lørdag den 2. januar 2010

IT History - Fractions from a Journey

On December 30. I had my last working day with IBM. After 39½ years I received a very nice offer, and yet it was a strange feeling trying to summarize all the changes I have lived through since I joined the IBM Denmark company in 1970. It wasn't really my intention to make a career out of it – I graduated as a Master Economist, but I got interested in Data Processing, and decided that the best place to learn more probably was in the department for Operating Systems in IBM. At that time the Disk Operating System (DOS) was being outdated by OS that came in two brands: OS/MFT (Multiprogramming with a fixed number of tasks) and OS/MVT for the REALLY big machines allowing a variable number of transactions concurrently.

The picture here is me in 1970 and the photo was illustrating 'Modern Data Processing' in the Danish encyclopedia. It was a 360/40 – huge machine, 256K memory.

Over the years a lot of rather dramatic changes occurred – both in the way the Company was organized, in technology and in the competitive landscape. I soon got captured by the Government Branch and spent most of my career working with Government in some way, interrupted by assignments in Stockholm organizing and running Sales School and internal Training in mid 70's and handling staff job in the early 1980's and again in the mid 90's.

My first job was with what became one the 4 DP Centers for the Kommunedata organisation, and the first center to work with typewriter terminals to run financial management systems. 5 years before the color screens and the Systems network Architecture was announced. I later become responsible for the entire local Government and Health Care market, which had a fantastic growth in the late 70'es

IBM changed dramatically in the early 80'es – we had been split up in 3 divisions, DP (the Large Customer segment), GB (mid size machine and small and medium customers) and the DCS - the Data center Operations. The split was made to prepare for a split up if a court ruling found IBM guilty in monopolistic behavior, but thanks to the growing competition from Amdahl for the high machines, Memorex and similar for peripheral and Digital for mini computers, IBM avoided to be cut up and instead pooled the resources. Then in 1981 the IBM PC suddenly emerged as a new star – based on standard components bought on the open market it seemed to be the brand name that sold the product. I was asked to organize a group of system engineers and salesmen to conquer the Danish Education and Scientific market for the PC's, and I had the pleasure of interviewing some 300 teachers before hiring 6 of them – with sweaters and hairy faces and everything. Plus a nice lady, a French teacher from a high school. In fact we succeeded in just 4 years, the mantra was that it was not the question of the Hardware but how the software could help the teachers. It worked – and I still recall the first IBM PC we sold with 2 diskette stations, 256K for 7.000 US Dollars (35.000 Danish Kroner). At the end of the 80'es and early 90'es I was responsible for Market Development for the Public Sector (including Post, Defense, Central Government, Tele). At that time it was dawning on IBM's management that the business model had to change and that we had to charge for our skilled Systems Engineers and Networking CE's. The Business Consulting area began to be the hot topic, but my position - together with some of the former Government Branch Managers - was that it was important to marry the consulting skills with deep industrial knowledge. We lost the argument, and the General Business Consultant emerged, later to be split into practices and boosted by the subsequent purchase of Price Waterhouse. (See: Seven Keys to Success )

In the 90'es a new thing emerged – the Internet. Although I already got acquainted with it during my job with the University Sector, it wasn't until around 1994 that it became clear that a new market was emerging; I started a fantastic group of quite young people, creative designer-types and long haired programming freaks plus a couple of deeply engaged old time Systems Engineers. Within just a few years we managed to create first-of-a-kind of websites for Copenhagen City, a number of Danish Companies, plus launched the first secure payment systems on the Internet. And then suddenly – it all became 'pervasive' – which in practice meant that the profit margin for doing websites and similar solutions were coming down, and that the new business model would call for a value chain of Business Partners and IBM withdrawing to delivering the SW platforms and intermediate layers.

So the turn-around of the Company mid to late 90's architected by Lou Gerstner, once again laid to a dramatic change in organization, and started the period of active acquisitions, that Sam Palmisano carried on. As of today, the organization is split in divisions reporting to global or regional managers, and the coordination that is necessary in every major customer engagement handled by a an all-encompassing CRP and accounting system and strict procedures for bidding.

Since the end of the 90'es I have worked internationally as an eGovernment Advisor in a job working with the public sector and the Software group – plus of course a number of dedicated business partners and our GBS people that on and off have supported Public Sector.

This has been an enormousinspiration, has brought me to the Middle East working with the forward thinking Governments in Dubai and Quatar, I have witnessed and supported the Baltic Countries in their quest to outgrow the older parts of Europe, with Iceland, with the Nordic Countries and during the last few years with Greenland and the new Greenland parliament, which I hope to continue as a ppensioner.The dramatic changes in the IT world since 2001 and the rise of the Open Source Community is a trend, that I expect we have only seen the tip off. When Cloud Computing really takes off, the business model for selling Software Licenses will change once again and the new competitive landscape will be different from anything we have seen so far. Google probably aiming to become the next top competitor and Microsoft standing to loose.

And this may be some of the reasons IBM has survived all the turmoil – at least during my 39½ years: We have always been careful to select the battlefield. The competitors we had in the late 70'es were all gone 10 years after; the competitors we had in the 80'es have almost all disappeared, with HP as an exception. And with IBM now launching the Smart Planet approach and going for Software as a service and supporting Open Source, the competitors in 10 years again will be a different crowd. An old IBM'er told me 25 years ago that IBM meant: I'll Be Moved – because the mantra of the company is change.

So I will. And I have promised to start to document IBM Denmark's History. It started January 1. 1950 as a local Danish Operation. It shouldn't be too difficult – after all I have lived through 2/3 of the history myself!

1 kommentar:

Catherine sagde ...

Excellent project. I'm sorry it has taken me so long to find it!