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Enterprise hits and misses - avoiding technical bankruptcy, and rethinking enterprise blockchains

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed March 27, 2017
In this edition: why technical bankruptcy is innovation quicksand. Also: IBM changes the enterprise blockchain debate with its blockchain as a service offering. Plus self-disruptive CIOs, ERP lawsuits, and diversity gets real. Your whiffs include, of course, United Airlines and its wardrobe (policy) malfunction. But that's not the only whiff of note.

Cheerful Chubby Man

diginomica hit: Technical bankruptcy - the avoidable business killer by Den Howlett

quotage: "In this context technical bankruptcy refers to a state where recovery from years of failing to keep systems up to date is similar to IT entering Chapter 11. I’m not so sure about that but I get the analogy. The most important point is that as systems age, their ability to keep up with or support business innovation diminishes."

myPOV: Technical debt sounds bad enough - but technical bankruptcy? Den examines a study from Computer Economics (summary here), which cautions IT departments not to fall prey to Chapter 11. Den makes some distinctions: sometimes new systems do get companies into trouble (the wrong kind of self-disruption). Also: not all old systems constitute "debt." A mainframe can keep chugging along. Den: "The crucial element is that those same systems are kept in good order which, in software terms, means having an executable policy of upgrading and patching."

Yes - it sounds like common sense to keep systems up to date and avoid this issue entirely. But as Den points out, going into technical debt can be tempting for the CIO under budget pressure. Computer Economics wants us to grasp that a lax approach to technical debt can lead us into a mudbog that may not be business failure, but is plenty messy.

The ways to get in and out of technical debt are nuanced, but the overriding point is that when your technical systems are heading south, as author Frank Scavo puts it, "the organization cannot use its legacy system as a platform for innovation." One more pressing point which I've explored in the past: Older systems are most likely the to be exploited by hackers and cyberterrorists. Good times. Just don't let your friendly neighborhood SaaS salesperson enlighten pimp flog you with this concept as an excuse to buy something shiny new. This isn't a sales tool.

Happy children eating apple
diginomica three - my top three stories on diginomica this week
  • A primer on the CRM blockchain - Denis with a view of blockchain from the CRM side, where he sees relevance on security, validating transactions: "CRM will likely be first attracted to the commerce potential of blockchain that enables customers to have greater peace of mind about making purchases over the Web." But don't look to Denis for blockchain hype biscuits - he sees blockchain adoption in the early stages, with a "ten year slog" ahead.
  • Lessons learned at the UK's first 100% cloud bank - banks and clouds have too little in common. But, as Phil reports, this one does. Keeper quote from OakNorth bank: "There is a huge amount of value in experimentation. Give people the freedom to try things and fail. There is some value in failure — but controlled failure, not reckless failure!"
  • Digital life at Starbucks after Schultz - new CEO commits to tech innovation - After Starbucks' ambitious attempts to fuse digital and storefront, it would be a shame if the new CEO reversed course. But as Stuart reports, that's not gonna happen. Digital isn't just solving the peak line problems for Mobile-and-Pay, it's about the back end also, including Workplace by Facebook. Now if I can just get my local Starbucks to take down their silly "open 24 hours on" proclamation - as if that does you any good after hours.

Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here's my top choices from our vendor coverage:

  • Making first impressions count on the talent journey at Cisco - Janine on Cisco's digitized approach to winning top talent: "Although digitization is transforming recruitment, it was not the starting point for Cisco. The aim was simply to create a better candidate experience and it was only once they started thinking about this that digitization became the key weapon in reaching that goal." I also filed a use case from mysterious BI vendor Domo's user conference, How Colony American Finance uses data and cloud BI to punch above their weight.
  • Procurement and supplier management observations from SAP Ariba Live 2017 - Brian saw some things he liked at Ariba live, and some things he didn't. Bring on the insights and snarky bits: "Yes, SAP Ariba is making the on-premises version of its solution history in 2020. The end-of-life will impact 75 or so customers. Let’s hope SAP throws a big party to mark this milestone. And, as an aside: to that SAP competitor that still maintains that “Customers want on-premises as a choice (and never ending upgrades to the on-premises product)”, software buyers ARE moving to the cloud. It’s time to get on with the 21st century."

Jon's grab bag - Derek has a cool update from diginomica/gov, a look at one local government that isn't dragging its feet on cloud (Local Government-as-a-Platform at Worcestershire County Council). Meantime, Stuart weighs in on Google's rough week (YouTube extremist videos expose adtech problems for Google), as the limits of algorithmic automation are once again exposed.

When governments see their ads splashed on ISIS or KKK videos, that's not a good day for business. Read on, and you'll get Stuart's perfect rebuttal to Google EMEA Managing Director Matt Brittin: "You know what – that’s not going to fly, Matt, it really isn’t." Stuart also went off on privacy and grandstanding as a (dis)service in Political posturing about WhatsApp is a false flag in the war on terror. We'll wrap my diginomica picks with Den's fresh stats and a throwdown to you, dear reader: Customer storytelling is the vendor sales lifeblood - we've told 648 stories and want more.

Best of the rest

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer
IBM Blockchain as a Service and Hyperledger Fabric forge a new path - by Steve Wilson

quotage: "At InterConnect, IBM announced their Blockchain as a Service, running on the “Bluemix High security business network”. IBM have re-thought security from the ground up. In fact, working in the Hyperledger consortium, they have re-engineered the whole ledger proposition. And now I see a distinct shift in the expectations of blockchain and the words we will use to describe it."

myPOV: Constellation's Steve Wilson has researched blockchain tech as thoroughly as anyone. He's also been a blockchain contrarian, sometimes to a fault - at least when it comes to the enterprise applications. Wilson's contrarianism was on exhibit last year when he wrote, "The blockchain only does one thing (and it doesn’t even do that very well). It provides a way to verify the order in which entries are made to a ledger, without any centralized authority."

Wilson wasn't wrong. A cold shower on blockchain hype was (mostly) healthy. But at times, Wilson gave the impression blockchain's limitations (example: tied to a decentralized ledger) could never be overcome for enterprise use. Whereas the blockchain practitioners I interviewed always felt that with time and imagination, those problems could be solved.

Long story short, Wilson is persuaded that IBM's Blockchain a service, a product of IBM's Hyperledger consortium efforts, addresses his concerns about decentralization and security by rethinking the ledger concept, the decentralized aspects, and applying high grade security (check his post for exactly how IBM pulled it off). Wilson now sees the enterprise potential - though I'm sure he is skeptically awaiting valid use cases. And there he and I agree. He promises a look at potential applications in future blogs - looking forward to that.

Other standouts:

Honorable mention


Overworked businessman
I'm not going to pile on United Airlines and the employee legging ban flareup. The social media herd has already galloped over United, and Josh Bernoff's Everything United Airlines did wrong in the Denver Leggings Incident ably dissects United's mistakes on every level, including how they could have handled the PR proper and not stepped in their own doo.

Bernoff correctly notes that this latest "United Breaks Guitars" social tarring isn't going to hurt United's business. That's not because social media is completely impotent; it's because consumer power is limited by the monopolistic degree of an industry. If I want to boycott Uber in New York City I have options; if I want to boycott United and I'm in a United hub city, not so much. Hits/misses reader Frank Scavo added suspense to the proceedings when he tweeted:

If you fancy another takedown of recent events (e.g. Google's YouTube ad fiasco), the Ad Contrarian blew a couple gaskets out in the tell-us-how-you-really-feel category (Online Advertising Is Corrupt At Its Core). I'm not even mad at this state senator who evidently spun his Sizzler restaurant training into a business degree. If you fail integrity, you may as well get an A in cleverness.

Finally, your linkbait overdose. A rash of store closings are coming up, so Business Insider desperately ludricrously irresponsibly subtly proclaims The retail apocalypse has officially descended on America. Tell me something: would Amazon set foot anywhere near an apocalypse? Yet Amazon storefronts are coming. Retail is in upheaval, not the end times. Read further into the piece, and you realize what's really threatened is shopping malls. But even there, it's the lowest 30 percent that are in trouble. If I could put someone in jail for headline hyperbole, I would. Alas it's not even a misdemeanor. As Tom Cruise once said, "You have revealed yourself to me!"

Over to you, Clive.

Which #ensw pieces of merit did I miss? Let us know in the comments.

Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed. 'myPOV' is borrowed with reluctant permission from the ubiquitous Ray Wang.


Image credit - Cheerful Chubby Man © RA Studio, Happy Children © Anna Omelchenko, Waiter Suggesting Bottle © Minerva Studiom, Overworked Businessman © Bloomua, King Checkmate © mystock88photo - all from

Disclosure - SAP, Oracle, Workday and Salesforce are diginomica premier partners as of this writing.

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