Software is eating the world
, and this is causing tensions in very real ways
. Many companies are getting disrupted by companies that base their competitive advantage on software, replacing the "old school" way of delivering services with newer, faster, more efficient solutions. As today's events in Paris make abundantly clear, this shift is bound to generate tensions and cause turmoil for many industries in the foreseeable future.
Back in the mid-1990s, I did a lot of web work for traditional media. That often meant figuring out what the client was already doing on the web, and how it was going, so I’d find the techies in the company, and ask them what they were doing, and how it was going. Then I’d tell management what I’d learned. This always struck me as a waste of my time and their money; I was like an overpaid bike messenger, moving information from one part of the firm to another. I didn’t understand the job I was doing until one meeting at a magazine company.
The thing that made this meeting unusual was that one of their programmers had been invited to attend, so management could outline their web strategy to him. After the executives thanked me for explaining what I’d learned from log files given me by their own employees just days before, the programmer leaned forward and said “You know, we have all that information downstairs, but nobody’s ever asked us for it.”
I remember thinking “Oh, finally!” I figured the executives would be relieved this information was in-house, delighted that their own people were on it, maybe even mad at me for charging an exorbitant markup on local knowledge. Then I saw the look on their faces as they considered the programmer’s offer. The look wasn’t delight, or even relief, but contempt. The situation suddenly came clear: I was getting paid to save management from the distasteful act of listening to their own employees.
I see this type of reactions all the time when I suggest people I know to go work in IT. The first fundamental shift that is needed has to take place at the perception level. Working in IT needs to be seen as cool and transformative. Understanding the ins and outs of tech choices should be a badge of honor, not a mark of shame for "business" people. I am sure there are plenty of counter-examples to my observations, both in France and abroad. However, the trend is clear.
Established companies need to truly believe in IT if they are to reap the benefits of the technological revolution the world is going through.
That, or they'll be left throwing eggs at newcomers speeding past them.