Monday May 12, 2008

We're all off to sunny Spain!

I am off to Barcelona to represent Sun at Gartner's Spring ITexpo in Barcelona. Given Barcelona's historic role as the centre of the world's ever largest Anarchist party, I wonder if the presentation "The future of Government is No Government" is knowledgeable irony, or ignorant co-incidence.

I remarked the other day that Terminal One at Heathrow is a much better place for BA having left it, however, they still use it for their Iberia ticket shares (as well as some other european ticket share flights.) So...hoorah, two hours late taking off, one hour late landing, hmm... don't tell me the airlines over estimate their journey times to allow them some leeway on the compulsory compensations they need to pay. We were told that the replacement co-pilot had been delayed arriving at the plane; there wern't enough buses. Meanwhile in Barcelona, despite the long walk to pick up my baggage, I was off the airport estate in 25 minutes, and checked into the hotel 15 minutes later.

Tuesday May 22, 2007

New Business Models for the Particpation Age

Today, Don Tapscott, author of "Wikinomics" presented a keynote about how mass-collaboration is changing the way that value is created in the world economy. This stems from both software functionality and network economies of scale. Obviously the enablement of new forms of economic co-operation is also a factor at continuing to drive specialisation. Tapscott quotes Carr's "IT does matter" and mentions that he has often debated with him, which is hard because Carr is good, but he (Tapscott) says "I have an advatage in this debate, he's wrong". The last three days has made me question about how one can innovate in corporate IT.

He told a story about being on TV, "Surfing the Net" and his kids cut him down to size by suggesting it was on par with surfing the TV or fridge. "I'm browsing the fridge for content!". (I thought this was really funny, but my kids tell me its not!) Amongst the younger generation, time online is at the expense of TV, and online activity is today a more creative & participatory act than watching TV, going to the Movies or a Play, or using the early web. The drive to participation makes all content collaborative and he has banned the term "web site" due to the owning author implications.

He then examined what Google, Ebay and Amazon really are, and argued that they are digitial conglomerates. Google sells ads, which makes it a media company, but its also a retailer, broker and bank. "This is not a bubble!". The creation and existence of new-age conglomerates, requires the examination of why a firm exists. Classically, its about transaction costs and the benefits of specialisation. As people cease to be labour in a knowldege economy and accounting costs drop to zero, the costs of doing business across the corporate firewall drop and business have created extended enterprises and latterly business webs. The next transformation will be mass collaboration and peer-production. (Interestingly, Tapscott quoted a mutual fund example of a folksonomy based co-operative, but I didn't write it down. Can any readers add those they know as comments?)

He summarised his presentation with an examination of the seven new business models he's identified as enabling in the new world of mass collaborations and pointing to his use of a Wiki to develop the ideas, much to the chagrin of his publishers, who are trying to work out how and if they can publish a volume two. They shouldn't worry, I certainly intend to check out the wiki and probably get the book.

This article was written over time from contemporaneous notes and back dated to near the time of occurance.

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More Futurology, Gartner's "Emerging Trends"

I am in Barcelona, attending Gartner's European Symposium and Expo. They have two of these each year and the spring event is positioned as broader and more forward looking. It was opened by a tour de force from Peter Cole, (CEO) and six of their top researchers. Later discussions brought home to me that one needs to be very carefull when listening to clever people, as sometimes one (i.e. I ) can assume that they mean the same things as yourself, this isn't always so.

I do wonder however whether their Macro-economic analysis is based too strongly on financial volume and on their boundary definition of IT. Just because our children don't see what they do as using IT, doesn't mean that it is not IT.

Another key insight I obtained here, is that there is a debate between those who think that IT as an industry is entering a maturity stage and those who don't. I should really have known this. Some IT companies are (very successfully) betting their future on the first view. I believe that because IT is dependent on software, which is not constrained by the laws of physics, it will continue to evolve rapidly and that its evolution will remain a source of value and wealth creation in the developed world for a while to come. This means that IT and most importantly, company's software portfolios will remain a source of differentiation and competitive advantage. Another point made to me is that peer based collaboration or community development may inhibit, ignore or exclude the genius that provokes radical change. It's an interesting point of view and one that community wranglers may need to think about.

A fair amount of time has been spent talking about "Green IT". Gartner's late arrival to this issue can be forgiven due the bravery of launching thier programmes in the USA, where they may be able to begin to remove the partisanship from the issue. 

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