New world – old tech

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When I was younger, a lot younger, probably before some of you were even born, one of the phrases that I heard was:

That’s the way my dad did it and his dad before him.  If it was good enough for them it’s good enough for me.

The idea was that something that had been handed down for generations, a certain way of doing things, had to be good if it lasted for decades.  Oh my, how the world has changed.

It’s true, there are some techniques, practices, that have stood the test of time and are just as applicable today as they were twenty, fifty, a hundred years ago.  But there are also practices that deserve to be left on the dust heap of time.  As society changes, as we change, sometimes what we have accepted as “good” is no longer “good enough”.  Businesses have to understand this or they fade and blow away in the winds of change.

Pan Am – Pan American World Airways was the symbol of the aviation age and is still fondly remembered.  Indeed, it’s logo still lives on to signify a luxury travel standard.

Polaroid – From 1937 to 2001 Polaroid was the symbol of an easy-to-use camera . and then it filed for bankruptcy.  It’s still around, but it has little to no meaning in today’s world.

Borders – At one point it was the number two bookstore in the United States.  And then the Internet came and by 2011 Borders had closed all of its stores and sold its customer loyalty list to Barnes & Noble for $13.9 million.

Blockbuster – For those too young to remember, there used to be something called VHS tapes that people could rent.  And then came DVDs.  And then digital and then …

Woolworth’s – I loved these stores when I was a kid.  It was like a Wal-Mart before there was Wal-Mart.  Sadly it no longer exists.  I write this note a block away from where there used to be a Woolworth’s and I miss the lunch counter.

Things change.  They have to change as expectations change.  And yet, we develop applications like it’s 1985.  How do I know this?  I was developing applications in 1985 so I actually have first-hand knowledge of this fact.  (Yes, that’s right, thirty-two years as of July 2nd.)  Over thirty years developing apps the same way. stuck in a rut.

Many public sector organizations are stuck in a rut.  They truly are Pan Am / Borders / BlockBuster / Polaroid / Woolworth’s all rolled into one.  If they were a private company, they’d be a footnote in a Wikipedia article.  But they’re not a private company, they’re public sector.  Big deal.  Just because they’re public sector doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t change.  Just because they’re public sector doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t do their best.

IT changes fast.  So thirty years?  Kind of equivalent to the time between Galileo and the present day.  While the concepts are the same the technology is radically different.  So why are they still stuck staring at the stars through old technology?

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