The announcement yesterday that Google and PWC are to join forces to deliver the Google for Work services delivers another plank in a strategy that seems to be turning Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma on its head.

In Christensen’s oft-cited model, technology providers are often unable to respond to competitive threats because of the need to serve the desires of their existing customers. A disruptive technology emerges in a parallel market, and then eats into the existing market later because of this customer-focused inertia.

Having entered into the consumer market with a disruptive set of products, Google has spent a number of years now trying to get companies to move to new models for software delivery and collaborative opportunity. To do this, Google seem to be working on a path to feature match things that will enable their offer to satisfy traditional IT, particularly in the areas of security and control. Essentially putting constraints on its innovation to appeal to a set of customers it’s trying to attract. (As an aside, the point this started was when labels became pseudo-folders in Gmail, leaving a solution that now makes no logical sense at all, but ticks a box on an IT procurement check list).

It’s been interesting to watch how Microsoft products have become distinctly more like the Google offer in recent years, whilst much of the Google innovation has been at the back end to offer administrative control and function that makes their product more “traditional”. The deal with a big consulting form like PWC is another step in that latter direction. “So safe your accountant uses it” is hardly a statement of innovative zeal…

Google for Work has been one of a number of products that has made Cloud commodity software acceptable, if not in many cases inevitable, as a technical model for delivery. It remains to be seen whether the constraints of traditional IT thinking will reduce our opportunity to really innovate with those platforms…

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