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Consumer vs Corporate - The Power Has Long Moved From One To The Other

One of my long time and constant sayings about the sea shift within IT Departments of corporates/Government agencies around New Zealand is that they have not grasped that the power has long moved from them to the consumer world.

Back in the day the only people with enough money to afford computers were very large organisations and these electronic beasties performed very specific (usually batch orientated) computational work that, to be honest, no-one outside of these organisations really cared about ... except on pay day.

In the 1980s companies, such as Microsoft, could see that this computing power was becoming cheaper and cheaper as well as smaller and smaller and quickly jumped on board to supply software to this burgeoning massive market - smaller organisations.

It wasn't long (late 1980s and into the 1990s) before every organisation worth its salt had a computer, normally one with Microsoft software running. But this was still the corporate world, you still went to the office to use a computer which, frankly, were still performing the sort of boring-ass functionality that the normal person had no need of at home - spreadsheet budgeting anyone?

And then the sea change happened.

Two things, I believe have slowly, but with exponentially increasing pace, shifted the power out of the corporate world and into our homes:
  1. Gaming
  2. The Web
Initially gaming was limited to a select few and the Web was for geeks.
But we all know where it is now - ubiquitous machines doing computational work for the consumers ("games" initially but also music, movies, streaming videos) and services ("social networking" anyone?) being delivered over the web. Both these high volume and non-corporate needs are still viewed as "playing" and nothing to do with "serious work" - ask about getting a blog inside your work and see what they say! Well, see what they say in NZ at least ;-)

The consumers now demand that computers do things for themselves and on a scale and a speed of delivery that no organisation has ever dreamed of. And because the demand is from the consumer ("real people") it is "of the people" and the people are then going to work of a Monday and demanding they have the same from their corporate computer world.

This is the power shift in action.
NZ companies are struggling with it.
NZ IT staff are really REALLY struggling with it.

But NZ companies/government departments will catch-up, those that grasp the nettle early and with determination are likely to be the leaders in the future. Those that are already engaging with this consumer world of IT are ahead of those that aren't. Those IT staff that "get it" and up skilling themselves, fitting it into their world view are going to survive.

Those that believe it's a "fad" will struggle, big time.

And it seems Microsoft has been one of those that has struggled.
They are of the corporate world and are struggling with the fact that the power has shifted from them. I could not explain that better than FakeSteve's post, "Why the Borg's copycat business model no longer works":
Another difference was the customer set. In the old days you were talking about selling to corporate America, and consumers just followed suit -- remember the marketing shit about how you want the same stuff at home that you have at the office? Selling to corporates was easy. You have lots of levers you can pull to make them do what you want and pay what you tell them to. We all had a playbook -- we just studied what IBM had been doing for decades, and we copied them. (Larry stopped and chuckled a little bit when he said this, and for a moment just stared out the window with this glazed, happy expression on his face.) The Borg's other customer set were hardware OEMs. Again, easy to coerce, and no messy dealing with end users. Perfect.

But on the Web things changed -- now you were selling to consumers, and the Borg had no way to coerce or control consumers the way they could coerce corporate accounts.

Other posts around this "change for IT Depts":


  1. Couldn't agree more Mike. It's the same in PR and, sadly rven marketing as well. Corporates still tend to think they control conversations about them.

  2. @Tony, I can imagine but never realised - golly, a sea change bigger than I'd previously thought.


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