Rear View Mirror


Today, it seems everyone wants to be a “futurist.”  Or maybe that should be, TOMORROW everyone wants to be a futurist.  I never did get verb tenses very well.  In any case, I have decided that yesterday, I am a Pastist.  That’s the opposite of futurist, right?  I mean, it’s easy to prognosticate about what might happen in 5 or 10 years.  Even with Facebook making it so easy to find people you had the good fortune to lose touch with, who’s really gonna track you down to tell you how wrong you were?  But the past, that’s indisputable.  Much tougher!  That’s why there are so many futurists and so few pastists.  In fact, the annoying squiggles under the word itself tell me that Microsoft doesn’t even think it’s a word.  Clearly there’s no higher authority than that!

As a pastist, though, I want to point out three trends from the PAST 10 years  that I find particularly disturbing:

1) Outsourcing – who’s idea was that anyway?  My guess is some CFO under a lot of pressure to find the last semi-legal way to satisfy his or her ravenous shareholders and who had no respect for the real work that IT professionals do.  And more importantly, the irreplaceable intellectual capital (that’s right, as opposed to the “real” capital that the CFO cares so deeply about) that you just glibly shipped outside your company without realizing it’s the same as if you had shredded your precious financial documents from the past 3 filing years.  Oh wait, you did that too!

2) Client/Server – nothing says organization and synergy like taking your corporate data and chopping it up into little pieces, hiding it in all your departments, and then later spend literally millions of dollars trying to reassemble into something meaningful.  Seriously, that’s what most Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing projects are.   Sad attempts to glue back together your mom’s favorite china plate that you dropped on the tile floor.   But don’t worry, once all the pieces are reassembled, you can put them in “the cloud…”

3) SAP – I guess, in many ways, this was the best alternative to client/server.  Buy a single, all-encompassing and hopelessly complex, “best practice”-based combination business process/software/workflow, stop everything else you are doing for 5 years to try to implement it, and then wait for either the promised ROI to magically appear or the phone call to come to the CEO’s office and explain yourself before your exit interview…

What does all this have to do with being a better leader? 

In the next ten years (or if you’re into New Year’s Resolutions, the next 3 months) buck a trend.  Do what your instincts tell you are right, instead of what “everyone else is doing.”  Focus on your customers or, God-forbid, your employees and ignore the folks whispering that if you just put your whole business on an iPhone app, build a Facebook fan page, and Twitter all day long you’re guaranteed to succeed…  Damn futurists…

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2 Comments on “Rear View Mirror”

  1. ilya Says:

    I think the more commonly used term for a pastist is a “historian”? anyway, context is king… i think there are plenty of situations where your prescription of “mobile phone + facebook + twitter” is exactly what’s needed!

  2. Mark Says:

    Nice post! I can relate to #1 and #2.

    I’m also amazed at how little web programming technology has evolved. We are still spending lots of money dealing with fragile web applications (think buggy HTML, multiple browsers to test/debug, stateless, etc).

    Many people don’t realize that many of the problems we are “solving” today are the same problems we thought we were solving 10 years ago. While mobile technology has changed and formed a whole new industry, the enterprise web application technology is largely the same but with more acronyms and software layers to learn and manage.


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