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商社とITの正しい関係とは?(何か技術ネタが続いたのでビジネスマンっぽく)

P1020432ITそれ自体は商社にとってカネを稼ぐ道具ではない。
確かに、WWW黎明期にあっては、「インターネット」や「回線」そのものの数が少なく、「大容量回線」やトラフィックを制御する「ネットワーク機器」の価値が非常に高かった。斯かる時代にはインターネット先進国である米国からインターネット後進国の日本に「回線」や「機器」を紹介、導入することが商社の存在意義であった。

時代は移り、今やブロードバンドは社会インフラ、公共財にも似た性格を帯び始め、特にYahoo!BB登場以降は価格が劇的に下落した。これを「コモディティ化」(財やサービスが社会に広まるにつれ、規模の経済によりコストダウンが進むと同時に商品間の差別化が難しくなり、価格が下落すること)と言ってもよいかもしれないが、それよりもITがそうした宿命を負っていることが大きい。ITというのものは、そもそも人間の知的作業のうち単純化できる部分--繰り返し処理など--を効率的に代替させるために生まれたものであり、だからこそ人間の肉体作業を蒸気機関に代替させた「産業革命」を模して「IT革命」などと呼んだのである。よって、ITというものはROIをできる限り小さくすべく、ゼロコストに向かう存在なのだ。こうした時代には黎明期のような「回線」や「機器」は最早高付加価値を生まない。とは言うものの、残された道がないわけではなく、よりROI(Return On Investment)を高くする要素、例えば「安全性」や「信頼性」が提供されるのであれば付加価値を認められるだろう。しかし、市場は細分化されてしまっており、あくまでニッチな収益を得られるだけである。

また、ITの進化はより多くの人間の知的作業を侵食しつつある。Yahoo!Googleは「多くのWeb Siteの存在場所(URI)をチェックし、内容を(大まかにでも)理解し、目次をつけてデータベースに整理しておく」(平たく言えばネットサーフィンしてブックマークしておく)という知的作業を侵食した。Del.icio.usはてなブックマークは「他人がWeb Siteを調べた履歴をチェックし、自分の好みに近いものを抽出する」という知的作業を侵食した。これらはPCやサーバー、ソフトウェアやプログラミング技術の進化に因るところも大きいが、人間の知的作業の素因数分解が進んだ結果である。つまり、知的作業をAbstructに分解した結果、内容をSimplifyし、機械に任せてしまえることが判明したということだ。この動きが究極に進めば、最後には「どうして人は恋をするのか」みたいな最も素因数分解しづらい部分だけが残るだろう。いずれにせよ、Yahoo!やGoogleの偉大な点は、知的作業を分解して、機械にできるレベルにまで落とし込んだことである。そして、彼らの収益の源泉は所謂広告モデルだ。如何に彼らが高度な技術を持っていようと技術そのものは収益を生まず、ビジネスモデルが収益を生んでいるのである。同じことはAmazoneBay楽天にも言える。

さらに、我々の「知的だ」と思っている日常業務のほとんどは単純な繰り返し作業である。Pessimisticに考えれば、我々の仕事のほとんどはいつか機械に乗っ取られるということになるが、前向きに考えれば、我々は自分たちの作業を非常に低い労力で実現することができるようになったということだ。前述の「回線」や「機器」の低コスト化に加え、こうした技術アプローチの成果を活用することで、我々の生産効率、ROIを極限まで高くすることができるだろう。

結論として、商社とITの正しい関係とは、かつて黎明期にそうであったような、高いところから低いところに水を流すような作業ではない。勿論、その道がないわけではないが、上述の通りニッチな市場であり落差は非常に低い。それよりも商社の「知的作業」を素因数分解し、我々自身のROIを挙げるべくITを下僕として酷使する。これこそが今の時代の商社とITの正しい関係なのである。

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