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Mobile technology, how did we get here again?

HPE-SW-Guest ‎09-13-2013 10:38 AM - edited ‎09-09-2015 01:39 PM

Guest post by Michael Deady,

Pr. Consultant & Solution Architect

HP Professional Service


In the beginning—the origins of IT


Between 40 and 50 years ago, most companies that could afford computers had a very small, centralized and consolidated IT department. This department typically consisted of corporate outcasts who characteristically sat less than 100 yards from the mainframes. This was the optimal arrangement so that they could act as both development and support. I like to call this “The first attempt of creating an IT center of excellence”.  Every IT department consisted of people who were more comfortable with words like binary, ASCII, and assembly languages than the art of human interaction.


I do want to mention during this time, two men were willing to stand toe to toe and throw rocks at Big Blue by creating the first lean IT department in a garage. I like to call this my “David & William versus Goliath story”.


World of Windows and Apples—IT in the ‘80s


There was the advent of the personal computer and the innovation of object-oriented programming and relational databases. This development made every computer enthusiast or (shade tree) a programmer for an IT Department. The best example of this is two college dropouts, like Bill and Steve who became icons of their generation.


This trend of “instant programmers” also allowed mom-and-pop organizations to create specialized programs for their specific business needs. This is what I typically call the first attempt of a line of business to be directly involved in the day-to-day operations and development of IT departments.  This involvement ranges from a son creating a spreadsheet on mom and dad’s business computer to track annual profit and losses to the medium-size companies which opted to outsource IT departments to consulting companies. This trend is fueled by movies like “War Games” which introduced the programming concept to kids and helped them see the power of computers, networks and the World Wide Web. (Remember when it was called that?)


Is the World ending?— IT in the ‘90s


In the late ‘80s and throughout the ‘90s, bells and whistles were going off for ITs departments everywhere. The cause for alarm was that the world was filled with computers which only used a six-digit calendar. We were worried that one binary digit was going to end the world as we knew it.


The race was on and quality was the price that IT departments around the world were going to pay for years of racing to the finish line and ignoring words like verification and validation. This put most IT departments on notice to take responsibility for a company’s brand and image. This revolutionary moment for IT assured the second era of creating an in-house Center of Excellence (COE) driven exclusively by synonyms of quality.


The majority of people believe that the Y2K scare was merely a hoax when, in reality, it was the first time that our worldwide economy was united in a single endeavor—to fix the past and to usher in a better future. From first-hand experience, long nights, and two ulcers later, that this was no hoax. We as a global community dodged the biggest bullet ever shot at the human species. Something that was done to save disk and memory space on computers created would have costs that are equivalent to the annual budget of most Third-World countries. We need to remind the next generation when they connect to their computers and/or mobile devices it would have taken a building the size of the Pentagon to hold that amount of storage at this time.


World of the Matrix I (I mean metrics)—Current-day IT


A decade later we are still reaping the benefits of the Y2K scare with the miniaturization of hardware, virtually unlimited storage space and an economy that demands quality as well as quantity.   While we don’t live in a code-generated world like in the movie “The Matrix”, we do live in a world that relies on code and the infrastructure that supports the virtual world.


Metrics and big data are as important to us today as the written word was to our ancestors. IT departments around the world use vocabulary words like structured, process, responsibility, standards and quality of life. The other outcome of the Y2K scare is the realization that whether you’re a company or an individual, information technology is as much of your business as the products you create or sale.


The miniature world of androids, frames and fruit


What has pages but no paper, what is called a book that has no binding, what has a face, but no cover, what has a history but no future. The term “friends and family” has been replaced by your handheld social circle on Facebook and we make life-changing decisions from advice given to us by people and groups we have probably never met. We have gone from a global economy to a social one; and every day we generate more data about our society than from when the first man or woman created a written language up to the end of World War II.


This reality is growing exponentially on a daily basis. Yet we are still only scratching the surface of how to cultivate this plethora of data into a coherent and historically accurate picture of our society. The best way I can describe this phenomenon is that in a global economy the majority rules and a social economy is more akin to a butterfly flapping its wings in China, and a hurricane is created on the eastern seaboard of the United States.


(You’re probably asking yourself what I’m ranting about in the previous paragraph. I will have to use the line I heard in the deleted scenes of the movie “Bruce Almighty”, where Morgan Freeman compares the world and the people in it to a perfect painting hanging on the wall to Jim Carrey. “An artist must use all the colors on his palette including the darker colors to paint the perfect picture”.)


I’m no artist, but I do attempt to provoke thoughts and memories to push you the reader to the same conclusion that I have come to. Once again we find ourselves at a place with IT departments where we have to sacrifice quality or quantity. This is happening because we have become complacent over the last decade. With the achievements of the last century, the lines of business have had to take the lead once again; and they are driving quantity and speed to market over quality.


Once again we are faced with segmented and silo IT departments making costly and poorly thought out decisions that negatively impact whole. The sad part about this decentralization of IT is that by utilizing the latest technologies and tools and with proper training quality doesn’t have to be compromised for speed and quantity.


To give you a great example of this paradigm shift let’s look again at Apple which took eight years to develop and release the product we now call the iPad. Remember that quality has no boundaries. Another company developed the android knowing that it had certain characteristic flaws; consumers always reward the first to market.  But companies have always known that sacrificing quality to increase speed to market often times leads to the loss of consumer loyalty.


Three months ago I listened to a speaker talk about the decentralization of the concept of the enterprise Center of Excellence. The speaker said that we are at the end of an era for more efficient IT departments.


I on the other hand believe that decentralization merely a fad, much like disco. I think it has a very short lifespan or otherwise we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. I think this is best reflected when companies and corporations started creating the CIO position to report to the highest levels of the company of the general state of IT. The same paradigm shift has begun within IT departments creating a similar position for a corporate mobility officer (CMO).


World challenge!


While writing this I know that I took some liberties around the timelines; however I believe the overall speaking points to this article are accurate. I would love it if you challenged any or all the points listed above. I’m no historian, artist or fortuneteller. I’m just a person with an opinion in that opinion only matters if another person is persuaded or you are dissuaded from that original opinion.


The truth can only be accurate if two differing opinions can come to the same conclusion.



World series


This is the first part of a mobility series which will hopefully cover everything from app development, IT processes, strategies and tools.  My main goal of this series is to get you involved in helping me design the perfect process for mobility. 


If you want to read more:

Here are a few other recent blogs I have written about mobile for you to read:

Accelerating your mobile application testing effort

The potential of mobile is in the numbers—do the math







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