Back in June, I was interviewed by Peter High of Metis Strategy about IT where I work.  The resulting interview was posted this week on the Metis site as a podcast. It was also posted on the Forbes property here.

Take a look or listen. And I recommend you follow Peter’s other interviews. Fun experience.

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Built to Last

Events around me have caused me to be thinking about how an organization can thrive across long periods of time. Not just points in time, but across decades. How does an organization continue to move forward into the future, accomplishing its mission without getting distracted, lost or even disappearing?

There are so many examples of really great companies that just went away. Kodak and Polaroid are examples of well respected companies that were at the top of their game at one point and now they are gone. The same happens with non-profits, churches, organizations, etc.

Jim Collins wrote the book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (Harper Business Essentials) which tells the story of companies that have lasted a long time and seemed to prosper over the years. I’ve not read the book but I might. I did scan the Blinkist post on that book and it doesn’t quite seem to hit what I’m looking for right now. The summary does state that these organizations seem to have a higher purpose and that they relentlessly pursue progress.

It seems to me that it is about the people. The leadership and the culture.

I’ve seen companies and organizations lose their way and it is heart breaking. It seems that it is due to the people more than external factors.

How do you build an organization that moves forward successfully across decades of time pursuing worthy goals?

Your thoughts are welcome.

Look for the Broken

A case in point. I bought a new car this weekend. Talk about a process this is broken, awful, sad, wasteful, slow, inefficient, irritating, and ripe for a re-imagining (can anyone say Tesla?).

They have millions of dollars of inventory sitting out in the sun, snow, sleet, hail, rain just sitting.

You have to play a game with them to agree on a price. You know that whatever price they quote you is not the real price. They might tell you that you are getting a discount for some reason, but they can likely make that back up somewhere else with another variable (trade-in).

They low ball you on trade-in and act like they will have a hard time with that model, feature, color, type, etc. When you already know the trade-in value from looking it up online.

You agree on a price, but then there is another $199 in documentation fees.

If you decide you are going to leave, the manager needs to meet you and wants to know what he can do.

If you accept a deal, then you spend another hour doing paperwork. In our case, they had information from a prior car we had bought at the dealer that was wrong (address, email and phone) and no matter how many times we corrected it, the wrong data continued to show up on forms. They loaded a new email address into a system but they loaded it incorrectly and there is no way to edit it. The business manager lacks the mileage on our trade-in so she runs out to get it and it takes her 20 minutes while we sit waiting.

Throughout the whole process they keep telling us to rate them a 10 on the survey.

If Tesla, Uber, Airbnb and others can overcome entry barriers, they will crush these business models.

Look for the broken. And here is an article about doing it inside your own operations.


Getting Better?

I usually don’t pay much attention to IT futurists who like to tell us how IT will look in a few years. I mostly think those articles are written by people who are looking to increase their following or subscribers and are not likely based on real insights. One group I followed years ago wrote about Future IT and while some of the points where great, I thought others were absurd.

But, as I think about IT and where it is going, I think corporate IT is getting smarter and has more options than it has had in the past.

  • We can host applications internally or in public clouds or in a blend.
  • We can use open source solutions for some parts of the stack.
  • We can virtualize services and avoid more and more hardware.
  • We can use SaS solutions in some cases.
  • We can outsource parts of our service in areas where we don’t want to operate.

And we have new IT visibility tools that can give us deeper insights into our own operations than ever before. ServiceNow, Apptio, and xMatters give us more options than ever before.

I’m not sure we are getting smarter and I’m not sure if we are getting more respect from our business partners, but I do think we have more options than ever before.

What do you think?

Hardware Foundation Behind Everything

There is an article on HBR called “Does Hardware Even Matter Anymore?” which discusses product development and how new systems/solutions/apps are all software related. It reminded me of 2013 blog post entitled, “Don’t call it ‘the cloud’. Call it ‘someone else’s computer.‘”

I get the abstraction idea in the first article and firms like Google and deliver amazing capabilities where the hardware is hidden behind the scenes. However, don’t forget that all these amazing systems/solutions/apps are running on hardware behind the scenes (or in your hand). Companies like Google and lull you into thinking they are software companies, but don’t forget that they are huge hardware companies with data centers located somewhere. Systems/solutions/apps are running on your smartphone (hardware) and then likely connected to some ‘cloud’ systems running on Amazon’s cloud or another ‘cloud’ somewhere else in the world (more hardware).

Servers, storage, networking and related are the backbone behind all these things.

There is hardware somewhere in the stack.