Inevitably, there is no enduring competitive advantage from technology. Today, 280,000 trucks in the industry use the satellite communication system first used at Schneider. Other firms will copy and improve what the leader initiates.
As the Schneider story indicates, however, investing in constant adaptation can move the technology forward in new ways. Firms that are close to their customers and marketplaces are more likely to have insights that lead to investments with high payoffs. And firms that have complementary investments in the broader network of skills, structure, and processes will likely achieve a kind of advantage that is hard to duplicate.
New technologies gave Schneider the chance to learn how to build a complementary web of activities that shows every sign of being lasting. This web is a complex network of factors—strategy and structure, process, people and culture–that must continually be balanced as the organization evolves to meet everchanging external pressures.
Figure 7.4 summarizes how Schneider made careful moves in strategy, technology, organizational structure, operational and management processes, and support for its people. The net result is an effective, growing organization whose customers and employees work together to thrive in a changing world.
Figure 7.4: Model of External Forces and Internal Organizational Dimensions at Schneider National
The ability to grow and evolve such an organization is rare, but we would submit that the ability to maintain this holistic balance will distinguish successful organizations in the decades ahead. One can certainly see in Schneider how technology was both an enabler and a creator in "digitalizing" the corporation. The genius of Don Schneider and his team, however, was to build the necessary related web of complementary dimensions that will let their creation evolve through time.