Recently I was in Munich for some training with Collax. In the evening we walked through the city center and I found an old book shop. Since I am a book junkie („My name is Christian and I still don’t have an iPad“) I spend some time looking for second hand books and found the following: „Who’s afraid of BIG BLUE?“ by Regis McKenna. The author is still known as an IT marketing expert. The book was printed in 1989. It talks about IBMs role in the computer market and there are a few, no, a lot of things, I did not know and are quite interesting. For example: I didn’t know, that IBM used FUD very, I mean very heavily to keep the competition out. When I think how many times we complained about Microsofts FUD strategy against Notes, I can only come to the conclusion, they learned from the best, from IBM. But, FUD wears of. The longer you try it and it does not come true, the less people are going to believe you. IBM’s FUD strategy failed in the end and Microsoft’s will fail, too.
There were some things I asked myself, if they still stand true today.
„Entrepreneurial and independent thinking have always been discouraged among the blue-suited army of IBM managers.“
When I recall what I had to go through with most IBMers that I worked with during the Lotus Foundations era, I would say, they still hate to take decisions.
If there is not a process for it, they can’t do it.
Another interesting part was the story about the PC and PS/2. Apart from the logo there was nothing from IBM in the first IBM PC’s and many believed that the Micro Channel in the PS/2 was a marketing ploy. And I thought IBM invented the PC.
In chapter 3 McKenna talks about „Big Blues for Big Blue“* and mentions a few points, where IBM has problems.
Problem #1 – A Mind-Blogging Bureaucracy. YES, still valid today, Passport Advantage was invented by a sadistic bean counter and process manager and the lead management tool must be from another century. They certainly run it with a steam engine.
Problem #2 – Installed technology. Nope, that isn’t a problem.
Problem #3 – Incompatible Products. I don’t think that this is a problem today.
Problem #4 – The Arrogance of Success. Interesting. What do you think?
But what is certainly still true, they only fight for the Fortune 1000 accounts.
The book reads, as if it wasn’t written 22 years ago. McKenna mentions many things, I was convinced they came much later. I talked about electronic mail and a lot about networks and sharing information. Somehow I have the impression, we haven’t made a huge progress since then. Sure, the word „Internet“ wasn’t mentioned in the book, but something like that was looming on the horizon. We are still using Folders to organise data and we still use the mouse and a keyboard. I am a bit disappointed about our achievements in the last 22 years. Look at Notes. Ray Ozzy had such a wonderfull idea and everything we have today called social software has been here for two decades.
Can we have something revolutionary please!
*BTW did you know that IBM does not want you to use the term „Big Blue“? Their marketing departement found out that this is too close to „the Blues“, meaning depression.