2012 – the subjective view

So as to redress the balance, alongside the stats and facts approach, I thought it worth a little time for some slightly more subjective opinions to tell my story of 2012.

It’s undoubtedly been a year of change. On January 1st I had a team of over a dozen people, a focus on marketing to developers, and still a strong line from corporate HQ that the things that people most wanted to talk about (Windows 8) were largely to be kept under lock and key. By the end of the year I’m a team of one (or, in Microsoft parlance, an “individual contributor”), am marketing marketing to marketers, and am generally trying to find ways to talk about the things that we want to talk about.

It’s been quite a year of change for my employer too: the latter part of 2012 has seen significant new product releases in just about every area, and more interestingly some more significant changes to the business models that underpin the organisation as we move into a world branded as “devices and services”. The launch of Surface in itself is potentially as big a change to Microsoft as the release of Windows 8 itself. Where will this all lead – well, you might already know my views on predicting the future.

As the year comes to a close, there are a few themes that I’ll be taking into 2013…

Are Marketing Agencies the new Systems Integrators?

The agency world is providing more software than ever before – although the underlying campaign approach that underpins much of what goes on means that we are (I believe) seeing a rapid mushrooming of point solutions, where concepts of architecture and service delivery kind of fall by the wayside.

There’s a great deal of technical debt being built up at the moment, but I see huge opportunities for agencies who are able to understand a longer sustainability view for their clients in integrating robust services and exciting, engaging, useful apps and other layers around them for their clients’ customers.

The other area of opportunity that I see for companies that make their business from selling communication and change is in helping catalyse change wthin organisations. In a world of commoditised software-as-services, effective people, culture and behavioural change becomes everything, and maybe there is an opportunity as a result for agencies to move into this space (at a time when big SIs seem to be trying to move into traditional marketing).

If the CMO will be spending more on tech than the CIO by 2017, will they just have become really bad CIOs?

Stepping on from the Gartner commentary at the beginning of the year about CMO spending on technology (see my take here) and the fact that so much “marketing” spend on tech can be very tactical, what can the discipline learn from 60 years of IT making varying levels of success in managing technology? (The answer, I realise, might be “not much”).

Is social business just a big sticking plaster over organisation models that don’t work in the contemporary world?

I’ve been having a few conversations recently with a start up who have developed new services to help source and find talent within organisations. It strikes me that as the boundaries of the organisation become increasingly complex and blurred, and (particularly “Knowledge”) workers increase their autonomy, that intra-organisational social networking services might be nothing but a sticking plaster over a more fundamental challenge facing big companies – that they’ve changed but their management models haven’t kept pace at all.

Don’t get me wrong- there’s plenty of money to be made from selling sticking plasters (just ask Elastoplast) – but that they will be short-lived fixes rather than addressing root causes of challenges.

How do big organisations innovate? Do big organisations, by their nature, mitigate against innovation?

A subject that we are going to be examining in much more detail at an event being organised in conjunction with Microsoft Research and Microsoft Consulting early next year… It seems particularly topical as “innovation” and Labs and the like are on the lips of many in the corporate world today.

How do we improve the good rather than obsess about providing solutions to problems?

This one has been coming back to me again and again in the past few weeks: it’s easy to engage people when you have a solution to a problem, but if you only ever focus on problems then you’re neglecting to improve the good stuff. This leads to the crazy world so often seen where reward is given to fire fighting activities that result from the neglect of things that should have been given more attention in the first place…

This is important because problem/solution underpins so much traditional IT thinking, but the world we are now in is no longer just like that. As I keep asking people, for what “problem” was the iPad designed as a solution?

Anyway – there you have it. All of this whilst also trying to get people adopting our devices and services in the short term. Always up for a challenge, me!

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