Sramana Mitra: Let me pick up on a few things you said and drill down on those. You were talking about “back to the future” as in we went to this client–server model, a more distributed model, and now we’re going back to a centralized, hosted solution that is accessed by [thin] clients, and in some cases, rich clients, all over the world.
Steve Garrou: Yes, that’s definitely part of it, the technology of “back to the future.” And we see the pendulum swinging back and forth from client server to thin client and then back to distributed [and] decentralized. We actually see that.
SM: That’s not the only trend we see, though. We see also the consumerization of IT and of the enterprise. There’s lots of activity going on. There are all sorts of people using technology in the nodes, bringing new technology into the nodes, developing applications in the nodes. How does all that get reconciled?
SG: Yes, I agree. That’s where I was going next. The other side of “back to the future” is that it does all come back to an IT organization’s having a strong link to the lines of business and how the marketing department needs to launch a marketing campaign for a new product they’re coming out with. Or how they’re looking at merging with a new company that was just acquired. So, by “back to the future” I mean we still have the point around understanding what really drives business and then IT enabling those capabilities. I think we swung in the other direction where cloud and technology and as-a-service were leading the conversation. I think maybe the market got away from the business driver.
SM: Do you think business units ask IT for permission to buy cloud services, for instance?
SG: No, I think that’s exactly the problem. I think you’re right. I think that’s the problem that the IT buyer is struggling with. A lot of the CIOs and IT directors whom I speak with want to support the business units. They want to lead and demonstrate the value to their organizations. I think they’re struggling with that. So, I think you’re absolutely right. That is the situation – the consumerization that you talk about as well as what’s happening out in the nodes. I think the IT organization is looking for help to answer those problems and get out in front, which brings up a decent area where entrepreneurs can come into play and focus on connecting those two groups.
SM: How do you do that? That’s a good conversation. I just want to underscore what you and I are both saying by pointing out that when “cloud computing” came about, the software-as-a-service model started to gain traction. One of the ways they got traction was by not having to sell to the CIO’s organization. WebEx is a classic example. WebEx as a business went to the sales organization and sold to the sales and training organizations without IT being involved. They were so happy about being able to bypass IT in their sales cycle. The same was true with Salesforce.com. They were able to sell to the sales organizations without having to worry about IT. That cut down the sales cycles of these software-as-a-service companies. Now, we have thousands of software-as-a-service companies and cloud computing services that are being purchased in this federated, distributed mode. I’m not sure I understand how IT is going to regain control over all of this.
SG: I think I agree with you. I’m not sure that they’re going to regain control; however, I also know that organizations seem to function best when there’s a correlated or centralized strategy in place. It’s difficult to have two or three business units driving selection of office applications and convergence and collaboration software. You don’t want two different business units or three different units using different tools for that, as an example. There still needs to be a centralized planning strategy function that meets the needs of the end users, who are driving the innovation. At the same time, the organization needs to operate efficiently, and those decisions should be made in conjunction with the rest of the business unit.