Bulletin 20 July 2018. Journeys to the cloud, and what to say when you have nothing to say?

It’s not that big a secret why I dropped out of the analyst business for a while. Having spent over ten years being asked what I thought about everything and anything technological, one day I simply found I had run out of things to say. It wasn’t any big crisis, more a flummoxed shrug which came uncoincidentally at a time when everything, I mean everything, was going to “move to the cloud.”

We now know better, of course. A philosophical shift towards thinking about workloads rather than resources has been taking place for some time, based on an increasingly flexible architecture. The only reason you (still) have to think about hardware is because of its constraints, bottlenecks and work-arounds; take these away, either by having enormous availability or by clever orchestration, and the conversation can focus on the problem you are trying to solve, rather than what you use to solve it. 

Should everything have just moved to the cloud, we would indeed now be in a world where IT infrastructure didn’t matter at all (hat tip: Nicholas Carr, who painted such a picture). For a raft of reasons however, nothing could be further from the truth. Technology is fragmenting and diversifying, just as you would expect anything to do when all constraints are removed: isn’t commoditisation the ultimate constrained environment? (It is also no coincidence that, as the conversation has moved more towards representing this increase in complexity, I have found myself re-joining it. But enough about me!)

So, what does one do when one has nothing to add? One shuts up, of course. Over the past few years I have spent a fair portion of my working hours ghost-writing for very smart, yet strangely less articulate members of the technological community. In doing so, I’ve learned an inordinate amount. Not only about technology and business, but also about listening. 

Listening is hard. Not only because of the noise/signal ratio, but because of our individual perspectives, framings and indeed, fears and hubris: it can sometimes be the hardest thing in the world to pay attention to what people are telling you. At a recent event, a speaker was complaining to me about how stupid some of the questions were. I didn’t say anything, but I remain firmly in the belief that when someone says, “Can you explain better, I don’t understand,” that’s probably down to their own inarticulacy, rather than a fault of the audience. 

Back in 1997, I wrote an article for my consulting colleagues about blockers to listening. As I’m a hoarder, I still have them so here they are: 

  • baggage – extraneous clutter in our own brains which distracts from the conversation in hand
  • inner noise – the conversation sets off a train of thoughts which, though fascinating, prevent us from continuing to listen
  • control – leaps of understanding about what the person is trying to say, missing his/her actual point entirely
  • ping-pong – where a client’s point triggers a memory or an opinion, so we spend the next minutes looking for a suitable gap to express it
  • display – where we use the conversation as a tool to express our own knowledge, ignoring the client’s subject matter and making him feel stupid in the bargain
  • hidden agenda – where we ensure that the conversation achieves our own goals, forgetting to check that the client’s goals are satisfied. 

We’ve all done them, me more than most probably. But over the past twenty years, I have at least learned that often, saying nothing is the best form of communication. 

10 Reasons why Broadcom is buying CA Inc

Here’s an “article” for the week. I say “article” because I confess to have been tickled as to why a chip company might by an enterprise software company. I couldn’t resist a bash at why that might be. 

Extra-curricular: Society of Authors Annual Awards

The SoA is like one of those best-ket secrets: anyone who professes some kind of authorship can can join for a nominal fee, make the most of its great legal and other services, and attend small events with luminaries of the writing world (Stephen Fry’s speech was worth the cost of entry). When seen as a collective, authors are not such a scary bunch but they generally share one characteristic: the ability to finish things. I will this on board! 

Thank you again for reading, as always. 


Bulletin 20 July 2018. Journeys to the cloud, and what to say when you have nothing to say?

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