From: Wade T. Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Tue 17 Jun 2003 - 17:12:36 GMT
Do I think this article is a data point for the performance model?
Well, sort of. It's whatever anyone wants to do with it, I suppose. But
it is also an opinionated prediction (and that's the only thing
memetics is able to do, scientifically...) about where a very vital
piece of the business structure might end up any day now. In its way,
it's no more or less prophetic or opinionatedly predictive than
'Network', the movie by Paddy Chayefsky, is. And I've been reading science-fiction all my life- I know what opinionated predicting is....
And I opinionatedly predict that unless memetics adopts something
looking more like the performance model, it will be relegated to a
sidenote and a few fluff pieces and a catchphrase, if it hasn't
already, although the piece below doesn't mention the damn things even
once. (Or jewrabs, either....)
** Business Technology: A New Breed Of Standards Makers
ISC versus Intel, Linux versus Windows Server 2003, XML versus J2EE,
Oracle versus DB2, PC versus Mac, etc., etc., etc. We have grown fully
accustomed to competing vendors promoting their own versions of what
they would like us to believe are standards--or at least should be
standards. (And didn't a group of several PC vendors long ago band
together to offer a "standard" bus alternative to IBM's EISA?) Since
competition for consumer choice is an intensely powerful motivator,
this has generally been a very good thing for business-technology
customers and for the IT vendors vying to set and control those
desperately sought-after standards.
And while it's probably safe to say that such vendor-driven competition
will continue to be hot and heavy for quite some time to come, I also
think we're at point where a new set of standards will be driven not by
the companies that make the stuff but rather by the companies that buy
it. I don't mean accepted, tolerated, put up with, or adopted--I mean
driven by, established by, set by, and enforced by. And to start with,
I mean Wal-Mart.
Long ago, Wal-Mart rattled a lot of cages when its internal commitment
to EDI was extended outward to suppliers: If you want to do business
with us, then you will comply with our supply-chain technology
standards. If you don't want to comply with our standards, that's
OK--but you won't do business with us. Fairly simple, perfectly clear:
The choice is yours. For some small companies, that presented a tough
challenge: How am I going to afford this new technology? And even if I
could afford it, I still wouldn't have any clue about what it is or
what it does. But can I afford to stop doing business with the largest
retailer in the world? Will this investment in something called EDI
perhaps help me run my small business more effectively? Does all the
benefit of this investment accrue to Wal-Mart, or will some of it come
back to me?
They weren't talking about IBM or Microsoft or Intel or Sun or Oracle;
they were talking about Wal-Mart's technology requirements. And it
seems to me that the same things are happening again today, but in a
way that's more profound and sweeping. It's not just about orders and
shipments anymore. It's about real-time connections to customers and
markets, it's about rapid shifts in product design to accommodate
emerging tastes, it's about inventory management and cost control and
greater collaboration with suppliers and suppliers' suppliers and much
more, and it ultimately leads back to the fundamental questions:
Will this investment in technology make my business stronger, more
competitive, more profitable, more opportunistic?
Heck, there's even a supply-chain execution company in Atlanta, called
Manhattan Associates, that offers a set of products and services that
it guarantees will make your company 100% technology-compliant with
Wal-Mart. Not compliant with a mainframe or an operating system or a
network or an enterprise application, but with Wal-Mart. Is this going
to become the new model for what is or isn't a standard? Are we moving
to a new model in which the technology standards that most managers
care about are not so much those that are internal to the IT industry
but instead are the ones specified by these enormous hubs of
commerce--Wal-Mart, General Motors, the Department of Defense, Procter
& Gamble, McKesson, Eli Lilly, and a handful of others?
I think the answer is yes, and that doesn't in any way diminish the
impact and significance of IT vendors or the standards they promote.
Rather, it just places those in the context they were always meant to
be in: customer-driven choices about which alternative will make my
business more competitive, more successful, and more profitable.
Because those are standards we all support.
- Bob Evans is editor-in-chief of InformationWeek.
E-mail him at email@example.com .
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