Book Review

When I have to face a problem, I often look for a book to find the answers. If I’m lucky, it offers a range of solutions that are almost a perfect fit with my problem.

But not all problems can be answered within the pages of a single text, especially questions involving business strategy and technology. So the shelves of business bookstores groan with tomes that try to neatly segment the industry.Dave Rochlin, an IT consultant who also teaches an e-business and technology strategy course at a California college’s executive MBA program, tired of seeing disparate materials on why some firms and technologies thrive while others don’t. So he’s attempted to put between one set of covers what he calls a “holistic view of innovation, technology and competitive strategy” both for technology companies and tech buyers.

The result is that in 274 pages he strides from comparing tech startups to incumbents, to describing venture financing, explaining how IT companies should define markets and hone product life cycles, and finishes with a discussion of strategies to gain competitive advantage.

Although an academic text, Rochlin makes his points by regularly giving examples from a who’s-who of industry, including Coca-Cola and Research In Motion. You’ll find references to everything from “prisoner’s dilemma” to Seabiscuit. Spread throughout are so-called “voices,” quotes from industry experts meant to buttress the author’s observations. The result is a book that is more readable than many I’ve reviewed here, although it still takes some time to go through.

Rochlin set himself a grand goal, but his subject matter is a bit broad for one book. Although he does try to steer entrepreneurs (and IT buyers) away from proprietary solutions and cautions that first-mover advantage is over-hyped, he ends up only touching on the myriad issues technology companies have to deal with in finding and defining markets. His even-handed approach, pointing out risks and benefits, often comes down to “know your market, know your customer, know your competitors.”

Readers hoping for one book to explain everything a technology company needs to know are expecting a lot. This book is a good start, but don’t give up on the rest of the texts on your shelf.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer. Former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, Howard has written for several of ITWC's sister publications, including Before arriving at ITWC he served as a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times.
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