A spectre is haunting IT, the spectre of revolution…again. The IT industry, no stranger to radical change, is revving up its search engines to thrust itself into the great unknown: new markets, whole new industries and of course unheard of technologies or resurrected old technologies.
But this revolution is culturally different than the preceding changes that brought the world a PC in every home and broadband to every user.
Previously, new pieces of technology had bone-dry, jaw-cracking acronyms – now there’s a large degree of irony and levity in Opensource Software: names like Cucumber, Jelly and Badger not uncommon among new product releases.
Even the names of new tech corporations retain the sense of their origins: the image of one or two guys in a yard or garage hammering out a prototype trying to solve a real world problem like how to move files from college to home without having to e-mail all the time.
Start-ups and the latest IT Leviathans, instead of power projection, are now deliberately trying to open new spaces that incubate talent and attempt to recreate the campus spark that created Google and Facebook.
Possibly, they’re the first organisations that see the developer as a value add and not an unavoidable cost.
Recently, some tech enterprises have even experimented with abolishing management positions and deciding product strategy by voting among developers, all in an effort to create some type of organisation that is still effective but doesn’t snuff out creativity.
These aren’t just cool ideas, they come from a realisation that in the new markets firms need to be creative to compete. No-one’s going to survive scooping out plain vanilla or just shifting boxes no matter how impressive their boardroom decor.
Another feature of this new culture is an emphasis on collaboration as opposed to competition among developers as exemplified by the spread of opensource software projects. Contrast this with the hyper-competitive, unqualified libertarianism in Silicon Valley in the ’80s and ’90s.
The most important product of this new collaborative culture is Opensource Software and it’s providing much of the foundation for the cloud revolution. In many ways it can be more effective than proprietary software. The bigger the opensource software development the greater the value added to the end product.
The recurring themes in this new culture are collaboration, openness and the idea of a tech community. Engine Yard, a leading global PaaS operation with its EMEA HQ in Dublin, is a leading proponent of this new culture. They commit to open source cloud software and locally they promote a tech community by sponsoring meet-ups for PostgreSQL and Ruby developers and networking events like Interaction 12 Redux. Their Vice-President of Engineering, Eamon Leonard, was named Overall Net Visionary 2012 in the Net Visionary Awards.
For the rest of us as this revolution progresses working life will become less centralised, the office might become a bit like a board room or meeting room used only on occasion. And organisations will definitely be flatter. But this means more responsibility for individual workers, the pressure will be on to come up with sharper and better ideas. Also, with the proliferation of smarter and mobile technology work will be always switched on, risking it creeping deeper into our lives.