Old/New and industrification of the IT industry

I was reminded by my one of contacts at IBM recently that the IBM i (formerly System i, before that eServer iSeries, originally AS400) was 25 years old last month. In computing terms that development longevity is definitely noteworthy, possibly unique?

Sold through reseller channels the AS400 found its mark in mainly small/medium businesses as a robust, packaged compute platform designed for running applications. Arguably a lovemark, it had a user community, an application portfolio and reseller channel that was the envy of the competition. In fact with over 2,500 ISV applications at launch one could also argue that it was the first app-oriented IT platform. Legend has it that customers have found systems holed up in rooms sealed for many years; unnoticed because it just ran – unattended!

The fact that this product (line) has withstood the test of time reminds us that IT isn’t merely about the shiny ‘new’. Betting ones business on new (IT) is a balance between new and expected changes in experience and performance, business value and supplier confidence (trust). That’s true whether it be a piece of software, some hardware or a mix of the two.

Many of us in the IT industry find it all too easy to suggest change. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an advocate of change. But change must be made in context, and with due diligence to effect on one’s business.

With an understanding that any IT investment must drive business value, most of the suppliers that I’ve worked with have ‘got it’. More than ever before they acknowledge that the industry knowledge and the experience that their sales channels have of their customers’ business and markets is a critical enabler to helping position and implement change at their clients.

Indeed most of those suppliers have or are currently implementing internal programs to ‘Industrify’ their businesses. Some refer to these as programs of ‘industries’, ‘verticals’ or even ‘experiences’, capitalising on the need to better empathise and engage with their clients. No matter what one calls these initiatives, at the end of the day it’s about changing behaviour and orienting the sales (and marketing and supporting) channels towards the needs of their customers.

Driving these programs forward, there’s one constant, and that is that ‘no one size fits all’. In the IT industry, each supplier needs to construct, present and enable their organisation and channels on messages, product configurations and services to suit their targeted domains. That’s no easy task given the breadth of some companies’ product portfolios and their spread of target markets.

I for one believe that the  ‘industrification’ of the IT industry adds tangible value to both customers and vendors. Not only does it focus suppliers on better business value for their customers, but also makes sales and service teams more cognisant of the ‘true’ value of their products and services.