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Geoffrey Moore: culture, collaboration, clouds and chasms

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan September 8, 2013
Geoffrey Moore tackles questions of the collaborative enterprise,  the emerging cloud stack and their impact on corporate cultures.

We all know about Geoffrey Moore's famous Chasm across which all technology movements must cross. (And if you don't know about it, time to get up to speed!)

I caught up with Moore last week in anticipation of his forthcoming appearance at the BoxWorks conference in San Francisco where he'll be tackling the question of the collaborative enterprise and the emerging cloud stack and their impact on corporate cultures.

There have been three corporate cultural paradigms that Moore reckons he's experienced:

"When I entered the industry it was very much hierarchical and top down. For most of my career it's been about individualism with the PC as the paradigmatic thing.

"Now we're moving into a collaborative culture which is more about achieving things as teams, then dissolving once the task at hand goes away.

"Frankly that's a foreign way of working to my generation. When I went to school, collaboration was called cheating! But for the currrent generation, collaboration is the norm."

There is inevitably then a generation gap that will need bridging if the potential of the collaborative culture is to be realised:

"In young organisations, there is no client server world. They don't want Oracle or Microsoft or SAP. They want Google Apps on top of Box and iOS and Amazon in the cloud. They want to play in a friction free way.

"There is a cultural divide because new employees want this new approach to infrastructure while the establishment wants to cling to the old. I've seen some very unsatisfactory deployments of collaboration where the organisation rolled out Yammer, but people just wouldn't use it.

This is what Moore calls "a paradigmatic moment" to step back and look at the enterprise software movement overall as the client server stack gives way to the cloud stack.

"We're in transition. Parts of the industry are well down the path, other parts are not. Some stuff is very very much still under construction."

Stacked up

There are two parts of the stack that are now de facto, he argues. The first of course is the Software as a Service ( SaaS)  layer, AKA, NetSuite, Workday et al:

"It is hard to imagine anyone now building new applications that aren't built on the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. That whole client server world that Oracle consolidated and SAP built isn't going to go anywhere, but it's not going to grow any either."

The other part of the stack that has crossed Moore's chasm is Infrastruture as a Service (IaaS)

"The notion that you can use anyone's data centre in a public or a private coud was very much controversial 3 or 4 years ago, but not any more."

The controversy now comes from the middle of the stack, says Moore:

"In the prior model the edge of the architecture was under the Microsoft hegemony. It was a system of engagement and it was secure. As a CIO, you'd say: 'I get it!'.

"Now we've gone back to having fragmentation at the edge. It reminds me of the mid-1980s. CIOs said 'It's DOS, what's the question?' IBM said it's OS2. Then we had unix. Then that dorky thing called Windows.

"So if you went to a software developers association in 1987, you'd find everyone saying: 'What OS do I develop for?'

"It's the same now. Now we have iOS at the edge. We have Google Android. We had Symbian and Blackberry. Now we have Windows8 and Nokia."

Moore has recently assisted in a Box-sponsored study of a focus group of top CIOs to ascertain what parts of the cloud stack need most clarification. That study has thrown up three areas in desperate need, he says:

  • Device security in mobile environments.
  • Data security now that there is enterprise data on the mobile device.
  • User security now that many users are not employees.

More diverse is the mass perception of which providers sit in the middle of the stack:

"There were literally hundreds of differnet companies named in the middle of the stack. There are some common ones that emerge. In collaboration you sees Box, Jive, Yammer, Skype. Google Apps gets mentioned a lot and that gets you into Google Hangouts."

PRISM pragmatism

I closed off my all-too-brief chat with Moore by asking his opinion of the ongoing NSA PRISM spying scandal on the US cloud industry. There is no shortage of armageddon pedlars predicting doom and gloom for US providers abroad, but Moore is not among them.

"What will happen is that we will renegotiate our social contracts around privacy and security. It is clear that we are terribly vulnerable in some areas and the terrorist model in a highly distributed world is a terribly hard thing to take on. We're living in a world where nations will say national security will trump your privacy issues.

"It will be very uncomfortable, but at the end of the day it will not impact economics as much as it will impact on culture. I would argue that as an adult you have no privacy and have not had for a long time. You need to reconfigure your life around that."

Moore also questioned - as I have - the jingoistic noises made against US providers by certain European Commmisison technocrats and politicians around the need for tougher data protection and security on the back of the PRISM row:

"It wins points for the home crowd perhaps, but it's a huge risk to Europe. By doing this you take yourselves out of the game because you will never get the scale at national level. It's a winning tactic, but a losing strategy. Every time I see it, it breaks my heart."


Disclosure: Oracle,, SAP and Workday are premium partners of diginomica. Box is a partner of diginomica.

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