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The use of information and information technology (IIT) as a strategic tool to gain competitive advantage has become increasingly significant in recent years. Numerous examples of how firms are using IIT to improve their competitive positions are highlighted in both popular and academic literature. Although the potential competitive benefits of IIT are generally recognized by business and I/S executives, there is a great gap between recognizing such value and applying the technology effectively. To help bridge this gap, a group at the IBM Los Angeles Scientific Center has developed a knowledge-based system facilitator, called S*P*A*R*K. The system is designed to help business and I/S managers identify competitive applications of IIT to help them be creative in generating a range of IIT alternatives. This paper provides an overview of S*P*A*R*K, including the conceptual frameworks used for knowledge sources, the design philosophy, functions, and implementation approaches. Examples from a database of competitive applications of IIT are also presented to provide a flavor of the S*P*A*R*K facilitative processes.
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