Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Kodak Moments

It seems apt that in the same month Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.  Rob 'IT Skeptic' England should unleash his views on the irrelevance of social media and other transformational technologies. After all Kodak is a perfect example of a successful company derailed by not understanding the implications of transformational technologies, and don't even have the excuse that they were slow to adopt because the  technologies weren't invented here. Kids, that thing strapped to the side of it is what we used to call a cassette tape.

Many of you will know that I'm a passionate amateur photographer, but not so many of you will know that had I gone done down another trouser leg of time I would have trained to become a professional photographer instead of going to university. It was a tough choice to make. Like many wage slaves there are times when I still think about leaving ITSM behind and running a bijou little gallery in an English market town, so I try and keep in touch with the industry.

And that explains why Skep's arguments sounded strangely familiar to me, because I've heard it all before in the world of photography. Now that isn't to say I'm dismissing all of Rob's argument, but I do believe that  he is ignoring is the cumulative impact of individual changes on the whole ITSM eco-systen. When you look back on the story of digital photography that is what you see, but of course it is an awful lot easier to see things with hindsight. For instance with hindsight you can see that quip I made about the cassette  tape wasn't just an arbitrary comment - imagine where digital photography would be without the parallel development of new storage media like SDHC cards. Do you begin to see what I mean about the cumulative impact?

The Historic Contemporary Perspective

 Photographers, like IT nerds, are renowned for their obsession with the latest technology, so you would have thought they would have jumped at the possibilities offered by digital imaging. Some did, but many didn't. Many, many letters pages in photography magazines have been filled by those determined to convince others that film is good and digital is evil. To some extent the debate still takes place, though now it is a little easier to guess that the authors of the letters have been dipping their nibs in green or purple ink.

To be fair there were reasons why digital didn't look too great to start with. The technology was expensive, and tended to become obsolete very quickly, whilst the quality wasn't that wonderful once you removed the rose tinted glasses. That's a long way behind us now though. New cameras might come out all the time, and to some extent manufacturers, and consumers, are still intent on outdoing each other in terms of mega-pixels but the truth is you can go out and buy even a relatively cheap digital camera today that produce incredible results under conditions where you wouldn't even have bothered to lift a film camera to your eye, and you can still be using the same camera in five years time. In fact the sector where film is thriving is the artistic plastic fantastic area of over-priced cameras that were once sold as toys, their imperfections now being seen as features. That won't sound familiar to any of us in IT, obviously.

There were two other related arguments professional photographers leveled against digital. The first was that it removed their hard earned status as professionals and their ability to make a comfortable living, because amateurs could compete on an equal footing. As someone once said

"If you buy a camera you become a photographer. If you buy a clarinet you just become a man with a clarinet"

That highlights the other part of the argument, that digital technology has taken the skill out of photography.

The first b&w picture I took, developed and
printed myself some 30 odd years ago. 

I'm not without sympathy for those viewpoints. Having said that I'm extremely grateful I've been able to replace a chemical darkroom for a digital one. Chemicals and I weren't a good combination.  I actually believe that the quality of the average professional photographer has improved massively as a result of the digital revolution, and also that the true professional still has their place. I just don't think we need as many of them as we used to and that they might need to find a new place in the market.

Behind a lot of the antagonism there were both conscious and unconscious feelings at play. After all  there were photographers who had made a lot of investment, both in analogue technology and in developing the skills needed to exploit it who now saw their livelihood and their status slipping away. Again, far be it for me to suggest that similar fears might be driving some of the thinking around potentially transformational technologies in IT.

The Perfect Storm

Regardless of all the above Kodak and Polaroid wouldn't have got in a mess if other parts of the digital jigsaw hadn't been in place. Very quickly ,those pieces started to appear on the table, and like any jigsaw one of those pieces that didn't appear to have any relevance to the picture on the box turned out to be the most significant in bringing the big picture together.

I've already mentioned the importance of development in solid state media, but what about the development of the software to provide a digital darkroom, be it top end products like Photoshop or open source products like Gimp, and don't forget the need for cheap home printers able to match and exceed the quality of mail order and high street film processors. All these had their part to play in ensuring the ascendancy of digital.

In IT the transformational technologies - and actually I believe Rob has has been disingenuous in using that term to summarize all the changes that are below, at, or just above our horizon, depending on which part of the globe you are in - include a shift to various cloud based models, a shift to multi sourcing and service integration, the increased use of official BYOD and the unofficial  usage of mobile devices as an integral part of business processes. No one element is going to trigger monumental change, but the combination will. I don't know exactly how yet, because I think just the edge pieces of the jigsaw are in place.

The Missing Piece?

By one of those amazing and not at all contrived coincidences the missing piece in both the completed digital imaging jigsaw and the half completed future of ITSM jigsaw turns out to be the same piece: Social Media. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Review of the Year

OK, normally I'm notoriously late, so I thought I would get ahead of the game and post my review of the year early. What do you mean it is still January? Really, so much seems to be happening.

Well, a few things, anyway.

First of all some clear patterns are now appearing in the Service Integration market place, which is keeping me and the team busy. I guess it is time that I finally blogged on the subject.

A couple of my posts have had interesting consequences. The post on 2012 predictions has led to Aale and I burning the midnight oil to put together a Brighttalk presentation on Service Desk 2.0 Yes it shows that we threw it together, but we are putting a more detailed paper together. It seems to have resonated with a few people, and also to echo what other people, like Maff Rigby are saying.

The second is a less recent post on social media that the IT Skeptic has just got round to picking up on in his inimitable, and in this case highly skeptical, way. Now whilst I agree that there is a lot of hype around social media I can't help thinking that Rob is being a little reactionary. I also think, though he doesn't, that geographical differences are affecting his perception.

The most exciting development has been around Back2ITSM There is now quite an active Facebook group but what I've been most exited about is the offers of support we've had from the itSMF UK, SDI, and the Service Desk and IT Support Show. We are still trying to clarify how we can provide a structure to encourage collaboration and minimize the amount of control needed to produce high quality, vendor independent collateral, but we are very close to releasing an initial charter.