A curious book
When joining Capgemini Belgium, the Vice President of Technology Services offered me a book that was co-authored by Andy Mulholland, the CTO of the global Capgemini organization. The title of the book is “Mashup Corporations – The End of Business as Usual“. It was first published in 2006, while an updated, second version was published in 2007.
And it turned out to be a curious book. It has a story line, but it’s not a novel. Not a highly literate, fictional or romantic piece of work, but a very direct and effective tale about… technology.
Here’s the first part of my three part note about it…
Part 1: Introducing Vorpal Inc.
At the surface, the story is about the company of Vorpal inc. discovering and entering new markets. But the true subject is the power of Service Oriented thinking at Enterprise level. All techies know about ‘Service Oriented Architecture’ (SOA) of course, but this book is about deeper business transformation.
Nevertheless, the story represents a real life company with real life workers and is very readable. And beyond the story the authors list practical rules, tips and examples on how to put it all to work. Luckily there’s also room for a lighter touch and humor as is shown by the main characters’ names in the org chart.
Vorpal inc. is a traditional company in the popcorn machines business. Its market orientation and the role of IT are quite defensive. The focus is on maintaining a sort of status quo, that is only surpassed by large system upgrades. For which keeping control is the main objective.
The highest ambition for ‘improvement’ at Vorpal is… cost cutting.
Geoffrey Moore’s (Technology) Adoption Life Cycle is only briefly mentioned in the book.
But I find it an effective mean to indicate the maturity and adoption degree of businesses and products. Vorpal is clearly in ‘Main Street’. It operates on an established market with established players, ‘gorilla’ included. And Vorpal is, as we learn, #5. Far from being the gorilla.
But… is that a new paradigm we see over there?
Vorpal, by accident, discovers new markets and business channels. The demand for customized and personalized machines. The source is a young marketeer and his blog. Because the fictive idea for such personalized machines on his blog gets picked up by external users to… make money. It illustrates how an inside innovator uses his ‘shadow IT’, i.e. IT and applications residing with company employees but outside of the company’s official IT stack, to connect with outside innovators to open up new business channels.
Luckily the company’s CEO, Mrs. Moneymaker, is open for these new directions and drives the transformation in a top-down way. The authors understood however that this top-down support is not always present and have added a chapter to describe a bottom-up process in the second edition of the book (the one I was given).
From the perspective of market adoption, exploration of these new options pushes Vorpal back up the Technology Adoption Life Cycle. Into the Bowling Alley & Tornado phases, where a different ball game is played. The era of perpetual beta. More dynamics, constant changes and all parties have to continuously adapt while keeping up a ROI.
In the next part of this series however, we will not go into the story details too much, but discuss the evolutions that Vorpal goes through in becoming a service-based enterprise.
Do note that the Vorpal transition described in the book passes quite smoothly. But, as the authors willingly confess, a real-life transition is not likely to be that easy. So, from that perspective it is a romantic novel after all.
A curious book