Today we offer another of I. M. Wright’s archived podcasts; we’re posting a new one and an archived one each month until we catch up with the sartorially resplendent Mr. Wright. This post delivers the podcast from April 2008; the original related post is here.
If you enjoy this column or podcast, you might want to take a look at I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code” (Microsoft Press, 2008), which includes 49 columns and numerous Eric Asides contextualizing, clarifying, and complementing I. M.’s unpulled punches. (Eric Brechner is Director of Development Excellence in Microsoft’s Engineering Excellence group.)
Here is I. M.’s opening this time:
Remember this one, "The microprocessor changes everything!" No, it didn't. Yes, it had a big impact, but people still fretted about the same problems and tried to accomplish the same things. They just created problems and accomplished things more efficiently. How about, "The Internet changes everything!" No, it didn't. Yes, it had a big impact, but people just got that much better at creating the same problems and accomplishing the same things. Now we have, "Software plus services changes everything!" Oh, spare me.
You might claim, "I. M., you're wrong about this one. Microsoft did change dramatically with each of those shifts." We changed quite a bit, but not dramatically. If we had changed dramatically, we would have cut or replaced the majority of the workforce (talk to your friends at other companies). Instead, we augmented our tools and our workforce to take advantage of each new opportunity.
Look, I don't want to downplay the importance of any of these shifts. They improved people's lives and made the world smaller and more accessible. They grew new businesses, improved quality, and increased productivity. That's fantastic. But don't go around saying a new technology changes everything, because the things that count don't change: people, their problems, and what they want to accomplish. Just ask those companies who focused on the technology instead of the customer. Oh wait, you can't. They're bankrupt.