Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cloud computing's culture of discipline

Enterprise architects have led the way to successful business transformations. That was one of the key points delivered by MIT's Jeanne Ross in an interview she did with my one-time analyst colleague, Dana Gardner. Ross is the Director and Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Center for Information Systems Research where she "studies how firms develop competitive advantage through the implementation and reuse of digitized platforms." The interview is excerpted in Gardner's ZDNet blog, which also links to the full podcast and transcript.
What particularly struck me about the interview is that, although the "cloud" word was essentially nowhere to be found, a great deal of Ross' points echoed best practices that I'm seeing coming out of the first wave of private cloud deployments.
...the thing we’re learning about enterprise architecture is that there’s a cultural shift that takes place in an organization, when it commits to doing business in a new way, and that cultural shift starts with abandoning a culture of heroes and accepting a culture of discipline.
Nobody wants to get rid of the heroes in their company. Heroes are people who see a problem and solve it. But we do want to get past heroes sub-optimizing. What companies traditionally did before they started thinking about what architecture would mean, is they relied on individuals to do what seemed best and that clearly can sub-optimize in an environment that increasingly is global and requires things like a single face to the customer.
What we’re trying to do is adopt a culture of discipline, where there are certain things that people throughout an enterprise understand are the way things need to be done, so that we actually can operate as an enterprise, not as individuals all trying to do the best thing based on our own experience.
This philosophy is very much in line with the idea that a cloud moves beyond virtualization by shifting to a services-centric approach. This means offering a standardized catalog of services to users and controlling access to and deployment of those services through policy. In other words, it's about granting access to IT services within a framework of established, consistent policies. A "culture of discipline," if you would, rather than an ad hoc "culture of heroes." (I discuss more details of this shift in this CNET Blog Network post.)
What's worth noting about this culture of cloud computing in the context of cloud computing though is that it can really streamline the access to IT resources rather than the other way around. Yes, there are consistent controls and policies in place, but self-service access within that framework makes for more agility not less.
A discipline of culture doesn't need to mean a culture of "No." In fact, it can make saying "Yes" easier and faster.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Cloudy Chat podcast now live

After way too many detours and struggles with XML, my Cloudy Chat podcast is now live on iTunes. My current plan is to use this podcast primarily as a forum for 5 to 15 minute interviews on topics related to cloud computing. The initial episodes feature Red Hatters talking about a variety of topics. Have a listen. Suggestions for topics or improvements welcome.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

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Monday, January 23, 2012

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Friday, January 20, 2012

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Links for 01-17-2012

  • Goodnight, Television? | Techland | TIME.com - "We’re still some distance from a world where online streaming of content can truly challenge the dominance of television, but recent figures suggest that the number of households in the U.S. with at least one television actually fell in 2011. Are we finally seeing the long-awaited beginning of “cord-cutting”? And if so, what are people cutting their cords in favor of?"
  • Kodak and the Brutal Difficulty of Transformation - Scott Anthony - Harvard Business Review - "Kodak's struggles show how brutally hard it is to get transformation right. The company took aggressive action, became a viable player in the emerging disruptive space, invested in new growth businesses, but it just doesn't seem like it was enough."
  • Tech Industry Buys Itself a Mouthpiece - "How did Silicon Valleys bigwigs react when their favorite trade publication adopted strict new conflicts of interest policies? They banded together to pay someone else to cover them." << Ouch! (Though, however snarky, I don't really disagree.)
  • No Demand for Windows 8 Tablets? Or Don't Trust Predictive Surveys CIO.com - I agree with Rob here. No one really knows. My biggest question here is how many of the relevant players focus sufficiently on usage models--i.e. really understand and account for differences between tablets and PCs.
  • Twitter - Cool look at unit numbers in personal computing history

Monday, January 16, 2012

Why Fujifilm Survives (and Kodak May Not)

The Economist this week has a really good article about the diverging fortunes of Kodak and Fujifilm. The reasons given in the article are various although many of them can be summed up as poor execution and slowness to change on the part of Kodak.

It's not that Kodak didn't see change coming. For example, "Larry Matteson, a former Kodak executive who now teaches at the University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business, recalls writing a report in 1979 detailing, fairly accurately, how different parts of the market would switch from film to digital, starting with government reconnaissance, then professional photography and finally the mass market, all by 2010. He was only a few years out."

I encourage you to read the whole article, but I wanted to point out one particular contrast. It's interesting because it runs something counter to certain conventional Marketing 101 wisdom.

Kodak tried (unsuccessfully) to parlay its experience with chemicals into pharmaceuticals. However, its main thrust was ultimately to transition their analog film business directly into the digital domain. As the article notes, "George Fisher, who served as Kodak’s boss from 1993 until 1999, decided that its expertise lay not in chemicals but in imaging. He cranked out digital cameras and offered customers the ability to post and share pictures online." By contrast:

Fujifilm diversified more successfully. Film is a bit like skin: both contain collagen. Just as photos fade because of oxidation, cosmetics firms would like you to think that skin is preserved with anti-oxidants. In Fujifilm’s library of 200,000 chemical compounds, some 4,000 are related to anti-oxidants. So the company launched a line of cosmetics, called Astalift, which is sold in Asia and is being launched in Europe this year.

Fujifilm also sought new outlets for its expertise in film: for example, making optical films for LCD flat-panel screens. It has invested $4 billion in the business since 2000. And this has paid off. In one sort of film, to expand the LCD viewing angle, Fujifilm enjoys a 100% market share.

Kodak's execution may have been flawed but, in important respects, its strategy stemmed almost directly from Theodore Levitt's famous 1960 Harvard Business Review article, "Marketing Myopia." This article popularized the idea that companies should define themselves in terms of markets and customer needs, rather than products--such as thinking in terms of the "transportation" market rather than the "railroad" product. The idea is that companies doing so are better able to transition to new products and services as underlying technologies and environments change.

When Kodak decided it wasn't in the film business (a product) but in imaging (a broader customer need), it was following a well-worn strategic dictum.

While this can be a good approach, I've argued previously that it's often not. "Understanding of customers," or brand strength, or distribution channels can be less important than fundamental competitive advantages rooted in technology.


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Friday, January 13, 2012

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

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Monday, January 09, 2012

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Friday, January 06, 2012

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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

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