Last week, Manchester, UK saw the 60th anniversary celebrations of BABY – the first stored program machine – or in plain English the first example of the type of computer in everyday use today.
It’s an interesting time for reflection about how much has really changed, and perhaps more interestingly how much really hasn’t.
In a rough comparison with the first machine, the machine I am typing this blog post on, an ordinary laptop, has:
– about 10 million times the memory (which the processors can work very quickly with)
– about a further billion times additional storage space
– an easy to use human computer interface
– software available to it which helps me find, edit and share digital content such as documents, images, video and data important to my corporation’s business
– software available to it which helps me have dialogue with other people
– is portable
– is connected to a standard, global information sharing system (the Web)
While one can only marvel at the technical advancements which have made the first bullet points possible, it is the last one that perhaps is the real game changer – or in Don Tapscott’s famous Wikinomics words ‘mass collaboration changes everything’.
If connectivity really is the computer game changer, what does this mean for the IT profession and the relationship business has with technology? Take a peek at the following ‘Best Practice / Next Practice’ comparison from my colleague, Nigel Green:

Best Practice Focus Next Practice Focus
Waterfall Methods Agile Methods
Transaction Interaction
Onshore or Offshore Blended on/off-shore
Installed Products Consumed Services
Fail-Safe Safe-Fail
Perimeter Security Secured Content & Porous Perimeters
Internally Focused Externally Focused
Users of IT Solutions Consumers of IT Services
Process Outcome
Business Stability & Predictability Business Agility & Innovation
‘Best Practice’ ‘Next Practice’

One might think of the left hand side as ‘IT version 1’, and the right hand side as a kind of ‘IT version 2’. The left hand side might be described as ‘best practice’, the right hand side as ‘next practice’ for business technology.
If the foundations in the business technology model are toward the left hand side focus areas, one might argue we’ve got a breeding ground for better dinosaurs (with thanks to Greg Smith from his work on Capgemini’s CIO Survey for this mental image!)
The tricky part is that ‘best’ and ‘next’ come from polar opposites – one starts with a world of default non-connect; one starts with a world of default connect. So, the contrasts between the ‘best’ and ‘next’ focus areas run far deeper than skills and experience. The design philosophies are fundamentally different.
But I believe that embrace the new design philosophies organisations must. The stored program machine has evolved with its Internet connection – the IT department and the relationship the business has with IT needs to evolve too.