Posted by Tom Foremski - July 27, 2005
I'm in Hotel Monaco, chatting with uber Silicon Valley consultant Geoffrey Moore, (Crossing the Chasm, etc), John Gallant editorial director of Network World, and Bob Angus, president of A&R Partners.
They are preparing for the Vortex conference in San Francisco in October, and a Churchill Club event this Wednesday evening: Creating Competitive Advantage Through Information Technology.
We're talking about the IT enterprise market, a topic that is very dull because nothing much is going on. But Mr Gallant and Mr Moore are determined to get the market moving and make enterprise IT interesting again.
"The IT market is mired in a morass and that needs to change. At the Vortex conference we will be bringing the main constituents together, the vendors and the customers. It will be a frank exchange of ideas," Mr Gallant promised, and no PowerPoints allowed. Tough questions and one-on-one interviews, and large amounts of audience participation are also promised.
Mr Moore will keynote Vortex and talk about core versus context, a concept he expands in his forthcoming book out in January, "Dealing with Darwin."
I'm a huge fan of Mr Moore's work and his thinking and ideas have made an enormous impact on how businesses understand themselves.
"My clients often don't have the time to reflect on their business, they are distracted by making the quarter's numbers, and daily operations. I get to reflect on their business and think about their IT strategy and what is core IT to their business." Mr Moore said.
Stuck in a Sargasso sea of morass
The trouble is that enterprises often aren't able to think about how to use IT strategically, because they are stuck dealing with a huge amount of complexity. Mergers and older IT architectures such as client/server, have created layers and islands of IT systems within corporations. Most of it can't be junked but must be made to work together, a long, tedious process.
"The last things CIOs want is somebody trying to sell them more IT because the integration challenge outweighs the ROI," says Mr Moore.
Yet the IT vendors such as HP, IBM, EMC, etc talk about adaptive computing, utility computing, virtualisation, etc. "Companies are telling the vendors, 'we don't understand how adding another layer of complexity will help us,'" says Mr Gallant.
Flogging a flagging horse
So, how do you jump start the enterprise market when dealing with legacy IT is such a massive burden?
I wish them the best of luck in their goal it is not a job I would like to do, but, then again, I don't have an attachment to the subject matter. Mr Gallant's Network World publication is aimed at enterprise IT users. And Mr Moore has his book publishing empire and his Chasm Group consulting firm, firmly focused on advising on IT strategy.
I think they have a long, hard slog ahead because:
-Maintenance spending is rising, there is less money for new technologies.
(See SVW "There's lots of gold in maintenance deals...Accenture study")
-The IT enterprise market sectors are controlled by one or two large players which discourages innovation and new products. (see SVW "Giant sucking sounds.")
-There is too much FUD in IT markets such as security, which lengthens buy cycles. (See SVW, "FUD in IT markets..."
-And the enterprise market will dwindle further because many of the enterprises themselves, will become extinct. They will suffocate under the load of legacy IT systems and other legacy factors. What I call the New Rules Enterprise will emerge. (See SVW,"These are the new dotcoms...and they will eat lunch this time around."
I think that the conversation has moved on, what will distinguish companies is their strategy around business process innovation. A corporation's IT strategy is not core, it is context, it is determined by the meta level strategy, imho.
Also, IT strategy can be duplicated, business process innovation is harder to duplicate. Look at iPod, for example.
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[More on this topic in Thoughtleader Thursday...]