World of hurt if CIOs fail to think globally

Your real competitor will soon be on the other side of the world...

...gear up appropriately. People are recognising that they need to provide high-end services to somewhere that wasn't previously a market."

For Smith, experimentation is the only way forwards. He suggests there is increasing evidence of leading organisations using new collaborative technologies to take services to market. "The fact there are more people who are connected internationally means there will be more innovation locally," he says.

"If you wait to see how your markets have moved, you've probably left it too late. You need to prepare your behaviour, models and contracts to move quickly. We're becoming more mobile."

New spatial division of labour

Understanding the potential power of collaborative technology, and its role in the new spatial division of labour, will be one of the key priorities for Cisco CIO Rebecca Jacoby during the next five years. That concentration, she says, includes a focus on the changing nature of the enterprise and an understanding of how employees interact with systems.

"I still don't think most organisations have unlocked the power of collaboration and understand the role communication plays in moving business process forwards," she says. "Great communication can be a competitive advantage - IT can show how technology can scale in particular enterprises. We need to articulate how IT connects to the business architecture."

Those connections will increasingly be made in the world's fastest growing economies. Satyam operations director Roger Newman believes there is already huge change, and optimism, in India.

He says the traditional economic model is being rapidly dismantled and that Asian firms are buying resources and talent from the West, rather than the other way around. "Indian companies are choosing global companies to do some of their work and that will be a growing trend, particularly in areas like aerospace and defence," he says.

Outsourcing to Southeast Asia

Companies, then, must move with the times. And Andy Jones, director at Xerox Global Services, says his organisation has worked to establish a strong foothold in Southeast Asia. Xerox has outsourced manufacturing across the globe for the best part of a decade or more.

Ten or 20 years ago, businesses were investigating methods to manufacture and distribute products around the globe. In 20 years, global enterprises will have to deal with a phenomenal shift in the division of labour as fast-growing Asian economies create new opportunities for businesses and individuals.

"Your real competitor will soon be on the other side of the world," he says. "There are already elements that show the potential nature of a globally competitive workforce. The level of specialist knowledge in Southeast Asia is high and India has a very highly skilled labour force."

Jones says companies such as Xerox must reposition themselves to play in the market and become part of the market. "We are on the cusp of a fascinating change," he says.

By Mark Samuels

Mark Samuels is a business journalist and editor at IT leadership organisation CIO Connect. He has written for various organisations, including the Economist Intelligence Unit, Guardian Government Computing and Times Higher Education.