Monday, April 23, 2012

Why Silicon Valley is bad for Enterprise IT

99% of IT is done outside of Silicon Valley in Enterprises.  I like the valley and San Francisco is my second favourite 'new' city (Sydney comes first, London, Rome and Paris remain... well London, Rome and Paris).  The problem is that 99% of the media about IT is about what happens in Silicon Valley.  This is the equivalent of all coverage of the global car market being about Ferrari.  Its not good for IT for a few reasons.

  1. A large proportion of Silicon Valley is hype over reality - remember Transmeta? A company whose coverage dwarfed that of ARM for several years, despite ARM clearly being better
  2. It focuses on the 'new' over the 'useful' - Lots of good stuff comes out of Silicon Valley but the focus is always on 'the next new thing' this leads to lots of new 'wheels' for IT but very little in terms of actual progress.  Is Enterprise IT better today than it was 10 years ago? 20 years ago?  Possibly a bit with things like Java, but the focus in Silicon Valley today is to INCREASE language fragmentation thus reducing the benefits.
  3. Its technology over practice - we've known for 40+ years that the real issue is in design, Silicon Valley focuses on the coding not the practice
  4. Its become a circle-jerk the tech media, tech companies and VCs all running around in their own little hype cycle un-encumbered by reality.
The impact is that even the older vendors in the valley tend to leap on bandwagons like a politician desperate for votes. So rather than fixing existing technologies or providing you with the minor enhancements you get a bunch of shiny new technologies that don't work terribly well to put on top of the  old pieces that have bugs they don't fix.

Lets be clear there are great things that come out of the valley and some real revolutions have been driven from there, but revolutions have happened in other places too, Waldorf, Cambridge (UK and MA), India, CERN and lots of others.  But what really hasn't happened, and Silicon Valley is the biggest criminal in this crime, is a focus on improving the 'dull' part of IT.  Project failure rates remain high, integration is still a technical job and data quality remains poor.

Unfortunately the current set-up is designed only to hype the new rather than improve the infrastructure of IT.  Now some could argue that this is a great example of where capitalism doesn't produce the greatest good for the greatest number as the current approach actually does very little to improve the lot of the majority in IT while enriching a small subset... but I wouldn't say that as capitalism remains the only system that actually works.

The question therefore is how can IT re-orient away from the valley and away from the hype.  I think the rise of India and China will be key to this.  China and India are focusing on 'being good' rather than 'being shiny'.  This focus on improvement and innovation for improvement rather than straight innovation for the brand new.  As these economies grow and their importance to IT grows maybe we'll see a shift in IT away from the new and shiny towards the actually improving.

Lets hope.

(please note in the above I exclude Apple as they appear to live in a bubble disconnected from the valley ;)

1 comment:

Bruce Kissinger said...

Excellent post - I agree completely.