Friday Nov 10, 2006

Geeks & Suits

I made a video last week with Dan Berg and Chris Gerhard, where I played a fiercely independent investigative journalist, seeking the truth out of a corporate suit. (Yeah Right!) Chris and I did however ask Dan some questions about the re-invigorated talent management programmes (sic) that he is responsible for. To show inclusiveness, Chris and I both wore our normal clothes to work, so I dressed in a business suit and Chris was in an opensolaris T-Shirt. Geek & Suit!

Interestingly, the following day Management Today, published the highlights of a poll on the state of Business/IT alignment jointly funded by the Chartered Institute of Management and the BCS. This also suggests a them and us attitude still exists. The author, Rhymer Rigby suggests that the epitome of the split can be found in Douglas Coupland's latest book jPod, set in a Games Company where the marketing manager is at war with the development staff over their next best thing! This opposite position is counterposed by Nicholas Carr, who has turned his Harvard Business Review Article into a book called "Does IT  matter?". He of course has the view that it doesn't, so the suits will always despise the techies because they cost too much and do stuff that doesn't matter. Having started with a stupid and false polarity, a more careful reading of the results suggests that things are a bit more evenly balanced and that due to the increasing maturity of the IT world and its penetration into the schools and consumer leisure markets, together with increasing access to business education, the stovepipes are not as rigid as our fictional & polemic authors would have us believe. (Although in the UK, knowing something, and certainly being qualified in or about business is not necessarily a requirement for a business career.)

I need to see if the results are available with industry breakdowns. It is my view that the sedimentation process impacts IT investment strategies as does the competitive dynamic of industry. Fifteen years ago, manufacturing companies were buying and building "Just in Time" ERP systems. Today, they are only available as packages. Just in Time is not commodity, but the competitive baseline to play the game; the software functionality of ERP is no longer competitive advantage. There remains many businesses where they do compete through the ownership or onward rental of software and or by their ability to innovate and adapt. (I'm not really talking about ASP's here, but content providers.

None of these are commodity and the geeks are required to invent and sustain the software. The world is our future!  

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