Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Restricting Technology: Not a Substitute for Good Management

It ain't easy being a small or medium business. You're not big enough to woo vendors with big contracts but you're too big to do things by the seat of your pants. Once, you were small enough to be lax and agile like that but now you've put on some extra weight and those additional employees and obligations (and laws) sure slow you down. We sometimes joke about the old dinosaurs, the massively big corporations, that change slowly and are burdened with an endless bureaucracy; Layers of middle-managers keeping the noble hourly employee in check.

To me, it's been interesting to watch SMB and Enterprise diverge from their traditional MO on technology. Where SMB used to be so nimble and innovative there seems to be a trend toward restriction and outsourcing. Enterprise seems to be leaning more toward relaxing and "insourcing". Obviously, legal requirements put limits on what any business can allow and require a certain amount of accountability but outside of those requirements this is the trend I see. To a certain

This trend to implement big brother on the SMB level reflects two facts (as I see it) about business:

  1. Once products become cheap enough vendors have to create an "industry trend" to sell to lots of SMB to keep profits up.
  2. Managing employees is hard. Really hard. The coward's way out is to use technology tools to insulate you from that job so that you can "focus on your business again."

Number 2 is being exacerbated by number 1. There's a lot of great tools out there in the enterprise sector. They serve a purpose and can be useful. The thing is, enterprise payed for an army of consultants to come in and implement management tools properly. SMB rarely does this, particularly on the "S" end of SMB.

Enterprise seems to have figured out that the IT police-state isn't sustainable. It becomes a nightmare and IT loses a lot of its effectiveness. There's a happier middle ground and larger organizations seem to be actively working on finding it. IT is about providing solutions and working with information not operating a Chinese great firewall to restrict users.

Sadly, I don't see an end to this in the near term. Industry trends are like a runaway bus that take everyone along with them for the ride. SMB needs to stop trying to buy all the enterprise stuff that finally came down to their price point (If I read another forum post by an SMB ITer asking which SAN to get I'll lose my mind). Prepare for the future of your business today. Be strategic and remember that technology should be part of, or at least play a part in, your business plan. It's a tool. Use it.