Machiavelli's approach to the 'new' IT

Summary:I'm indebted to David Chassels of Procession for this quote from Niccolo Machiavelli:Nothing is more difficult than to introduce a new order, because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the newAnd so it is in today's software market. Organizations have spent many years and billions of dollars investing in IT, often with success that takes years to realize and then bam!

I'm indebted to David Chassels of Procession for this quote from Niccolo Machiavelli:

Nothing is more difficult than to introduce a new order, because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new

And so it is in today's software market. Organizations have spent many years and billions of dollars investing in IT, often with success that takes years to realize and then bam! Along comes social computing and companies like Salesforce.com and Workday attempting to up end the MISO (Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Oracle) gravy train. The reaction?

Large company business leaders seem more conservative than ever. Jason Corsello reports that up to 50 percent of employees are being blocked from using Facebook. In email, David expresses some of the challenges he faces with a different approach to business systems and in particular the challenge from IT professionals:

They don't really understand how people work, they puzzle at business logic that is not wrapped in "technology" (the latest SOA drive a classic example), they have the power base in the business that we threaten and as for allowing users to change a process - not on my watch! Some are even shocked a business analyst could build and even to the point one analysts in a big EU bank was firmly told where her best interest lie - with "IT" not the business!!! Yes that's reality and "disruptive" technology has enemies! How many CXOs or CFO have been prepared to stand up to IT?

A good question and one that helps feed and inform incumbent vendor approaches to the market. Hype and obfuscation continue apace laced with a 'pot, kettle, black' mentality. During Salesforce.com's last earnings call, Marc Benioff responded to claims by Oracle:

In regard to the question about ADP, Oracle cited on their earnings call that they had acquired ADP as an on-demand CRM customer, which surprised us. It also surprised the President of ADP when I called him to ask him about that. It turns out that they bought a company in Atlanta, Georgia called Sterling Tax or something like this that had 10 users, I don't know what the exact number is, but some low number. They felt that was material enough to put it on their earnings call. I think that's evidence of where Oracle is in on-demand CRM.

Most recently, Oracle's president Charles Phillips made claims I consider 'outrageous.' Fellow Irregulars Anshu Sharma and Josh Greenbaum take a more measured view:

The only really outrageous statement comes in the first graf: We're not trying to preserve something from the 1970s like SAP is. As a company, we were in infrastructure first, then we moved into applications.

Correction: SAP is not preserving anything from the 70s (except some of its founders, who ARE relatively well-preserved. And Oracle was NOT an infrastructure company first: they started in database, moved to applications (in 89) and then went into infrastructure.

There is still an emphasis on appealing to IT that MISO loves. It plays to what they know and helps to stoke the maintenance fee fire. My sense is that much of the posturing I observe is designed to maintain that position. But when a business person can easily create their own applications through mashups, or can discover information they didn't know about through the use of social software then where does that leave Big IT?

As we move towards a different world, I suspect the giants of today will face awkward questions. Why does it cost so much to keep the lights on or process a transaction when real value is being found at pennies cost? I know the answer - complexity. My response: you built it, you fix it, look elsewhere if you have to. In the meantime while not entirely eschewing caution, I'd always recommend that claims are tested.

Topics: Oracle, SAP

About

Dennis Howlett has been providing comment and analysis on enterprise software since 1991 in a variety of European trade and professional journals including CFO Magazine, The Economist and Information Week. Today, apart from being a full time blogger on innovation for professional services organisations, he is a founding member of Enterpri... Full Bio

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