Sunday, November 23, 2008

Power Laws

Ever wonder why some web sites or blogs or TV shows are more popular than others? Here's a good explanation on what is known as Power Laws: Clay Shirky on Power Laws

Hugh Macleod extrapolates these power laws to the world of the cloud and comes up with an interesting hypothesis. I don't agree with him. Of course I could be wrong but I can't believe one company could get to this position of ultimate power. Sounds a bit like a James Bond movie plot.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Cloud and Small to Medium sized businesses

Following on from a previous post (Why not use the cloud?), I have been talking to a number of people and organisations recently about the potential uptake by SME's (Small to Medium sized Enterprises) of Cloud Computing services and products.

There seems to be general agreement that the more services and products a company utilises from the Cloud the lower the cost of IT. What seems to be a bit uncertain are the adoption timelines, concerns over loss of control, security concerns and many other issues often come up. In most cases these seem to be put up as reasons not to embrace the cloud. In many cases this probably boils down to a fear of change and lack of knowledge about this new approach to IT delivery. These are similar anxieties to when the world started to switch from mainframes / mini computers to PC's. Fear of the unknown. Inability to understand this new emerging world. But we do know the benefits the companies who embraced that emerging world achieved. This time will be no different, just like every other major era in the evolution of the information technology business. The change is going to happen (is happening) and the only question is what you are going to do about it...

When you think about it, you would never dream of building your own power station for your company, just plug into the wall and get power on demand. Back at the beginning of the industrial revolution companies DID have to build their own power plants but over time the economic incentive to shift to the power grid was just too compelling and allowed for the creation of so many other complimentary products nobody could have conceived before (e.g. kitchen appliances, ubiquitous lighting etc). Basically everything changed with the power grid. A similar change is happening in the world of delivering technology services.

SME's probably have an advantage over their larger competitors this time around. The larger organisations have probably invested millions (maybe billions) over the years in proprietary systems and infrastructures. Are they going to throw this away and move everything to the Cloud - no. They will probably make the switch over many years. SME's usually don't have such extensive IT infrastructures or proprietary applications. For the more progressive SME's they can get a strategic advantage right now by starting the process of switching to the Cloud for IT service delivery.

The Cloud = lower costs + more flexibility + more automation + better service

Will the switchover be instant and pain free? Eh, no. Some services will be easier than others to switch over but SME's need to get started. I would argue that right now 80% of an organisations IT services could be delivered via the Cloud. It may not be as seamless as everybody would like but there are many companies working extremely hard to make things work better. There are also many companies sprouting up who can help guide you through this transition (including my own - ZeroTouch IT).

As an example, compare the ease of use and flexibility of access between your typical office e-mail application and your personal e-mail (which for most people is delivered via the cloud by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft etc). No comparison. Plus, you don't have to wait until you switch everything over before the benefits start to kick in.

So why wait? The end results are too compelling for most organisations (particularly SME's) to ignore but you need to make some changes. No changes, no results.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Induhviduals are great (for a laugh)

I think the Dilbert comic strip is brilliant. I'm not sure what that says about me. But there are SO many times I feel Scott Adams has bugged my office because it is right on the mark. I have worked for the pointy haired boss - several times!

I got the Dilbert newsletter the other day and the True Tales of Induhviduals made me laugh. Extract here:

Here are some true tales of people who put the duh in induhvidual.

I'm in the U.S. Virgin Islands (where they drive on the left side of the road) traveling on a small, open bus. One of the people in front of me remarks that the word "POLICE" is spelled backwards on the hood of the police car. After a lengthy discussion, they conclude that it's because they drive on the left side of the road.


I was getting gas at the pump when an elderly lady and her grandson drove up next to me in her car. Her grandson hopped out to pump the gas for her, and noticed that the pump was on the left side of the car, but the gas door was on the right. When he told her, she started the car back up, made a U-turn, and drove to the OTHER side of the pump, leaving her in the same situation she started with. When her grandson told her this, she started yelling at him, saying, "You said it was on the wrong side LAST time! Make up your mind!"


A friend moved to Albuquerque and his wife kept complaining about finding her way around the town. He told her to spot the Sandia Mountains and she'd know that would be east. She said, "That's fine, but where are the other directions?"


So my wife is trying to fax something to the Virginia Dept of Employment regarding an unemployment claim by a previous employee. She tries the fax over and over again, day and night. No luck. She calls to check to see if the fax number is wrong. The woman at the Dept of Employment who answered the phone asks "Is there paper in your fax? Our fax will not answer unless there is paper in your fax?" My wife questions her on that, and the woman insists that their fax "knows" if there is paper in the other fax. Needless to say, that was not the problem.


While trying to buy two bottles of wine in a supermarket I was asked, "Are you 21?" Trying to be funny, I said, "No, but my daughter is 22."

The checkout clerk replied "I'm not interested in how old your daughter is. Are you over 21?"

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Communities, Stars and dealing with "hit by a bus" scenarios

One of the more interesting concepts related to the Cluetrain inspired openness in community dialogue is that at their core they involve people talking to people. And, guess what? People move companies, they retire, they even get "hit by a bus" sometimes. A company embracing this level of openness needs to factor these changes into their community model.

The "hit by a bus" test really intrigues me in relation to these Cluetrain-type community engagements and I was reading a post by Rich Sands which got me thinking. I highly recommend reading Rich's full post and especially the comments. My comments are re-posted below.

One point Rich makes:
"...For those companies, having a community leader “hit by a bus” is no big deal - there are others ready and willing to take up the mantle of leadership. Those same stars, if given latitude while they’re with you, and treated with respect when they leave, may remain some of the most ardent advocates of your company and its products..."
I absolutely agree with the final point about the raving loony advocates. I've seen so many examples of this over the years.

I do feel that if the community leader gets "hit by a bus" that it won't be as simple as somebody else just easily slotting into their place. No matter what you do there will be a gap. We see it time and time again with sports teams where the star leaves and the replacement, although extremely talented and maybe even better than the original star, just doesn't make the immediate impact everybody would like. Things are different. It takes time for this new star to make an impact. It takes time for the team to adapt.

With community leaders who are the face of a company the same applies. There will be a loss. Things will be different. The organization can overcome it by not only having other "leaders ready to take up the mantle" but by having the progressive management relationships and support systems in place to adapt to this change. Remember: the only constant is change.

If you try to create a situation where these leaders can be seamlessly swapped in and out, it is no better than the bad old "command and control" world the Cluetrain railed against. Not only does the community interaction need to be an open and honest conversation, but so does the internal management approach.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama: Master of Relationships

Following on from my Business Relationships post on Monday I feel it is safe to say the world saw last night the culmination of 2 years of an amazing demonstration in building relationships. Obama and his team have shown supreme relationship building skills - they must have read the Cluetrain.

Let's hope he continues showing this level of leadership and relationship building for the next 4 years (at least).

Monday, November 3, 2008

Business Relationships

I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day who happens to work in the legal profession. I sparked an interesting discussion with him when I mentioned a piece I read by JP Rangaswami who made some really interesting points about reputations and relationships, including the difference between how they are perceived in the East and West. It triggered a great discussion.

As you may have gathered from my previous post on the Cluetrain, I am a big believer in fostering strong business relationships. This includes within a team and a company but especially with external suppliers and customers. I'm not talking about wishy washy relationships either or those biased in favor of one side but real ones where all parties can freely share information to enable positive results for all. True win-win. I'm not being all liberal and naive here either. I've seen this work with amazing results.

I was asking my friend about how often he saw really stupid legal trials where if only the protagonists really talked to each other it would get resolved a lot quicker and a lot more amicably. He said there were so many examples where cases ran on and on for no reason other than "ego" or misguided attempts at showing what they thought was strong leadership or trying to be "the alpha male" or just being nasty. In my own experience I've seen this so many times also with bosses, suppliers, colleagues, customers and many others. People adopt entrenched positions, they try to beat down suppliers rather than build strong relationships with them, managers "command and control" their teams rather than supporting them, colleagues "play politics" at others expense. The list goes on. I hate it.

JP's thoughts on reputations and relationships resonates with me because in my opinion it summarises very succinctly how business should be conducted.