“Man Arrives in Russia in Scrap Barbecue”

I was both surprised, and humbled, by the images of Major Tim Peake landing safely, (thank God), with his colleagues back on earth a few days ago.

One of the humbling aspects of the experience was just how small and inadequate the Soyuz module looked.  With its charred exterior, as it was “manhandled” upright by a few Space Agency workers, it was hard to grasp that the machine had been “Fit for Purpose” – yet clearly it was!

I very much grew up in the original “Space Race”, and its effect on me has been life-long, as Sputnik had just flown when I was born.  I used to spend wonderful afternoons assembling Airfix Saturn 5 rockets and Lunar excursion modules, with the assistance of my dedicated mum doing the intricate painting, and adding the decals.

That whole experience informed my life.  I call myself an engineer because, in my view, that is the dominant expertise I have.  I think like an engineer; I problem solve like an engineer, (often to the annoyance of my wife); and I appreciate the skills of the engineer, in all its varied forms.  My heroes are Brunel, Chapman, Costin, Ford, Chadwick, Braun, Mitchell, Eddison, et al.  Those that used engineering to “think outside the box”.

We often use the term “Rocket Scientist” as a reference point for the very pinnacle of expertise, yet the technology that the “good Major” rode back to earth, is at least a very close relative of the Soyuz that first flew in 1966.  The upside is that it is a tried and tested platform; the downside is that the costs associated with it are impractical when considered against the imminent crop of space planes being developed by the likes of Virgin and Space X.  These innovations offer lower cost, massively greater flexibility, and in both cases are creating new markets in space, in very different ways – the Virgin offering being focussed towards tourism, and the other technical applications.

Would a rocket scientist from 1966 be adequate for today’s needs, and would the 1966 operation represent the state of the current art?  Hardly!

The rate of change in the world of Digital is becoming remarkable, as it was with engineering in the first half of the last century.  Whilst I don’t necessarily condone the past accelerated engineering evolution for the purpose of the development of the bomber, the case clearly illustrates the point.  In 1945 the Lancaster bomber, piston engined, unpressurised, could fly into central Europe with a cache of bombs; less than 10 years later, the Vulcan could fly half way around the world, with the ability to annihilate a city.  As I said, I don’t in any way condone the purpose, yet the advance was remarkable.  Many argue that war is the accelerator for much technological change.  We have, however, largely been in an unprecedented era of peace for the last 70 years, and yet the rate of change would appear to be staggering!

The Soyuz today has had many upgrades and modifications over the years – in reality, however, it is exactly the same platform, functionally, that it always was.

Our computer platforms over the years more accurately reflect the Soyuz.  In principle we have created reliability through experience.  They have advanced in many ways, principally on the price / performance curve.  Functionally, however, not much has changed.

In “Application land” much has changed with the advent of the mobile user, where the ubiquity of computer uses the sophistication of the market.

We most likely have 1960’s technology models, hoping that they will support 21st Century needs.  The consequence of failure, in commercial terms, is annihilation – commercially only of course.  Our friends the London Cabbies, have had two waves of commercial change sweep over them.  The first was the mini cab, which they managed to contain.  The most recent is Uber, which as I have mentioned in previous blogs, could actually fundamentally change the whole market for cabs.  When you compound this technology change with other changing market conditions, significant change is approaching.

We have moved in just a few years from a whistle or a raised hand, to a smartphone app – and the Black Cabs, and cabs throughout the world, so far appear to have not been able to respond.

So my questions are:  Is your infrastructure sufficiently agile to cope with fundamental change?  Will your organisation be able to control the market position that you have created and invested in over years?  Can you see contenders who are positioned to attack you already?  Or worse, will they show up from nowhere?

If the answer is “no, yes or unsure” to any of those questions, let Accordant Solutions help you become “Fit for Purpose” in the current world.  Being able to transparently understand the real cost and value axis of your solutions will enable you to make the right investment decisions persistently.

Let Accordant help prevent you being “Ubered”!


All trade marks acknowledged.

Image: all-free-download.com / zcool.com.cn