Emerging Modern IT Force
These are some rough, non-distilled thoughts around the concept of an emerging modern IT force. This is a continuation of a prior post, but the genesis of my thoughts reach further back to a breakfast on December 11, 2009 with Charles Gave. It was at this breakfast I was introduced to their idea around the model portfolio company. In December 2009, the equity markets were well off their lows and we had endured only the first round of QE from the Federal Reserve. From my memory, the model portfolio company looked like a company that had strong brand awareness, with a strong balance sheet, essentially self funded with no reliance on government or public sector funding, it developed their product set (i.e. intellectual property) in the US, manufactured overseas in low cost centers and was able to optimize their tax burdens by collecting and retaining cash in overseas markets. There was a back and forth discussion on corporate tax laws, where a company should be domiciled, where it should develop IP to best be legally protected and what the modern construct of the corporation would look like in the coming years.
Off and on over the past four years I have thought about this conversation. My career in technology has taught me to think in terms of technology shifts, upgrade cycles, Moore’s law, crossing chasms and adoption hype cycles. This is all well and good, but is it still relevant? I spend most of day job talking to IT practitioners about networking technology; building new networks, connecting more things, doing more for less. It is only recently I started asking people why do they want a new network, what do they want do with it and what are the goals? If you think about IT as three elements: compute, storage and the network, the network is fabric that ties it all together. Note to self, remember Isenberg “Design-by-assumption works as long as assumptions hold. Assumptions are shortcuts to useful efficiencies, provided they are not violated.”
When I speak to customers building new IT ecosystems, I have begun to take note of the missing component of the conversation, which is why. To be fair, there is usually a why and it often involves a discourse around IT metrics, opex/capex, service delivery, compliance, the basic nuts and bolts (i.e. compute and storage) of IT. The why I am speaking about is the connection to the goals of the corporation and I and I am not referring to profitability, cost cutting, R&D, and EPS. These are all components of tactics, but they are not an element of strategy and extension of the power of the enterprise. Note to self, remember Isenberg “…my working hypothesis is that it will be based on intelligent end user devices, intelligent customers, employees whose intelligence is valued as a corporate asset, and companies that can learn.”
In the prior post I wrote:
The true IT revolution arrives when the power of the modern IT force is organized to be exploited with purpose as an instrument of the enterprise; which is the emerging the modern state and better addressed in separate post. As with the army of Charles VIII, this will require a new IT organization. I am not sure we can identify the new organization presently, but I think we will know it when we see it and I think we are in the composition process which will result in the creation of this modern IT force. I have drawn this supposition from observing. Observing the conversations, the discussions and engaging with the practitioners and leaders in the field.
I am thinking that organization of IT must go beyond the tactical elements, beyond the miry clay that we spend our days. I think we might look back on the Comcast/Netflix deal in ten think of this as the big-bang moment for networking. Note to self, remember Isenberg “a powerful leading indicator of the Stupid Network will arrive when entrepreneurs who have no vested interest in maintaining telephone company assumptions begin to offer profitable, affordable, widely available data services.”
Recently I have been reading Margret McMillan’s, The War that Ended Peace: The Road to 1914, I am not endorsing the book, but because I was reading it at the time that I was thinking about this post, I began to see some parallels. War came to Europe in 1914 for many reasons, but the all encompassing theme was because the leaders and people were willing to let go of the status quo, risk it all and play for a new alignment. Are we on the verge? Note to self, remember Isenberg “A rudimentary form of the Stupid Network – the Internet – is here today. The telephone companies are beginning to realize this. Fearing erosion of their control and, more importantly, their revenue stream, they have been quick to call for the banning of Internet Telephony, quick to call for the federal imposition of charges on Internet access, and slow to implement widely available, reasonably priced broadband services. This creates a chicken and egg problem – while the hungry wait for dinner and breakfast.”
A few years ago Clotaire Rapaille wrote a book called The Culture Code. This is not the first time I have referenced Rapaille in this blog. There are two elements of the book I wanted to highlight. (i) He claims that the American culture code for “work” classifies who you are. This is why we often ask strangers what they do when we meet for the first time in a social setting. We value careers, accomplishments and success, which is why (ii) money and wealth are proof points for careers, accomplishments and success. At higher level, this is how the enterprise, especially the American enterprise works as well. A business school student, much smarter than me, could write a paper that showed the health of corporate balance sheets from the late 70s and early 80s, to the balance sheets of today and the comparison would be startling. The health and power of the corporate balance sheet is vastly better than 30-35 years ago. At the height of the financial crisis, AIG, GM, Lehman Brothers, Bear-Stearns, WaMu, Countrywide, Fannie, Freddie all went under. It was speculated that GE came close as the commercial paper market dried up, but today I think we would be hard pressed to point out weak balance sheets of US corporations; we are in fact flush with cash and the best time to goto war is when the balance sheets are flush. In the age of activist funds, the coffers are full and the game is on. Note to self, remember Isenberg “the shift from scarcity to plenty is often the harbinger of new value propositions…As the Stupid Network arrives, as the business idea shifts from scarce physical infrastructure to something more knowledge based, company culture will need to adapt to the truth that…”