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Why are vendors in the IT operations management market?

by Cameron Haight  |  July 15, 2013  |  2 Comments

The other day, my colleague George Spafford emailed a link to me on a 2009 TED Talk by Simon Sinek on “How great leaders inspire action.” Even through the video is now several years old, the argument that Simon makes is timeless. The key graphic in his presentation is re-created below:


Sinek states that most organizations know what they do and also how they do it (i.e., perhaps through some value differentiating process, etc.). He argues, however, that few organizations know why they do what they do (beyond of course just generating a profit). From a strategy perspective, these conventional organizations operate from outside in with respect to his model which Sinek calls “The Golden Circle.”

What Sinek argues is that great, inspiring organizations and people (he cites Apple Computer, the Wright Brothers and Dr. Martin Luther King) think, act and operate the same way which is the opposite from everyone else. They start from the inside of the model or “why” because they have a purpose, a belief or a cause that is the DNA embedded in everything that they do, from the products that they build, to the marketing messages that they develop and ultimately to the people that they hire.

As I watched the video, I started to ask myself if I could think of any IT operations management companies that could be included in the list of inspiring entities that Sinek cites? The results that came back to me were pretty sparse. Many were companies that were early movers in the DevOps arena with their almost evangelical zeal for their mission to change the conventional IT operations environment. And one or two others pre-dated the DevOps rise with their own edgy approaches. I wonder, however, how many of these firms will manage to retain the quality that identifies them over a decade or more like an Apple?

I have a personal example of this. Prior to coming to Gartner, I worked at BMC Software in a variety of roles. Coming from IBM, it was quite a shock to me. With FY 1993 sales of almost $ 240 million based in of all places Houston, the company was 13 years old (and had been public for 5 of those) and yet still operated very much like a Silicon Valley start-up. Developers walked around in jeans, shorts and flip flops wearing tee-shirts that said “Best Little Software House in Texas” on them. The company had “product authors” that designed software that did amazing things in mainframes – things that even the inventor of the MVS operating system had difficulty replicating during that era. Sales was unconventional for that time as well – it was rare for an account rep to actually visit their customer as most interaction was done over the phone leveraging a “try and buy” model which was even more amazing when you consider that many software licenses regularly cost over $ 100,000.

But today we see a company that has been a perennial member of the “Big Four” in IT operations management now in the process of going private. There are many possible reasons for this but I like to think it has a lot to do with the issue surrounding Simon Sinek’s question of “why.” And to be clear, this issue is not specific to BMC, but can also found in almost all of their competitors, i.e., CA Technologies, HP, IBM, etc., as well as numerous other large and small firms in the management industry. Why do they exist and by extension, what is their dream? How they answer this will help us to better understand their future prospects.

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Category: it-management  

Tags: agile  apple  big-four  bmc  devops  

Cameron Haight
Research VP
10 years at Gartner
30 years IT industry

Cameron Haight is a research vice president in Gartner Research. His primary research focus is on the management of server virtualization and emerging cloud computing environments. Included in this effort is… Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Why are vendors in the IT operations management market?

  1. Great to see we share an interest in TED Talks, Cameron! That one specifically comes from a TEDx community event.

    When I was 15, I submitted an article to Slashdot, and the resulting traffic blew up my shared hosting site. As it was happening, I was shocked at how difficult it was to gain visibility–let alone add capacity–to my systems. And that shock never left me.

    Fast forward a couple years, and EC2 came around. With it, I saw an opportunity to make a *beautifully easy way to create scalable, resilient infrastructure*. This saw the creation of the Scalr open source project, in 2008, and subsequently the business that supports it.

    As an open source project to which anyone can contribute to, we’re frequently at odds with contributers that don’t share our vision for beautiful, easy infrastructure management. It means that we have to turn people down, and we often upset our community.

    And if you think of the other companies / projects in the space, they all suffer from feature bloat, cramped interfaces, and poor user experience. Kind of like the phone market pre-iPhone: all the vendors competed on functionality, none on design.

    At Scalr, we strive to change that– we’ll consider ourselves successful if one day “design” makes it to the list of qualities that analysts and enterprises search for and evaluate.

  2. Great article Cameron.

    The question of WHY is a critical one, not only for organisations but also for individuals at all levels. Often, the market, colleagues and most judge things by the outcome (which is important); however when this is the only thing that is being judged/considered, it can lead to a vicious cycle that eventually leads to losing sight of the WHY (or the real motivation) – which then eventually leads to lack of purpose.

    This can also be seen in children, for most the older they get the less they ask WHY and just follow. Those that keep asking why and have clarity of motive are usually the ones that stand out and continue to make a difference.

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