Microsoft Strengthens Its Hold On The Corporate World

On Friday, Microsoft completed its acquisition of Skype for $8.5 billion. This should be a huge red flag for corporations, but it’s not; Microsoft’s biggest customers are often unaware. Many of the top corporations have an unbelievably inefficient information architecture. Microsoft Sharepoint is the base for almost everything technology based at these companies, and everything by default runs on IIS and SQL Server because they are a “Microsoft company”. Microsoft’s creative licensing and support cost structures encourage the use of their full product suite. Once you sign up for one Microsoft product, they make it seem intuitive, by cost and technology, to use the rest. Microsoft lures in corporations with their big name, corporate suite, and supported products. Microsoft has really taken a hold on huge corporations by leveraging their brand and the fact that they provide full support. And out of fear of outages and not fully understanding the technology, huge corporations are encouraging this process. Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Skype will be no different. Skype was one of the few independent technologies emerging in the corporate world, and now it’s Microsoft owned as well.

When Microsoft first created its product suite, it was cutting-edge and something corporations should have embraced. Now, it’s not news that Microsoft is no longer on the cutting-edge for many of its products. But because corporations have spent so much money on training, licenses, and establishing a Microsoft based infrastructure, they are intimidated by change. Some even argue that change is unnecessary based on the “if it ain’t broke, why fix it” principle. Cost-benefit analyses have been done by the wrong people. Managers, even technology managers, may not be the proper parties to conduct these analyses. This is primarily because most technology managers at these large firms have been bred by Microsoft technologies. Room needs to be made in these corporations for a new breed of analysts and architects to have proper control to perform an assessment of technology. The benefits of moving towards new technologies are often undershot. Citing from my experience, proper implementation of a technology infrastructure may have upfront costs about 20% greater than current costs, but the five-year savings can be increased by up to 300% (case study coming soon).

Inefficiency in technology runs through the veins of these Fortune 500 companies and small businesses alike. What these companies don’t understand is that embracing open-source technologies, or any other technologies outside of Microsoft is not a bad bet. Sure support may have to be in house, but surprisingly enough, full development and maintenance is still scalable and could very possibly be cheaper than specialty Microsoft training, licenses, and products. An additional benefit is that the result would be a more efficient application. Not only would everything be done more efficiently, they could significantly cut overhead of all the Sharepoint licenses, and other Microsoft licenses. Think about how many handsomely paid Microsoft product SMEs there are. Why do there need to be so many Subject Matter Experts on the usage of individual Microsoft applications? Why not just hire architects and developers to create new, innovative, current, and cutting-edge products at a fraction of the cost?

Any organization built on Microsoft needs a re-evaluation of their information architecture. Sometimes Microsoft may be the best and most cost-effective option, but more often than not, it will not be. With the number of technologies and technology specialists out there, there is a vast market of custom, open-source, and off-the-shelf industrial and corporate level alternatives that can make your organization more cost-efficient and cutting-edge.

Learn to Code and Change the World

Today, with the click of a button you can plug-in just about any functionality into your website. Yesterday’s most complex, complicated solutions are being black-boxed into apps and libraries for reuse. APIs are essential, successful designs are easily accessible, and social networks are prevalent. What used to take months to complete can now be done in a day. All of this has allowed many engineers to enter a comfort zone. Even though there are persevering entrepreneurs, most developers are borrowing more than they are inventing.

While the simplification of web design is a positive impact, a significant drawback is that many developers are limiting their expertise to reusing solutions instead of creating solutions.  Web 2.0 and its goals of making the web usable, standardized, and social have persevered.  However, they are meant to lay the ground work for something bigger. Developers need to understand that although they need not reinvent the wheel, that’s what APIs are for, they still need to invent a car.  There was the renaissance then the industrial revolution.  Now, we are in the consumer revolution and the focus is on usable, simple solutions to target mass audience issues.

The past 10 years brought us the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Groupon. These products solve communication problems for users. Because they were catering to the consumer demand, they were quickly embraced by the mass public. But even though they are being used so widely, there may still be flaws in their methods or a better way to do it.  Just because a style or technology is widely used does not necessarily make it the most optimal method, instead it is the most optimal method currently discovered.  This is not a recommendation to throw away all existing solutions and start from scratch every time.  It is just some encouragement not to throw away one of your own ideas because something already exists in that realm.  It is a call to all designers and innovators who have ideas to exercise them.  It is a call to all those lazy developers to find that fire from they once had before everything was just handed to them on a silver platter.  Sure there are a few developers and companies still out there who innovate, but imagine how much more change and greater results we could achieve if every single web guru, developer, or just average Joe attempted to push the envelope.  How much more efficient, stylistic, and optimal would the web get if every developer put forth their best idea?

Over the past few years, many ideas have been thrown away because they’re not the norm set by Google, Apple, Twitter, or Facebook.  Sure it’s good to take into account how these internet giants solve their problems, but know that these companies themselves challenged the norm set by Microsoft, IBM, and MySpace to emerge into the market.  They themselves had to follow this process of challenging previous black-box solutions and ideas and to improve upon them and propose new ideas.  In the ’90s, there was the growth of the internet and the emergence of e-commerce. In the 2000s, there was the standardization of the web, a focus on usability, and the emergence of social networking. Right now is when technology is booming again. Venture capitalists are out there looking for the right ideas. Use what’s out there and find something that can be changed. Gather your ideas, write a proposal, and get the ball rolling. Change is good, change is inevitable, change is constant, but laziness is attractive.  Stop being lazy and be a part of the change.  Success lies in embracing the change and pioneering the change.  For all you know, you could be the next Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, or Shawn Fanning, so get off your ass and put your ideas into gear!

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