Managing IT: Changing Our Minds (About Everything)

As a raft of new technologies emerge, fresh approaches to IT management are more important than ever.
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We need to change our minds about everything.

Quick: check on the ages of those in the cockpits of your companies. How many are over the age of fifty? How many are older than 60?

For every senior technology executive over the age of sixty, add 100 points; for every one between the ages of fifty and sixty add 50 points. If you hit 1,000 points, you are absolutely, positively doomed.

If you hit 500 points you will die a slow death (until the senior executives themselves die, whichever comes first). If you’re under 50 points, you can stop reading this column (though keep your eye on that fifty-something executive who might be plotting a slow-down).

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I am over fifty years of age – though not yet sixty. But, you see, I no longer run a technology organization: I outsourced myself to the consulting and teaching pasture where I can do relatively little damage. I’m also free from the inertia of the permanent rock formations that govern many large enterprise technology organizations.)

Here’s the deal. The world has changed – forever. First, hierarchical management structures will weaken as we continue to globally decentralize our business units. We have to change the way we think about control, standardization and the overall governance we bring to technology acquisition, deployment and support.

This will be hard because many of us fantasize our roles as technology -Nazis screaming things like “no changes for you – one year!” Some of us have really enjoyed saying “no” to the business. This will end (or those of us that say “no” will “end”). Technology enables the business – not the other way around.

If we haven’t changed our minds about this fundamental principle then we’re in big trouble. Glass houses are morphing into clouds.

We need to change our minds about the safety we find in established vendors and their products. Yes, Microsoft, Oracle and IBM make good stuff but so do Salesforce, Redhat and JackBe. We don’t need to buy everything veteran vendors sell just because they’ve been around forever and we know we can explain Microsoft, Oracle and IBM to confused business executives and boards of directors. It’s time to try some new providers, some new products and some new acquisition models.

Open source is here to stay. Even the established vendors have “embraced” open standards. They have no choice. Do you? Yes, you can stay with proprietary software and pay the price or migrate to a hybrid software architecture that blends the best of both worlds. Who knows where all this will lead, but it’s time to begin the migration toward openness and the freedom to express yourself. Symphony versus MS Office versus OpenOffice versus StarOffice? Yes.

Of course we’ll all be renting hardware and software. Have you changed your mind yet about hardware- and software-as-a-service (HaaS/SaaS)? Have you spent any time in the clouds?

Speaking at Oracle Openworld Larry Ellison said:

“The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women's fashion. Maybe I'm an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It's complete gibberish. It's insane. When is this idiocy going to stop? We'll make cloud computing announcements. I'm not going to fight this thing. But I don't understand what we would do differently in the light of cloud."

That’s at least 50 points. I thought he was younger than that. Cloud computing is not about how many servers or software applications you can rent, it’s about shifting the locus of computing and communications technology outside the corporate firewall, redefining core competencies and elevating vendor management to a real discipline.

We need to change how we think about cloud computing from an incremental shift in technology offerings to a whole new way of acquiring, delivering and supporting digital technology. I am glad that Larry does not plan to fight “this thing.”

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Tags: open source, Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, Larry Ellison

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