Message to the old SBS guard

IT Business, SMB

As Eminem said: recoveryapprovedcrop

It’s over.

Let go.

Nobody wants to build servers no mo.

At least not in the SMB space. Those are facts, like them or not.

Unsurprisingly, The League of Extraordinarily Unreasonable IT Gentlemen begs to differ. (you’ll have to scroll down to read the comment).

Inside The Mind Of an IT Innovator

First, let me explain what it’s like to work at a company (software|hardware) that has to innovate in order to stay alive. Companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, etc cannot constantly pump out the same crap that they have put out in the past because they need to give their clients more reasons to spend a premium amount of their IT budget getting the new version. For example:

I know your clients love Windows XP. Office 2003 is as close to perfect as it gets.

But someone at Microsoft had to break all that. They introduced the dreaded ribbon. Oh. My. God. The traffic lights started flashing faster, people got in accidents, millions of people died and.. Woops, sorry, my bad, got carried away there, you kind of have to be on heroin to make the pro argument for legacy software.

Fact is, the functionality available in Office 2003 can now be delivered by dozens of their competitors. And people aren’t going to pay $300+ / user for something they can get for far less or even for free. So Microsoft introduces the ribbon, the metro, the tile – and people buy it.

It’s not perfect.

None of the new technology, historically, has been a slam dunk.

But this is the difference between the IT consulting professors and people that are in charge of building new technologies: We do not give up just because something isn’t perfect. We don’t just change stuff for sake of better scenery, we do it because of customer demand and because that is what we see as needed.

Guide To Complaining About Innovation

Now back to Bob.

On behalf of the product manager in charge of Visio, I am sorry that the Visio experience on a touchscreen isn’t the same as the one on a 60 pound desktop with two monitors. But Bob, can we just agree to disagree? How about I as a Vision product manager agree that the experience is not great right now and we don’t just scrap the multi billion dollar industry that is jointly heading towards putting more stuff in your hand and pocket and less on your desk, under your desk. I’ll see your imaginary lawsuits and match them with my imaginary (however more realistic) likelyhood that the technology that fits in your hand and pocket will eventually catch up.

The same Bob-ish arguments were used against every major technological advancement in the past two decades. My clients won’t look at the cloud, the state of broadband is just not where we can use hosted applications. Companies like Google and Microsoft and Apple and Verizon and Comcast and.. don’t sit back and cry for your Courier modem, they try to figure out how to make fiber cheaper and wireless more accessible.

Innovative companies do not sit around trying to help you maintain a more profitable status quo. They use disruption and innovation to collect a premium for their products and services.

Same Bob argument was used against smartphones. Except it was a Vlad argument, when doing the initial review of the iPhone: “I do not see this thing as something that could be used for any serious work” – I said that the first time I played with the iPhone. I am glad Steve Jobs didn’t quit when he read my review.

Which brings me to the guide to complaining:

1. Never speak from the position of authority. This is going to sting, but I’m pretty sure that Microsoft spends more for the staples used to hold their research reports together than you’ll earn in a 100 years. If you want to be taken seriously, communicate the feedback from your limited set of clients without pretending you know more than their research.

2. Do not use the present/past to fight against the future progress. Just because you cannot imagine how a tablet would be a great tool for architects, inspectors, designers, engineers and other professionals to make slight adjustments and demonstrations in the field because the technology as it is right now isn’t perfect for it, doesn’t mean that we cannot strive for it. Remember, what we work for won’t be around for a little while.

3. Do not argue with little data sets. Just because you cannot get a business connection of more than 1Mbit in some remote village does not mean you can invalidate the entire industry of stuff done online. Just like you cannot understand why big companies cannot extrapolate your little data set to make them understand they need to work on little edge cases, they cannot understand how your remote village cannot have faster Internet connections.

4. Do not fight progress. Technological advancement is inevitable. IT is no longer a geek profession, it’s a business profession and even if your argument is technically correct, the guy making the ultimate decision up top is more like Steve Ballmer than an engineer. Make your fight about money: “I have x clients that have y budget to spend and they cannot go to your product z. How can we continue to make money from them?” The reality of Microsoft’s massacre of SBS is that they saw the marketplace as shrinking and the # of users who didn’t want to spend money on IT was not going to pay for the continued development of a dinosaur.

I am nowhere near the level of Microsoft, let me just say that.

But I work with people all over the world and, given our size, we can act on the feedback much faster than others. So when I talk to my partners – many of whom are SBSers – they don’t have their head in the sand wishing Exchange would come back to their clients officer – they are smart business people. They, like their Microsoft millionaire brotherin, have the same business concerns of how do we adapt the new technology that is coming down the pipeline to serve our clients.

With all undue respect, the obstructionists that want to fight technology need to sit down because you’re giving all of small business IT a bad name.

Small businesses are frugal, yes, but they still have smart phones, broadband, multiple offices, temporary employees and facility challenges that big companies do. Stop portraying them like isolated backwoods technology haters who have no Internet connection and cannot read a screen smaller than 15” – if that’s your client base then you just have a crappy client base. Not every small business is building an SBS server with parts off eBay to save $20 and then end up with a nightmare business down scenario that takes you hours to put them back together.

Tons of small business IT folks make money with the cloud. And mobility. And consulting. And yes, even building workstations. But none of us are looking to stay in the past… this is a terrible industry to try that in.

Focus on the positives. Or move on as industry passes you by.

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