A system of record is a core system that an organization uses to run its business, such as finance applications or email provision. While a system of record is vital to the operations of the company, it provides no competitive advantage. Systems of record are classically Mode 1. These projects tend to be more knowable both in clear outcomes and clear approaches to achieving these outcomes, which ultimately amounts to doing the process as well as any competitor. Once this is achieved, there is little incentive to improve further or change the process unless conditions or regulations change.
Systems of differentiation are generally Mode 2 projects, because their value resides in providing capabilities that competitors don’t have. Since the nature of competition is that competitors will copy successful innovations, these capabilities need to constantly improve. The project will likely have a long-term goal that is achieved through several iterative steps that build on one another as success is demonstrated. The exploratory nature of Mode 2 projects is important to their long-term success.
A system of innovation is essentially an experiment. It needs a Mode 2 approach because it is a brand-new idea and there is no established way to plan the details of what will be done.
Here’s the slides for the talk I gave this morning on lessons learned from working on a DevOps product in a large company, that is, Crowbar in Dell.
Sometimes it seems like It’s near impossible to get anything innovative, interesting done in a large company – it’s as if BigCos are goaled to prevent just that. While you can’t type a URL without hearing how a Ramen-fueled startup got ground breaking product out the door, you rarely hear about how the other side of the exit lives in Large Company Land. This talk will use the story of Crowbar at Dell to grope out how to get good things done in big technology companies, esp. when it comes to something as BigCo esoteric as DevOps!
I’m amazed when I find a skunk-worked project that’s blossomed into a valuable, strategic asset for a company. In the case of Dell and Crowbar, it’s even more astonishing: Dell has traditionally been a stone-cold hardware company focused on shipping more boxes each quarter, Crowbar is an open source piece of software whose business model depends on the nuanced dynamics of open platforms strategy. You’d never think these two things would go together. And yet, Crowbar exists and has had amazing success (both externally and internally) in an extremely short time. With the access I have to the “real story,” being at Dell now after six years at RedMonk covering tech from the outside, I’ll go over lessons learned on getting DevOps and a DevOps product through the Brazil-like pneumatic tubes of a $62.1B company.