Tech firms not strategic enough, says top academic


10 Feb 2003

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Tech firms should focus on technology rather than simply follow the market if they want to survive tech downturns, a leading academic has claimed.

Taking issue with the conventional wisdom that says that satisfying customer needs is the key to success for tech firms, Dr Fergal McGrath (pictured), director of the AIB Centre for Information and Knowledge Management at the University of Limerick (UL), believes that the companies that will ultimately survive are those that focus on their technology and have a long-term vision for it.

McGrath bases his assertions on the findings of a 12-month study of leading tech firms in Ireland conducted by the centre between 2001 and 2002.

“What we found was that many of them were chasing the market,” he told siliconrepublic.com. “Their strategy was to follow their customers, which was quite legitimate in the short term but often they didn’t have a [parallel] strategic vision. The more successful companies were ones that had a technology roadmap they were adhering to while at the same time keeping an eye on customers in the short term. But they had a vision of where they were going and weren’t totally dependent on the customer,” he continued.

For confidentiality reasons he declined to name any companies included in the survey but divided them into two groups: “There are companies which have a sustained direction and trajectory in terms of their technology and those which see what the market wants and then try to respond.”

He added: “I would like to see technology companies having a technology roadmap and vision as to where they are going and tying that to a market strategy rather than taking their lead from the market.”

Now in its second year of operation, the AIB Centre for Information and Knowledge Management is part of UL’s School of Business. The centre, which employs 14 postgraduate researchers, studies how information can be used for competitive advantage.

By Brian Skelly