Bowtie vs. Diamond

I have a theory that there are two basic shapes of organisation when it comes to organising IT – bow-tie and diamond.

A bow-tie shaped organisation aims to keep the "business people" on one side of the bow-tie and the "techies" on the other side. The "knot" is where the two are supposed to meet, to exchange instructions.

The diamond-shaped organisation, on the other hand, has no such pinch-point in the middle – just a thick middle where business and techies intermingle, speaking pretty-much the same language. Most start-ups are shaped like diamonds – whenever I have walked into a Silicon Valley start-up, for instance, I am hard-pushed to tell who is responsible for what.

Most large corporates are bowtie shaped. There would be some merit in trying to at least thicken out the "knot".

Posted via email from Inflection Point v2

Innovation and big companies

I watched an interesting video interview with Tim Weller of Incisive Media yesterday in which Tim explained one of his top priorities was returning the company to the innovative, risk-taking culture of its early years. I think most big companies spend a lot of time puzzling over how to increase agility and innovative spirt in their organisations, and most don’t really make much of a fist of it.

One reason, I believe, is that as companies grow complexity increases. In a start-up mode everybody does everything (more or less) but later specialisms emerge and so getting things done involve large groups of “experts”.They are already busy, so co-ordination becomes a real challenge and progress slows, a process Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, founders of 37 Signals, offer an antidote to in their book Rework.

Another reason is IT complexity; multiple systems are “upgraded” and added to over long periods of time so that integrating with them becomes a mammoth task, and doing so only increases the complexity and inter-dependency.

So is there a way to cut through this? I don’t really know, but I do believe that the recent developments of cloud computing which allow small pieces loosely joined but running on other people’s infrastructure do offer real hope here. If you are renting computing cycle time and storage from Amazon for a few dollars, it is much more easy to imagine lots more innovative small projects getting off the ground outside of the corporate spaghetti. It is (relatively) easy for start-ups like 37 Signals to keep the agility and simplicity in their businesses – it’s much harder for corporates who have spent years building up complexity and the organistional structures which keep things complex.

Posted via email from Inflection Point v2