Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Should Corporate IT embrace its inner Ma Bell?

Okay, bear with me here.  I was thinking about this on the ride home, and I could be on to something, or I could have just inhaled too much exhaust.  Is "Corporate IT" (with capital letters) reaching a point where it looks more like Ma Bell than a helpful and innovative organization?  That's not a bad thing.  Look what happened when Ma Bell got shaken up.

Remember the old days, when you got your phone service in one-size-fits-all "service offering?" (Put down the ITIL book, I'm using it derogatorily.)  The phone company actually owned the wiring in your house, and you rented the handset from them.  (Kids, skip down a paragraph or two.)  And that made perfect sense!  Their product was intended to connect people, not just run a stupid network.  And who the hell wanted to manage their own infrastructure in the house, anyways?  Seriously, what do I care about my stupid phone service?

And then along comes the Sports Illustrated Football Phone.  (Kids, skip another paragraph.)  It just looks so awesome on TV and it's free fer chrissakes and it's a nice way to show your friends just how enthusiastic you are about ritualized, non-lethal battle games.  That guy in the ad looks so chummy and smart!  You must have one.  But it's a piece of junk and it breaks. So you call the phone company and they natter on at you about how it's an unsupported device and who do you think you are, a phone technician, this is very serious stuff.

You could write a book about this, so I'm sure someone has.  If not, get me a ghost writer and I'll supply the technical angle.  (Sadly, Tim O'Reilly does not read my blog.)

But it was really making me think.  Do we need to just relax, put a few sandbags in the right places, and begin to define our basic offering as merely running a line to the MPOE?  Do we charge extra for inside wiring work, but offer an "inside wiring plan," for folks who never want to bother with it?  If you get tired of your answering machine breaking tapes all the time (Kids, skip another sentence.) you'll see the value in paying extra for voicemail.  If you want to run a call center, we'll happily give you a T1 ... but arranging to de-mux it and install a PBX is up to you.

It sure beats the current state .. where we continue to offer services that are somewhat appealing to end-users, and mostly manageable at scale for IT, but kinda leave both of us a little unsatisfied.  They said I can keep the awesome football phone even if I choose not to subscribe!  Why are you making me use this hideous, heavy, putty-colored thing!?

Maybe it's time for Corporate IT to learn to stop worrying and love the football phone.


  1. Maybe it's a Mac as well -- it just works.

  2. Nonsense. Why would Apple ever want to make a telephone?