Back to the “good old days”, and other cases of denying change!

This is going to be about the technology industry, but I’m going to liken things to what’s going on here in the UK…

Things are pretty depressing at the moment. The latest political fiasco in the UK makes me realise I have little in common with the majority of the British voting public, and I’m starting to think I have little in common with a lot of people working in the technology industry.

I was listening to one of the politicians in a northern constituency that recently elected a conservative MP for the first time in ages. One of the first things she said was, “We need more investment in the north, like a focus on our high streets”. Well, I agree entirely with the first part of the sentence, but the second part reeks of living in the past. This is a classic case of not understanding how the world has changed. I come from a time when going down to the market or the local high street was the way we shopped. Now I buy almost everything off the internet. Judging by my nephews and their friends, this is the norm, but I suspect it’s not so normal for lots of people in in my age bracket and above, who haven’t moved with the times. Unfortunately, those are a big chunk of the voting public, who are looking to the past for inspiration.

I try to surround myself with people who give a crap and are focused on change, so a lot of the time I’m in this echo chamber of “progress”, but I don’t think these values are shared by our industry as a whole. Why? Because I think a lot of people higher up in the chain of command just don’t get it. They either come from a time which was “pre-technology”, or they have not progressed from “their days of technology”. They are the technology equivalent of the people shopping on the high street. With that type of people in control, progress is stalled.

Cloud deniers are the climate change deniers of our industry. We have a big problem with climate change, but people don’t want to change their lives, which is the only way we are going to fix things. Likewise, lots of people are in cloud denial, but the cloud is the only way a lot of medium sized businesses will be able to fix their issues. The cloud was originally marketed as being cheaper. It’s not. It definitely costs more money, but if you embrace it and use it to your advantage it can deliver more value than you well ever get on-prem. Replicating your data centre in the cloud in an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) manner is a cloud failure in my opinion. I’m fine with it if this is a stepping stone, but if you think this is the final goal you’ve already failed. You are getting little in the way of benefits and all of the costs and hassles. Instead you need to focus on platforms, which bring something new to the table. Linking services together to bring new opportunities to generate more value from your data. It might cost more, but if you can leverage it to add more value, then you are still winning. If you are being driven by people who are stuck in an infrastructure frame of mind, the potential value is not even recognised, let alone on the road-map.

The “return of the local high street” will only be possible if the local high street offers something new and unique to the consumer. What is that? I guess nobody knows as nobody has been able to do it successfully. I’m not sure a bunch of charity shops is what I consider “the future”. Likewise, those people who are doubling down on their on-prem stuff, or even talking of moving back from the cloud to on-prem need to show the value add of doing that. If you focus purely on numbers, then it’s possible you can move your crappy IaaS from the cloud to on-prem and “save some money”, but at what cost? You will be stuck in the past forever. Many of the interesting services out there will *never* be available on-prem. They just won’t! Even if you were to make the move, you can’t do things the way you used to. Waiting weeks/months for a new service is a thing of the past. If you haven’t already automated that on-prem so it happens in minutes, you have already failed. To automate that yourself will require engineers that come at a price, and the people who are into that stuff are probably not going to be interested in working in your crappy backwater.

I’m not suggesting we completely forget the past, but if you are going to focus on it, or treat it as some utopian goal you are doomed to failure. Humans have to progress or die. We can do that in a way that harms everything around us, or we can we sensitive to our impact, but regardless of which approach we take, forward is the only way!



PS. I’m sorry if this post sounds really negative, but I can’t help thinking people of my generation and older are robbing the future from those who come after us.

Update: Based on comments from Twitter, I thought it was worth addressing some things.

  • When I talk about cloud, I am not talking about a specific provider. I am talking about whoever provides the service you need.
  • When I talk about a move to the cloud, I am not suggesting blindly moving to the cloud without any planning. It’s not magic.
  • I’m not talking about moving to the cloud if that means a degradation in your service or functionality.
  • I am suggesting that for many companies there are services you can simply not build and support on-prem.
  • I do believe that the cloud is *often* an easier place to try things out. I did a POC of something the other day for less that a dollar. That would have cost hundreds of pounds in staffing costs alone on-prem in my company.
  • I think many of the negative cloud comments or demands for additional clarifications when discussing cloud act as a distraction from the message, and are used by others as a convenient excuse not to do anything. I understand, but most people are not willing to change, so giving them an excuse not to do anything is not what we need. 🙂
  • Even when you remain on-prem, you should be aiming to take on the values of the cloud in terms of automation and self-service. I’m not talking about total re-engineering and altering platforms. I’m talking about making the essential operations automatic and/or self-service.