Saturday, 31 January 2009

To Prospero or not

I was listening to some classical work entitled “A Midsummer night’s Dream” by Steve Hackett and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on my iPod this Saturday which provided a beautiful audio and visual minds eye rendition of my favourite Shakespeare play.  At the time I was conducting the early Saturday morning taxi ritual of taking my son to his swimming class and sitting there watching the mingling around and flows of up and down  swimming class lessons in their ritual lanes. It all left one frankly feeling a bit of a Puck as to whether this was an effective use of my time but of course it was.    Like a noble play to music the progression of students passing personal hurdles to reach their goals as they moved up the pre, bronze, silver, gold and merit standards, it was all quite life affirming. Acquiring a useful skill to be able to swim without fear and to save someone’s life was a good investment of time and energy even if some of the parents on looking probably wished it could go faster.   

Never one to sit idle I was working on the obligatory laptop (no public internet access again, when will this change rather than another telco billing opportunity)  Seeking to analyse the latest papers from recent research on billing and pricing models for IT, it was quite a contrast but a divertingly interesting mental challenge.  The research went on and a brief synthesis concluded that a new business model was upon us and that many observers where  saying this was good as it was “counter cyclical”. That’s code for the product and service is stable and recession proof and works in times of high and low demand acting as a great lifesaver for business in times of economic downturn.  This was all in referral to “software as a service” and the on demand evolution of IT services and how the business operating model could be improved through offering a subscription based opex pricing and payment model.  Its core benefit was the ability to change quickly and rapidly towards a much shorter payment profile and to remove the costs of updates and changes into a managed service rather than additional ownership headache.   It was all very compelling in the available opportunity for an organization to change its ways and to establish a new portfolios of business processes that were supported by a fundamentally different idea of IT as services on demand. But there were some barriers that where evident in the old world order  of longer term licences and asset ownership that had been the main stay of IT business revenues sources for many years. They would have to learn to let go and to take on a new operating model way of working.  It was as if the old world had to cast off its old ways and to realize that a new approach had arrived. This was more than just an internal change in working practices as precept in so many other new standards and technologies but a potential step change in the whole operating model and marketplace as the shift in costs and revenues altered ground from buyer and supplier.

I recalled another play “The Tempest” which I see as allegorical for the witness of the end of the Renaissance and the birth of the modern era. Prospero, the usurped Duke of Milan and sorcerer finds himself cast off from his kingdom where he is no longer needed. Cast away on an island with his earthly daughter Miranda and captured spirit Ariel (subtext read today’s IT) whom he enslaves and promises freedom for cooperation but deferred to some future date.    Prospero manipulates the situation to get revenge and to protect his invested daughter in what might be seen as an attempt to preserve the past.  Ultimately after some final acts of old magic he realizes the merits of the new order for the benefit of the next generation and casts away the old magic forever.  It’s a path of hopefulness and expectation of the future being better than the past and that all is not in vain.  I think this is clearly a challenge in the adoption of new technology and business to manage change to underpin their very liquidity and lifeline.   
I guess it’s up to us to restore amends.

(Picture: Prospero, Ariel and sleeping Miranda from a painting by William Hamilton   Wikipedia)

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