Know thyself

In a world driven by digital transformation and newfound corporate idealism, it can be difficult to keep your organization’s identity straight. The hardest parts might be the public-facing ones, where you’re shedding business lines or closing stores, or introducing the world to the new, woke version of your company. But it matters internally, too, in terms of the technologies you choose and the culture you let bloom.

While there are lots of lessons to be learned from the way things are done in Silicon Valley, an insurance company headquartered in Chicago probably shouldn’t resemble a startup in San Francisco—or even a multi-billion-dollar enterprise in Mountain View—too closely. Companies need to do what works for them (something Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott addresses in this interview.) Culturally or technologically, nobody else is Google.

Sure, software developers like fun offices and free snacks, and they like to experiment with shiny, new open source tools developed by engineers at big tech companies. But what they really like is being productive and believing in the corporate mission. There are cultural and technological changes that need to happen for companies to adapt to the 21st century. Big or small, the trick is to really own those changes and not waste effort on a veneer of change.

Ironically, this also applies in the other direction, as Google itself has found out while trying to establish itself as an enterprise technology vendor. Facets of its renowned corporate culture have provided stumbling blocks on this mission. Historically, there were disconnects between the way Google does things and the way traditional enterprises prefer to buy and deploy IT. In the past year to so, the focus has shifted to employee-led revolts against Google selling its AI expertise to the U.S. military and, more recently, who should be allowed on its AI ethics board.

As a Wired headline succinctly puts it (and as the article explains in some greater depth), “Google needs to grow its cloud business carefully.” The tension between supporting employee ideals, living up to its free-spirit reputation, and securing large enterprise deals has led to PR firestorms and billions of dollars potentially left on the table. In October, Google pulled out of a Pentagon bid worth upward of $10 billion, which will now go to either Amazon Web Services or Microsoft.

This stuff is hard, because it’s not a simple black-and-white question of whether revenue trumps ideals and culture. It’s a more nuanced question of where newfound ambitions fit into established corporate culture, and which one is going to drive the ship.

As a company undergoing transformation, digital or otherwise, it’s important to know yourself and what you need to accomplish your goals. Maybe you really do need to completely ditch office formality for jeans, T-shirts and nap pods. Or maybe you just need to loosen up a bit. The important thing is to make that choice for a reason and act with purpose to deliver on it.

Leadership needs to know what's happening

New bill From Elizabeth Warren proposes potential jail time for CEOs over massive consumer data breaches (Slate): Something like this will come eventually because the buck has to stop somewhere and self-regulation hasn't really happened. Now's a good time to get serious about securing data.

Microsoft's CEO meets with top execs every week to review AI projects (CNBC): This seems like a pretty remarkable level of involvement, but it's probably a good thing if selling—and doing—AI is a priority at Microsoft.

Software brings opportunity and risk

Goldman's trading floor is going open source—kind of (Wall Street Journal): The company has been using GitHub for years, but now it's open sourcing some trading algorithms.

Western Union, often disrupted by startups, partners with a startup for digital push in the Philippines (TechCrunch): Sometimes, partnership makes a lot more sense than doing it yourself, especially in a foreign market.

Chinese hackers poke the Bayer, but German giant says it withstood attack (The Register): Finally, a success story on cybersecurity. It might not be digital transformation, per se, but Bayer is doing something right technologically.

75,000 more stores need to close across the US, UBS estimates, as online sales and Amazon grow (CNBC): If this is even close to accurate, it should be a strong catalyst to get your digital game in order. Signs suggest consumers want to be loyal, but they also need convenience.

Microsoft joins tech race to clean up shipping with big data (Bloomberg): The news is that Microsoft is investing in a startup that aims to improve fuel efficiency for ships. The bigger picture is that shipping is in for a revolution thanks to AI, data and IoT.

It's OK to slow down

3 signs you're going overboard with cloud features (InfoWorld): The subtitle to this post sums it up nicely (and speaks to the intro to this newsletter): "You use technology for a purpose, your purpose is never to use technology."

Serverless computing growth softens, at least for now (ZDNet): Even if accurate, new approaches to doing serverless in a more familiar manner should gin up renewed interest.

Google Cloud introduces Anthos, a hybrid cloud management product based on Kubernetes (GeekWire): Even cloud providers now understand that most companies don't want to move everything to a single cloud platform. But will their enterprise targets trust them to do multi-cloud right?

5 Definitions of DevOps, or, \_(ツ)_/ (Michael Cote): Another reminder to not get hung up on chasing terminology, but instead to focus on accomplishing goals using the best available methods.


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The Paths Forward for Your On-Premises Databases (Gartner; subscription required)

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