Bill Gates' Legacy: Constructive Monopolism

Bill_gates_time_magazine_cover_apri Quickly: Gates's monopolistic business practices created a significant benefit for technology users -- a set of standards that greatly streamlined communications and work.

I've grown up with and lived with Bill Gates as the most influential technology leader of the era. Even though he has been slowly backing out of Microsoft for the last five years, his actual July 1, 2008 departure from the company is a milestone worth reflecting on.

What is his single most important legacy? The ability, through monopolistic business practices, to make Microsoft's products global, de facto standards for business and consumers. This created a standard ecosystem of documents, spreadsheets, printer drivers, programs, browsers, and operating systems which enabled people to communicate in a single "language" -- greatly easing the inherent limitations of computer systems.

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British Airways' CIO

Paul_coby_of_baI'm at Forrester's IT Forum EMEA, being held in Lisbon. Over 600 CIOs, enterprise architects, application developers, infrastructure and operations professionals are here -- and lot of great content.

Just got out of session with Paul Coby, CIO of British Airways. Here are some quotes/ideas from Paul that caught my ear:

"There are no such things as IT projects -- there are only business projects."

"SAP is the highest cause of fatalities among CIOs."

"BA as a company apologizes for the problems that we may have caused many of you traveling through Terminal 5 (T5) at Heathrow -- but things are definitely improving."

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What CEOs want

Quickly: IT/BT executives should ensure that their goals align with the CEO's.

Forrester's IT Forum was in Las Vegas last week. Great time, with over 1,500 clients and sponsors on-site. Highlights for me were John Chambers of Cisco jumping off the stage into the audience to sell his vision and an amazingly elegant dinner for over 1,000 at the very cool Tao Club in the Venetian.

I kicked off the proceedings with a ten minute talk entitled "CEO Success Imperatives." Whenever I meet with a CEO I ask a simple question: "What do you, as the CEO, have to do to be successful?" Here are the seven themes that emerged from my CEO research:

1) Getting, keeping, building the best people. "I hire 15 people every hour. I want the best."
2) Engendering collaboration. "If HP could only harness the knowledge of HP."
3) Reaching global markets
4) Increasing profit. "HP makes $12 million per hour but spends $11 million per hour. I want to change that proportion."
5) Building a positive culture. "I want a company culture that is viewed positively from the inside and from the outside."
6) Customers, customers, customers
7) Driving innovation. "I want to figure out how to break linearity."

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Fading broadcasters

Tim_robbins_2Quickly: The Internet will squeeze broadcasters into a slim niche.

I've often wondered whatever happened to two parts of public discourse: 1) eloquent speeches, and 2) truth-telling. I have been helping my son study American history and the other night we read two famous statements from the debates surrounding the 1850 Compromise: John C. Calhoun's defense of the South and Daniel Webster's response. Both men spoke in passionate but reasoned phrases -- one threatening secession, the other advocating union. Marvelous reading.

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Reforming Microsoft

Microsoft_logo_2  Quickly: It's good for Microsoft that it didn't buy Yahoo -- now it has to reform itself.

Steve Ballmer unintentionally dodged a bullet today when the Yahoo/Microsoft deal collapsed. Yahoo + Microsoft would have been a disaster -- the best and the brightest from Yahoo would have gone to Google, the culture clash would have been destructive, it would have put Microsoft back in the sights of the regulators. And Yahoo wouldn't have helped Microsoft with its biggest task at hand -- adapting to the emerging executable Internet software model.

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A favorite book: The Logic of Failure

The_logic_of_failure_2If you're in the business of running a company, a large team, an acquisition, or a data center, check out this book. The full title is: The Logic of Failure: Recognizing and Avoiding Error in Complex Situations. It's written by the German psychologist Dietrich Dorner.

The thesis: "...we have been turned loose in the industrial age equipped with the brain of prehistoric times." Simply stated, most human beings are terrible at managing complex systems. Dorner's students run a model of a small fictitious African village -- changing variables like cattle stocks, food stores, arable land. Invariably the students kill off the entire "population" through their miss-planning

As it turns out, good managers of complex systems showed common approaches:

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Confessions of a two month CEO blogger

At the Forrester Marketing Forum in LA, held on April 8-9, I gave a short presentation on my first two months of blogging. Many of the marketing executives in attendance are urging their CEOs to blog -- I thought my early impressions might prepare them for CEO reactions. Here goes:

Number One: "No one is reading my blog -- my out-sized ego can't take it." Prepare your CEO for a slow audience build.

Number Two: "Once a week? I'm too busy trying to run the company to do this." Yes, one post a week may only take a few hours -- but "...getting into the conversation" -- reading and commenting at other blogs -- what all experienced bloggers urge you to do, will double the time required.

Number Three: "The technology sucks." Blogging technology is shockingly crude. Get ready to give your CEO tech support -- even around the fundamentals like getting a picture into a post.

Number Four: "I'm not getting anything back." This is the corrollary to Number One. I often feel like I'm on a one-way phone conversation -- I talk, but there's no one listening. I lust for value-filled comments that will improve and drive my ideas. With time, they will come.

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The China Bubble

Chineseflag Quickly:  Conventional wisdom glosses over China's limitations and problems.

Roger Cohen's starry-eyed China tribute in the New York Times is emblematic of the runaway euphoria surrounding that emerging economy. Threat to America…threat to Asia…ready to overtake Europe in the next 10 years…exploding – the gold rush place to be...450 million cell phones…becoming highly creative and innovative…the new model…the future.

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Not an IT/BT recession

Img_0773 I was at a Forrester event on Wednesday with 50 $1B+ CIOs and Enterprise Architects. When I asked the group whether they thought we were in a recession, three fifth's said "yes." Then I asked whether they thought their tech budgets would be cut this year-- one fourth said "yes." And one smart ass CIO said, "Hey my budget always gets cut -- nothing will be different about this year."

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Advertising's Limits

Quickly:  Advertising's limitations will put a lid on the "free" economy.

Chris Anderson's article in the latest issue of Wired claims that Web economics will drive almost all content to be "free," funded by advertising, cross-subsidies, etc. While this is an obvious conclusion given Google's run, advertising has its limits:

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