Friday, December 17, 2004

interview w/ ray ozzie

part 1 of a great interview w/ ray ozzie, of lotus notes and groove fame, on (de)centralization, innovation, etc.

Austin: It's not just IT that behaves that way. There's a dynamic tension inside organizations, whether they're big or small, but it tends to be more pronounced (?) in the bigger ones. Real breakthroughs occur in non-routine work, by exception....All of these things are non-routine, cognitive behaviors, yet the essence of most organizations is just the opposite. They want to routinize things to be able to manage them, control them, predict them, which is just the opposite.

It's not just IT. IT just is the best example you and I think of because that's who we deal with all the time.

Ozzie: It's always best to seek out the right combination of the centralized and decentralized — the center and edge — for a process, a business unit, or an organization. Centralization is not the only answer or the best answer for everything. And decentralization can cause complete chaos under the wrong conditions. The challenge is: how can you best use a mix of centralized and decentralized models to accomplish the objective that you've got for the business?
Austin: Where does the understanding of how to apply the technology really come from?

Ozzie: Generally not from the technologists. It comes from the business experts. The domain expert drives the creation of a specific application within an area because they understand the business processes and practices of that area. It takes a technologist to build it, but it takes business experts to know what needs to happen. Having been through both the Notes experience and the Groove experience, I know the most important person is the customer or integrator that understands how to match the capabilities of a specific technology to what's needed.

Austin: Over the next ten years, if the current trends continue as we expect they will, the number of managers, that middle layer, will continue to shrink and the edge will keep growing.

...The IT professional ten years from now has to be much closer to being that domain expert that you described. And maybe they don't even work in a central IT organization. Maybe they will work in the line of business or its equivalent in a government space.

Ozzie: ...In short — although central IT continues to play a large role, the most important decisions for the business are made closer to the edge, at the line-of-business level.


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