It only takes one.


This morning, while at a café having a meeting, I witnessed how one person could literally bring a system to a halt.


This is a traffic example, but I believe the analogy is directly applicable to organisations, projects and innovations.


To paint the scene, the traffic was flowing in both directions. Every individual was playing their part, being an active part of the system, following the rules (both formal and informal).

Then one car decided to buck this system, attempting to turn across traffic where they shouldn’t. In doing this they effectively blocked the lane behind them…. Then having successfully done this, they repeated the feat with another act of stupidity on another lane (stopping in the middle of the road to chat to someone on the curb.


The affect of this one individuals actions was to stop all progress for a period of time.  This resulted in a backlog in other parts of the system, who all reacted in the same way … impatient outrage, followed by creative attempts to make up time achieve their goals… which further stressed the system.


People who know me well will attest to the fact that I dislike superfluous or meaningless process. But process is a key lever in organisational output, you need it


 As a manager, part of your job is to challenge bad process, but also to adhere to the good ones.  


So,  who within your team is the “one” holding up everything thing behind them and what are you doing to remove the obstacles they have created?

Ok, So what do I think the future of cloud computing looks like?


My last post on what I thought the future of cloud computing looked like didn’t evoke the commentary or debate I had hoped… one of the problems with blogging I guess.


In that post I asserted that the similar industries had already given us clues as to what the future of cloud computing looked like.


“.. [look for] historical likeness, where have you seen this pattern before?  Rail, roading, electricity, shipping, telecommunications, the internet, grocery stores, banking (particular the US)…”


So ignoring the twists and turns of industries that represent them making their way, what did I mean when I think they show us the future?


They all show similarities (at the highest levels).


Examining the history of rail, banking and telecommunications , they all adhere to similar phases.


  • The fragmented start up – where early investors see the opportunity and build out an offering usually in one geography (ie county or state).  The most important thing to note, is that this pattern re-occurred in every nation. So not only multiple national hubs occurred, but every nation had hubs


  • Arrival of standards – users demand saw players interconnect because there was more value in this than just one provider – rail it was gauge, telecommunications IP, banking networks…


  • Emergence of dominant players – these systems all benefit from scale, so natural competitive forces lead to large players winning and small players loosing


  • Monopolistic threat or behaviours naturally occur after or during the dominance


  • Government intervention and regulation – to appease the consumer but also to control a strategic asset. These systems became so important that control became inevitable…


So what does this mean for cloud? I think we will see a similar pattern.


  • The Fragmented start up – CHECK

  • Arrival of standards – well people are calling for it and there are some

  • Emergence of dominant players – CHECK, I predict a lot more M&A activity in the near future . This will mean that all the mainstream cloud (is there such a thing?) being done by a small group of core providers with all the cool, innovative stuff begind done by small outfits and happening at the periphery,  
  • …who do I think will be the core providers?  SFDC, EMC/ VMWare, Cisco, Amazon, IBM…I’m struggling to see MS making it “you cannot disrupt yourself” according to the innovators solution


  • Governmental intervention – well that’s either inevitable or being asked for already


The bit that isn’t being seen yet but I believe will come is regionalisation. But when governments realise that cloud ‘could’ mean that a lot of IT jobs are threatened, eventually they will get to the conclusion that local clouds will give them most of the outcomes and retain employment…. and that will drive regionalisation.  I will probably by couched under some moniker like data sovereignty, but that will be the most important reason….


So there you go, that’s what I think the future of cloud computing looks like…

Cloud computing’s future lies in our past

Stand by, this post is a bit whimsical…


There is a great debate happening on Yammer in our company.  It all started with me posting the RWW survey about private and public clouds. For the technorati this is multidimensional, highly contentious issue

So far we’ve had arguments about:

  • How the economics will win out and everything will be public
  • How, in a philanthropic sense, cheap computing is a good thing and we should all benefit from it.
  • How what is good for end users, isn’t always good for us
  • How risk of public clouds will outweigh benefits so private will dominate


You get the idea..


Now, I’m unashamedly am a high level guy. Mark Suster’s great post on top down thinking kind of sums me up. Except I kind of apply some additional rules…


  1. The path of least resistance will always prevail
  2. There is nothing new under the sun (or history repeats – what ever rings your bell)


Sounds lazy, but it’s a good framework… I also try really hard to remember rule 3


  1. One day you will be surprised and rule 2 won’t hold..


Sorry, digressing. The point of this is cloud computings future is kind of predictable.


Try to look at cloud computing from the top down…have a go at removing any philosophy bias. Really let go of the technology  (technology X and mash up Y and shiny factor Z) actually don’t matter…they are just turns on the journey.


Now look for historical likeness, where have you seen this pattern before? 


Rail, roading, electricity, shipping, telecommunications, the internet, grocery stores, banking (particular the US)…


Now what do you see…

Is a matrix structure the enemy of innovation?


Clayton Christensen first highlighted the role of middle managers as innovation killers in the Innovators dilemma.  He did it gain with Michael Overdorf in their great paper called “Meeting the Challenge of Disruptive Change”.  The basic premise is that middle managers don’t back truly disruptive innovation ideas because they are either seen as a large career risk, or they have such uncertain (and usually) smaller returns compared to the incumbent model that the idea is deemed ‘ not worth it’.


This is a phenomenon I've seen in action, so its fair to say i’m a believer… But i’d like to add to it.


Middle managers, by default exist in large organisations. Small companies don’t need them…. And almost without exception, large organisations operate using a matrix structure. I think that Matrix structures are also one of the big inhibitors of innovation…. Why??


Well think about it, by definition in a matrix structure, you might end up with 5-10 managers around who are all peers! They are equal, and because of this everyone thinks they have a say…It is actually much worse in some instances. If these peers don’t like the decisions the majority make, they will re-litigate or actively torpedo initiatives.   Unless you make the conscious decision to allocate a leader, they matrix actively democratises decisions….


In my humble opinion, this democratising affect essentially takes the ‘middle management innovation killing phenomenon’ and multiplies the by number of peers around the table…