the value derived.  

The companies we speak to about their goals often communicate their need to protect their environments in more of a defensive strategy. And this is critically important. But where some of the opportunity lies is in using technology to provide them with an edge over their competition.  

The idea of being more proactive rather than reactive not only frees up valuable time and resources but can mean that your company is better prepared to move beyond the typical “break/fix” model that is so common across IT teams.  

But where does this idea of competitive advantage come in? Let’s discuss:  

Strategy. IT support teams and leaders are bogged down. Whether it’s in the day-to-day management of systems, updates, fixing issues across the organization, and more, IT leadership in most organizations lacks the ability to focus on a long-term strategy for technology investments that help the organization move forward. When technology is effectively incorporated and actively maintained through internal or external resources, technology leaders are better able to look at the overall business objectives and implement technology that helps achieve them.  

Operations. Across any number of industries, there are tools that streamline production, cut down on waste, or monitor inputs and outputs to identify where improvements can be made. Trends in agribusinesses, such as precision agriculture or artificial intelligence (AI)-driven decision-making, are largely technology-based. Implementing these tools can improve profitability. But only if the IT infrastructure of the organization has a solid foundation in place. Establishing an IT infrastructure that supports innovation is critical in delivering a competitive advantage to the organization.  

Competitive advantage in practice  

Tangible examples of technology implementation that leads to a competitive advantage can be found throughout the supply chain. There are countless examples of fresh produce companies that experienced an outage or cyberattack that affected their systems and they were unable to fulfill customer orders. In these instances, competitors were able to gain their business – potentially for the long-term.  

Having technology in place that delivers baseline security standards present across the organization can provide the company with a secure, sound, reliable, and predictable operation. The competitive advantage, then, is having a solid foundation on which to build your business.  

What are the barriers to a competitive advantage? 

While there are organizations that operate with the belief that technology can impact their bottom line, there are others that respond best to cost savings. These leaders still see IT as a cost center rather than an enabler of improved business outcomes. It’s the argument of what’s best for immediate needs in the “here and now” versus what investments might benefit the business in the future.  

More recently, the fear of introducing additional technology into the IT environment is also present as the world experiences more cybersecurity threats than ever before. By engaging a trusted IT partner that is focused on improving security through tested standards, many of these fears can be alleviated. But it takes leaders who understand the risk, see the benefit of ongoing vigilance, and never getting to a place where the business is “done” protecting itself from outside threats.  

As threats increase and the market becomes more saturated by competitors within the space, technology investments will pay dividends in delivering the kind of improvements that move the needle for agribusinesses involved at every step in the supply chain. And isn’t that worth investing in a competitive advantage?  

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