The choice became readily apparent at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium last week when MIT Media Labs Chief Joichi Ito took the stage. According to Information Week, he exhorted the crowd to think about agility, not strategy. In other words, try something new. Just get it out there.
Nope, said the CIOs. We need to follow business plans, they said. We need to think about all the possibilities.
In other words build a legacy encrusted, unmovable, leviathan heavyweight monster. Better, put it on top of the old one. Even better, host it in one of your data centers and call it a private cloud.
I’m getting snarky but the bombers are approaching. And they are being flown by the competitors. You need to be an innovation hero. Go old school if you have to. Hell – Captain America for all I care. But just do something.
There are real-life examples of home-grown innovation projects. SAP has an estimated 54,000 employees. About 40,000 of those employees carry iPads, iPhones, smart phones and tablets. That equates to about 80% of its workforce as mobile ready. That mobile workforce has helped the company think about its business in a post-PC world.
Pervasive Software, for example, did just what Ito is calling for CIOs to do. At the HBaseCon conference last week, I sat down with Mike Hoskins, CTO, EVP and GM of Big Data. He said the company has two groups: data management and data integration. Four years ago, the company initiated a “culture of innovation.: It now invests 25% of its budget in R&D.
Hoskins explained that they put a group of people in the basement and told them to come up with a startup. They emerged with the “Pervasive Data Cloud,” which they built on top of Amazon S3. They tackled the huge issues that come with integration. They knew they were on to something when they offered the ability to seamlessly move Quickbooks data to Salesforce.com.
That form of integration as a service model can make life a bit easier for a CIO. It can also set up the CIO for the next wave of innovation that will come as platform-as-a-service plays start serving as the means for data integration into apps. HBase is the database environment which sits on top of Hadoop, the distributed file system. It is a potential huge data management offering. It can serve as a means for pouring data into PaaS environments. Data can be kept continually in-memory to allow for apps to serve as new intelligence stores.
It may take some time to grok but it’s now more about developing apps that can serve as means to become more agile. Build new apps and push the old, legacy environments to the background.
SAP and Pervasive Software are vendors but the changes the companies are making demonstrate what can happen when the leadership has a deep interest in innovation and lets 1,000 flowers bloom.