I’ve acknowledged previously that companies where IT essentially isthe business (think Amazon, Google, et al) mature very differently than do IT organizations that are essentially supportfunctions (think most traditional businesses, even most financial services companies that are highly information intensive). We’ve seen this in our SOA research – and this was a pattern I saw in my early days in the world of software development automation. While “embedded IT shops” where IT was a support function were struggling with, and by and large, rejecting advanced development methods (e.g., object oriented development, programming workstations), software companies were embracing these same methods. There’s a related theme if you look at where the real CMMI Level 5 shops are found – I’d argue that few, if any, are found in embedded IT shops. (There’s a whole other debate about whether embedded IT shops should strive for Level 5 CMMI, but let’s leave that for another post!)
Anyway, I was reminded how important this was as I was reading an excellent piece in the October Harvard Business Review, called The Institutional Yes – an interview of Jeff Bezos. (Yep, I’m behind on my reading backlog! Blame it on blogging!)
At a first glance, especially early in their early development, Amazon could have been mistaken for an on-line book merchandising business. Clearly today they are much more than that, and Information Technology is the business– it has enabled them to evolve rapidly, experiment broadly, adapt with agility, and, most importantly for stakeholders, grow value exponentially. They have now moved into their “developer-facing” business, making their internally developed tools available to third parties.
Based on the interview, one can see all sorts of Next Generation Enterprise characteristics at Amazon – and can infer relatively high Business-IT Maturity. They don’t view their IT capabilities as “support functions” or a cost center.
It’s interesting to see how different strategy development (and associated strategic change) is at Amazon compared with “traditional” businesses where IT is a support function. I think there are many lessons to be learned here about the ultimate role IT can (should?) play in any businesses (Barnes and Noble thought they were safe until Amazon came along!) I also think there are lessons that connect Next Generation Enterprises with Business-IT Maturity (alluded to elsewhere in this blog).
I’m going to start teasing out these lessons in some upcoming posts on “the theory of the case” in IT maturity and the Next Generation Enterprise. The key question is, how do you get to that level of business-IT convergence?