• The most important companies of today may not be around tomorrow
• Planning for alternatives in technology purchasing/direction insulates from vendor instability
The recent travails of Twitter and its new owner have been the subject of considerable news reports and analysis. Twitter has been a fixture of social media for over a decade, and its fate is yet to be determined. The larger effect of Twitter’s current trials on the technology industry has been one of shock. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, AWS, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and other “big tech” stalwarts have a feeling of permanence, a sense that these companies are forever. No member of IT staff or technologist can really go a day without encountering at least one of these firms. Their storied market prominence, technological achievements, and reputations all add to the feeling that these companies will be around and important forever.
Stories of similar big companies, with similar reputations and importance that have come and gone in the past have faded. They were victims of the innovator’s dilemma, outdated go to market models, failure to invest in R&D, or any other of a host of reasons. But the truth is that things do change. Some companies survive through the eras, like IBM, Microsoft, and Apple, although they are different than they were in prior heydays. Some companies either get gobbled up by competitors or diminish to be a shadow of their former prominence (e.g., BlackBerry).
When there is trouble at big technology stalwarts, there are always two main responses. First, is that there is nothing wrong, that this is a temporary setback at worst. The second is to call doom and gloom on the tech sector, using the stalwarts as prime examples. Both responses are an oversimplification. There are thousands of factors, especially if there are macroeconomic headwinds. These two positions lead to poor decision making.
The lesson is that no company is irreplaceable. None. Some of the big tech stalwarts of today won’t be around in a decade, or be a shadow of their former selves. Always have a backup plan, a second vendor, or alternative technology. Remove the emotion from the decision. Hope for a good outcome but plan for a less desirable one. Technology decision makers can save themselves the stress and uncertainty of trying to predict the future by simply being prepared while ignoring doomsayers and blind optimists alike.