IT Week analysis
How rock solid is ITs status quo?


IT Week analysis

In the same way that Detroit no longer dominates car making, Silicon
Valley may be losing its grip on IT, says Lem Bingley.

There was plenty of food for thought in the recent Radio 4 obituary for
Alistair Cooke. The veteran broadcaster delivered his Letter from
almost every week for 58 years, prior to his death in March.

Cookes mammoth run began in March 1946 and represented a slight cost overrun
for the BBC, given that the strictly limited budget on which the
programme was first commissioned was sufficient for only 26 weeks.

Even a short run was welcome at the time. Cooke had first pitched his idea to
the BBC in 1939, and the initial reaction was not positive.

assistant director of programme planning wrote a memo to the director,
saying, “Whilst I think there is need for the USA to understand the
British, and indeed European situation, I do not feel there is an
equivalent need for us to understand the American point of view.”

The Second World War intervened to dramatically change the way the world
viewed the US.

Today, the pompous arrogance displayed by the BBCs
scheduler appears laughable, but it made sense at the time. The
underlying notion that relative standings are impervious to change is
common enough today. Just look at the car business.

Given that
the British carmaking industry is now a cottage one, its easy to forget
that elsewhere huge power bases are still in the process of crumbling in
the face of newer challengers, once disregarded as weak and irrelevant.
And this time its the US that will have to stomach humble pie.

Angus MacKenzie, editor of Car magazine, wrote in January this
year: “Oh how we laughed at the Japanese.We laughed at their legions of
earnest engineers.We laughed at their boring little cars with their fake
wood dashes and polyester-trouser styling.Well, we can all stop laughing
now, because

Toyota has elbowed aside Ford to become the worlds
second largest car maker.Overtaking General Motors, the worlds number
one since the 1920s, now seems merely a matter of time.”

For the
IT manager the parallels, I hope, should be clear. It would be foolish
to assume that Microsoft, BT, Cisco or Google will continue to dominate
their respective markets.And it would be wise not to assume that Silicon
Valley will remain a long-term engine of change in IT.

On a wider
scale it is no doubt wrong to assume that the highlyskilled workforce in
India will forever remain willing to mop up low-value call centre and
codecrunching work. It is almost certainly wrong to assume that China
will remain largely irrelevant to businesses in the UK. And it is
equally naive to assume that the 10 new EU member states will settle for
second-class citizenship.

In short, it would be a grave mistake
to assume that tomorrow will greatly resemble today. Naturally, it is
easy to feel that such notions dont merit thinking about when an IT
department needs running. But that idea is the most wrong-headed of all.

After all, the BBC knew Cookes broadcasts wouldnt last longer than half a
year.And 1970s mainframe programmers knew that their work couldnt
possibly be left running until 2000. It seems to me, therefore, that the
only way to plan for the future is to prepare to be proven wildly

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