How companies achieve sustained competitive advantage has changed
There was a time when competitive advantage was primarily achieved through things like:
Whilst these are still important there are few industry sectors (if any) where these alone are sufficient to sustain competitive advantage. The globalization of markets and the accessibility of information means that competitors very quickly replicate improvements in these areas. Thus for most businesses the only lasting source of competitive advantage is pace of innovation- the speed at which they can improve their existing products and invent desirable new ones.
The outer space sector is a good example
In the 60’s space was predominantly the domain of nation states. The first Space Shuttle mission launched in 1977, flew 135 missions costing $196 billion, roughly $450m per mission. SpaceX founded in 2004 achieved its 100th space mission at around $150 million per launch and its 100th Falcon 9 workhorse rocket mission from as little as $62 million per launch in 2020.
Perhaps the software development industry should reflect on this
According to Elon Musk the dramatic improvement in speed of innovation in space flight can be put down to 4 key factors:
Aside from cheaper construction materials this is probably the blue print most software development programs would seek to adopt. This begs the question, if SpaceX can revolutionise rocket design by focusing on these factors, why can’t the software development industry make similar pace of innovation leaps in their industry, after all its not rocket science?