The Microsoft experience hasn't been overwhelming so far but that's for another post. Right now, I want to talk about some of the fundamental differences between IBM and Microsoft’s attempts to conquer the social business market.
...and what better way to tell it than an allegorical tale?
Two housesSo let's assume that instead of cloud collaboration platforms, we're talking about “houses”.
Both fulfill the same basic functions; being a "house" for your data and a place where the people that live there (and invited guests) can access that data.
The real difference is in the way that the two companies have gone about preparing their homes.
The Engineer's House
One company, let's call them the engineers, have focused on infrastructure. They've added rooms, strengthened foundations and rewired the building. Sure, not everything works and they're forever fixing things but it's a pretty capable house with lots and lots of rooms.
Unfortunately, while the foundations are excellent, the general look of the house leaves a lot to be desired. It's not comfortable to live in because there's been very little work on the visible parts of the house.
The Designer House
The other house is being built by designers. They've found a nice “square tile” theme to go with and they've been spreading it to every room.
Living in this house is easy and comfortable. Once you get used to the look, it's pretty easy to get around.
Of course, there's not enough bedrooms for everyone and there are plenty of things that look like doors but turn out to be just paintings of doors in places where future rooms might one day be.
Two Different ApproachesThese two approaches are both valid in today's software world. After all, nobody can build everything at once.
Modern software operates on the principle of partial deployment followed by constant incremental upgrades (thanks for that Google!!)
It's now considered okay to ship incomplete and/or buggy software and keep patching and upgrading it as you find time to work on it.
The question is, if your software is going to be incomplete, what bits would you prefer to be incomplete (and constantly changing)? The foundations or the user interface?
IT and Shadow IT.In our house analogy, the IT department are like the surveyors who go into the house and hammer at the walls testing the strength of the house. They also have to test the appliances to determine what works and what doesn't.
Most IT departments are trained to see the big picture, so they'll especially be looking out for stability, versatility, security and recovery. Usability is important too but it's traditionally an area where IT, partly because it's staffed by techies, tends to be less diligent.
Shadow IT are the other departments who want to make IT decisions without involving the proper IT resources. Shadow IT aren’t qualified and they aren't experienced in these matters. As a result, they are more concerned with appearances and apparent functionality than they are with safety, security and stability.
It's fine to let shadow IT help look for new systems but it's important to make sure that no major business decisions are made without proper qualified IT involvement. The best houses are not always the prettiest ones.