Evangelos “Evan” Katsamakas, Ph.D., associate professor and area chair of information systems at the Schools of Business, advises a pragmatic approach to the digital revolution.
With the buzz term “disruption” being bandied about by digital technology enthusiasts, “maybe moderation and finding the golden ratio would be better,” says Katsamakas. Technological advances, he says, create complexity that should be understood before being marketed to the extreme.
“There’s much more hype being created over new trends, but instead of cheerleaders we need thought leaders who can think in a deep way about the challenges and the risks being created,” he said.
Katsamakas, who received his master’s degree at the London School of Economics and his doctorate at New York University, does research into the impact of technology on business and economics. From digital strategies to network and platform strategies to open sourcing, he incorporates game theory modeling and econometrics to analyze the digitization of business.
His work has contributed to the understanding of platform design and competition and the growth of open sourcing. He has also researched the economics of e-books and the shift of industry competition from the level of individual firms, to the networks (or ecosystems) of firms. A recent study, which analyzes competition among firm networks invested in non-contractibles (such as innovation or information-sharing)—will be published later this year.
Tech complexity interests him, whether it’s through current trends like big data, social technologies, cloud computing, or mobile technology. But it’s how the trends interact with business that remains his primary focus. Katsamakas has developed a novel research stream on the dynamic complexity of digital business and the digital economy. He also co-organized a conference on the dynamics of information systems (IS) and edited a journal on that emerging theme that combines complexity and IS.
Just as healthcare and education need tech specialists that understand their “language,” so too does business. “Everywhere you need these people who are the bridges that connect interdisciplinary knowledge,” he said. “We teach our students what a business analyst, a marketer, or an economist needs so they can go in and translate expertise into designed systems.”
Katsamakas said the world is quickly being transformed into a “techno-physical” space where change operates under Moore’s law—named for Intel co-founder Gordon Moore. Moore posited that the processing power of technology doubles every 18 months. In essence, Katsamakas is preparing his students to adapt alongside the phenomenal speed of ever-progressing processors.
“We wake up every morning and fight to keep up with this law, it’s a constant challenge,” he said. “But for people who are interested, it’s very exciting. And for people who can’t keep up with this rate of change, it’s going to be a big issue.”
While Katsamakas appreciates the rate and effects of technological change, and even embraces the term “disruption,” he said that not every problem comes with a tech solution. Everything from earthquakes to political instability can lead to a critical failure.
Human foibles can also lead to critical failure, as it did in 2008 financial crisis. But Katsamakas noted that the crisis inadvertently created a boon for the city’s tech sector when the Bloomberg administration encouraged diversification of the economy so that the city would not be too reliant on finance. He said that while the financial sector still plays a huge role, the tech sector has been able to grow exponentially.
In his capacity as associate director of the Center for Digital Transformation, last fall he helped co-organize the GBA-sponsored conference titled “The ‘New’ New York City Economy: Growing and Leveraging Tech Disruption.” He said that while Silicon Valley may still develop the core technologies, New York City is the place where applications, users, and tech converge.
“If you want to change media by developing new technologies, there’s value when you are close to the media center of the world,” he said. “In New York the future is great. As the world is more globalized and interdependent it will remain a hub, especially as cities play a more central role.”
In a nod to older media, he said he still likes the look and feel of a printed newspaper, and not just for nostalgic reasons: printed text allows one to internalize information differently. In the same manner, he said, as technology begins to pull the world into uncharted territories where countries become more interdependent and global supply lines become streamlined, both human nature and Mother Nature will remain constant factors.
“You have to keep in mind what your roots are and what your values are,” he said. “These things never change what it is to be a human being, so we must consider the values of the civilization we live in.”