Solving the conundrums of our father’s strategies

So here we are, as of this writing a good twenty-nine years after the “hatchet job,” and Kodak has declared bankruptcy. The once-humming factories are literally being blown up, and the company’s brand, which Interbrand had valued at $14.8 billion in 2001, fell off its list of the top one hundred brands in 2008, with a value of only $3.3 billion. 6 It really bothered me that the future was so visible in 1980 at Kodak, and yet the will to do anything about it did not seem to be there. I asked Gunther recently why, when he saw the shifts coming so clearly, he did not battle harder to convince the company to take more forceful action. He looked at me with some surprise. “He asked me my opinion,” he said, “and I gave it to him. What he did beyond that point was up to him.” Which is entirely characteristic of scientists like Gunther. They may see the future clearly, but are often not interested in or empowered to lead the charge for change. Why do I know this story so well? He happens to be my father. —The End of Competitive Advantage, Rita McGrath.

You don’t get a sudden, personal turn like that in business books much. It evoked one of the latent ideas in my head: much of my interest in “business” and “strategy” comes from dad’s all too typical career at IBM in the 80s and 90s.

Sometime in the early 80s – or even late 70s? – my dad started working at IBM in Austin on the factory floor, printed circuit boards I believe. He’d tell me that he’d work the late shift, third shift and at 6am in the morning, stop by 7-11 with his buddies to get a six pack and wait in the parking lot of the Poodle Dog bar for it to open at 8.

He moved up to management, and eventually into planning and forecasting. All for hardware. I remember he got really excited in the late 80s when he got a plotter at home so he could work on foils, that is, transparencies. We call these “slides” now: you can still get a that battlefield-twinkle out of old IBM’ers eyes if you say “foils.”

Eventually, he lived the dictum of “I’ve Been Moved” and went up to the research triangle for a few years, right before IBM divested of his part of the company selling it to Multek (at least he got to return to Austin).

As you can guess, his job changed from a long-term one where his company had baseball fields and family fun days (where we have an outdoor mall, The Domain now) to the usual transient, productivity harvesting job. He moved over to Polycom eventually where he spent the rest of his career helping manage planning and shipping, on late night phone calls to Thailand manufacturers.

In addition to always having computers around – IBM PCs of course! – there was always this thing of how a large tech company evolves and operates. At the time, I don’t think I paid much attention to it, but it’s a handy reference now that I spend most of my time focused on the business of tech.

Our audience is not shooting up in the closet – Software Defined Talk #51

Summary

After discussing strategies for avoiding Christmas gift giving disasters, we talk about containers in the enterprise, the conglomerate theory for mature tech companies, open source business models, and Nirvana conspiracy theory movies to avoid.

Listen above, subscribe to the feed, or download the MP3 directly.

With Brandon Whichard, Matt Ray, and Coté.

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Show notes

  • If you like video, see this episodes’ video recording.
  • Dell reported numbers: “Dell’s revenue declined by 6% year-over-year to $14 billion in its quarter ended in July.” – so, $56bn run rate. Also: “During Dell’s fiscal 2015, the company’s operating profit totaled $3.2 billion excluding charges. In 2013, that figure was $4 billion.”
  • Yahoo spends $7 Million on Christmas party.
  • The Oncoming Train of Enterprise Container Deployments
    “Enterprise adoption merely amplifies, by virtue of scale, the effects of anti-patterns in any technology, and containers are no exception.” – “Now you’re responsible for all of Linux again even though you’re running one process in it.”
  • Also from Julian, the problems with infinite vacation.
  • Open Source, not just Software is eating the world – You make money in open source by selling closed source: “The OSS companies that will be pillars of IT in the future are the companies that leverage a successful OSS project for sales, marketing, and engineering prioritization but have a product and business strategy that includes some proprietary enhancements.” – Good commentary on how an OSS model helps with sales & marketing productivity, i.e., makes sales and marketing cheaper to execute because you outsource that to developers. Cf. Godin’s Unhelpful Law of Marketing: great products don’t need marketing.

BONUS LINKS! Not covered in epiosde.

Recommendations

Link: Billionaire CEO and investor Marc Benioff says unicorn startups manipulated private markets and he’s done investing in them

“The unicorn thing, I’ve been saying for a while now, is not great,” Benioff told Stephanie Ruhle on Bloomberg GO earlier this week. “The reason why it’s not great is not necessarily that these companies are not worth this much money or whatever — we don’t actually know because they’ve manipulated the private markets to achieve these valuations.”

“There is no reason why these companies who claim to be worth billions of dollars and making billions of dollars to stay private,” he continued. “They need to get out on the market, run their companies with the right level of governance, and let the market rationalize these valuations.”

“Being a public company is good. It forces us to make sure we keep the cadence…we have to keep our eye on the ball,” Benioff said. “The unicorn mania that’s going on, that’s dangerous for our Silicon Valley economy.”

Hey, he’s got all sorts of biases where this view favors him and Salesforce…but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong-think.

Source: Billionaire CEO and investor Marc Benioff says unicorn startups manipulated private markets and he’s done investing in them

Link: Internet of Things Spending Forecast to Reach Nearly $1.3 Trillion in 2019 Led by Widespread Initiatives

“According to a new IDC Spending Guide, worldwide spending on the Internet of Things (IoT) will grow at a 17.0% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from $698.6 billion in 2015 to nearly $1.3 trillion in 2019.”

I think IoT is becoming mor like IoEverything.

Source: Internet of Things Spending Forecast to Reach Nearly $1.3 Trillion in 2019 Led by Widespread Initiatives