Nick's Notes

Naked Emperors

In the Hans Christian Anderson story it was a small boy who told the truth as he saw it by proclaiming that the Emperor had no clothes on. Earlier in the story it was explained that only those fit for their position in life were able to see the clothes – which is why the Emperor and his courtiers went along with the con.

Having been invited for various and different reasons to muse on some of the many developments in IT recently I wish to regress to childhood and shout out from the rooftops that on occasion the Emperor has at best some pretty see-through clothing on.

“Private Cloud” comes to mind. That’s what we call a datacentre. All the same principles as a datacentre apply, but there is a layer imposed for fictional purposes that there are separate customers who can choose what to run on their private cloud. This is the most insidious sort of con, because it appears to give something (i.e. cloud = modern solution and implicitly better than those old datacentres) whilst actually doing the opposite (imposing additional costs apart from in very particular circumstances – your mileage may vary).

Then we have private apps stores. This is a portal (dangerously close to getting a shout itself) from which users in the organisation can install approved software. This is to fool people into thinking they have a choice as to which apps to run. They don’t. It’s just an attempt to return power to the centre, just like when the original PC entered the enterprise threatening the high priests of the mainframe, when peer to peer computing took root, and when ERP knocked the competitive stuffing out of all but the most rigidly process driven enterprises – who are now paying for that as we move to an era of customers wanting to drive their experience.

And then “security” deserves a whole book to itself. There is a lot self serving stuff rolled out in the name of security that can be used to stop absolutely anything interesting happening. Any free service can be made more expensive by people claiming to have the best interest of your enterprise at heart by factoring security in. Most of it is complete rubbish – security comes from understanding and acting safely not from expensive tools. Watch the toolmakers, they are not on your side.

The good news is that the IT industry is at a watershed. The genie cannot be put back into the bottle. Just like in Apple’s 1984 “big brother” advert, seen once during a Superbowl broadcast and millions of time on-line since, the people will be set free to use the most revolutionary, creative technology ever invented by mankind.

It is early days still and the question is are you helping to free people to use the technology for the benefit of their part of the business, or will you be swept away by the tide as freedom overwhelms control? It’s a really serious question for CIOs. And it needs answering with the naïve clarity of a young boy who didn’t have any need to keep up a pretense.

Share this page