Machiavelli's approach to the 'new' IT

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!

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TOPICS: Oracle, SAP
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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

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

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4 comments
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  • Facebook, et. al.

    I think a large corporation would be extremely negligent if it failed to block open, internet-based social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, et. al.

    That says nothing about the corporate value, pro or con, about social applications. It also says nothing about SaaS. Businesses need a strong awareness of what their employees are doing in the name of the business, and need to build sufficient fences to keep them from doing damage. A business can be held responsible for a what an employee does in the course of his employment, even if the employer did not approve of the action. There's also the strong potential for leaking sensitive data.
    Erik Engbrecht
    • Risks and benefits

      If the potential to misuse controls all decisions, then tools will be strictly limited. That's as bad as preventing users from making their own improvements in the tools available.

      I'll assert the problem is the competition for control itself. The statement of a general rule instead of case by case risk/benefit shows authority.
      Anton Philidor
    • Really?

      Isn't that why the likes of Sun, Microsoft et al have blog policies? When I read them, they're little more than codified common sense. Let's face it, if you've got moles, spies or people who are disgruntled in the camp, then something, somewhere is going to leak out. Whether that's loose lips in the bar or on a Facebook profile update is neither here nor there. Blanket bans are plain stupid and bound to raise the hackles. IMO.
      dahowlett@...
      • Not just leaks...

        It's kind of like taking your employees into a seedy night-club where you've reserved a nice, quiet area above the seedy part and expecting that the two won't intermix. So one minute you have

        Blogs are different. I'm pretty sure all company-sponsored blogs are monitored and sometimes pre-reviewed. Personal blogs are not maintained in the course of employment. Also, blogs tend to be mostly one-way.

        Not to mention that you would be relying on Facebook security and privacy policies. You also get rather ambiguous situations that could turn nasty if users don't know what they're doing.

        http://blogs.zdnet.com/Howell/?p=169

        So why incure all this risk when you could deploy something inside your own firewall or in a more sanitary traditional SaaS environment that caters solely to the enterprise market?
        Erik Engbrecht