Ubiquitous IT: The case of the Boeing 787 and implications for strategic IT
Richard L. Nolan
Management and Organization, Emeritus Foster School of Business, University of Washington, Box 353226, Seattle, WA 98195-3226, United States
William Barclay Harding Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus Harvard Business School, Boston, MA 02163, United States
Available online 30 January 2012
Case-based research was conducted on strategy and IT evolution in the Boeing Company.
Results showed IT investment in the 20th century supported an increasingly decentralized
hierarchical functional corporate organization structure, and shifted during the early dec-
ades of the 21st century toward an IT-enabled global network organization structure. IT
investment context changed from an inward focus to an outward, IT-ecosystem focus. IT
had penetrated every facet of the corporation creating IT ubiquity. But while IT was every-
where, IT strategic leadership remained fragmented and nowhere. Further research is
required to deﬁne strategic IT leadership and its locus in the modern corporation.
Ó 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
IT is now everywhere, critically essential and plays multiple roles in the strategies and operations of every successful
company. Global IT has enabled information on most everything to ﬂow most everywhere at stealth speeds. Simply stated,
IT is ubiquitous, does matter; and matters a lot.
Boeing’s bold 21st century strategy (i.e., 2016) has put the company back on the road to reasserting its 20th century aero-
space industry leader status recently lost to competitor Airbus. But partially due to diffused strategic IT leadership, Boeing’s
road back has been plagued with long and expensive new commercial airplane delivery delays challenging Boeing’s healthy
balance sheet, and moving the 787 new airplane program proﬁtability out more than a decade from plan. The case of the
Boeing 787 is important to CEO’s, CIO’s, and IT academics alike.
Ubiquitous IT begs a key research question: Has IT reached a point whereby its role in the corporation is clariﬁed, and can
be effectively organized for and managed? If in fact so, I argue that relevant research on strategic IT must be broaden to a
more gestaltism approach similar to the Boeing 787 case. A corollary research question then is: What is effective IT leader-
ship for 21st century corporations?
As the Boeing 787 case study illustrates, strategic IT has shifted from IT systems to an IT ordering and integration – that is,
an IT architecture, of ubiquitous IT enabling and facilitating the creation of bold corporate strategies and operations. Exam-
ples of strategic IT architectures include smart phones (Apple’s closed IT architecture for its iPhone, Goggle’s open IT archi-
tecture for Droid phones, and Microsoft’s IT architecture for its Mango phone); salesforce.com Internet-based IT architecture
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Address: Management and Organization, Emeritus Foster School of Business, University of Washington, Box 353226, Seattle, WA 98195-3226, United
E-mail addresses: Rnolan2@u.washington.edu, email@example.com
Journal of Strategic Information Systems 21 (2012) 91–102
Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect
Journal of Strategic Information Systems
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jsis