Do Enterprise IT Customers Respect Technology Tradition?

In a July 10, 2014 memo to all employees at Microsoft, Satya Nadella, CEO repeated a position statement he originally voiced on his first day on the job as CEO. This statement positions “tradition” vs. “innovation” for the ISV business: ” . . . our industry does not respect tradition – it only respects innovation.”

At least three questions can be posed based on Nadella’s statement:

  1. Is it safe for anyone interpreting Nadella’s remarks to consider enterprise business customers part of the industry to which he refers?
  2. If this industry only respects “innovation”, how do we account for the perennial success management consulting firms like IBM, McKinsey, Booz Allen, CSC, HP, etc have enjoyed leveraging the famous “3F” rhetorical argument (“Feel, Felt, Found”) as they have pursued opportunities to collaborate with their customers?
  3. How does a very large business, staffed with a high proportion of personnel with a deep background in technology management consulting, implement Nadella’s position statement as an operative principal?

1) Should we consider enterprise business customers part of the industry to which Nadella is referring?

In this writer’s opinion the answer is “no.” Enterprise business customers have a long history of retarding the pace at which they have implemented technology. Perhaps this slow pace is less a matter of respecting “tradition” than it is a matter of operating within the boundaries of a sound risk management policy.

2) What about “Feel, Felt, Found” and the long track record of success of IBM, CSC, the “big 5”, etc satisfying enterprise business appetite for IT project management, and more?

Despite a recent critique of “Feel, Felt, Found” by some of the leading theorists in enterprise technology sales (principally Jeff Thull), this rhetorical argument still provides an important component for what this writer argues are most of the awards enterprise business makes for IT projects.

A recent, highly publicized award by the U. S. Federal CIA to Amazon, and not to IBM, for a private cloud can be cited as an example of a change in direction on this long standing policy. But, this award looks more like an outlier, and not the starting point of a trend with any real momentum behind it.

If we are an ISV implementing a policy of producing innovation, even at the cost of breaking with tradition, then what kind of staff do we need to succeed?

As written elsewhere in this blog, this writer holds the opinion marketing and sales personnel tasked with producing revenue from an enterprise business market will likely succeed if they can demonstrate a thorough understanding of the complex process large organizations must, and do, implement when they face a need to implement computer technology products, services, and even integrated solutions. This understanding, necessarily, must include an awareness of why, a good part of the time, it will not make sense for enterprise business customers to implement innovation, despite conflicts with a sound policy of respecting risk management (synonymous with tradition).

So, in order to achieve an objective of producing a lot of innovation, even at the expense of tradition, a different type of background will likely be required of personnel, if they are to succeed.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

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