Thursday, June 11, 2009

Culture Clash

Here are two stories that are getting a lot of ink this week. They appear unrelated on the surface, but in fact they have a lot in common and could be a sign of a larger trend.

First: the open letter that EMC CEO Joe Tucci sent to the employees of Data Domain, which it is bidding with its rival NetApp to acquire. In it, Tucci reassures them that their new parent company would respect their company culture:

"We are very mindful of culture—respecting and preserving the various cultures that made the companies we acquired successful in the first place. In nearly every instance, after joining EMC, these businesses have grown faster, advanced the development of their technologies more rapidly, reached more customers, and provided greater career opportunities for their people than they had been able to do on their own."

However, some observers can't help but position the battle between EMC and NetApp for ownership of Data Domain as a battle of east coast vs. west coast culture, such as in this article on Enterprise Storage Forum.

Second: Another topic that is making the rounds this week is a new study showing that the top 10% of Twitter users are creating 90% of the content. In addition, as TechCrunch editor Erick Schonfeld reports, a greater number of followers correlates to a larger number of tweets on a daily and weekly basis.

What this really means, says Schonfeld, is that the types of people who are actively involved with Twitter are also the ones that others want to follow and pay attention to--not a huge surprise if you think about it. However, the numbers are starker than one would originally suspect.

While many have taken these statistics to mean that Twitter is mainly about "broadcasting" rather than "interacting," in fact, the numbers don't really tell this story at all. If you look at some of the most active Twitter participants -- Robert Scoble, Louis Gray, and many members of the storage community -- what you find is that they themselves are very interactive with their followers.

What's the connection between these two stories? They both show that business is really about people more than anything else. Whatever you choose to describe as "culture," it's clearly very important to us, and will sometimes even take precedence over considerations such as revenues and per share price. With the rise of social networking, this may be becoming more true--and it may be more democratic and transparent than ever.

Note: this post appeared in a slightly different form on my client blog, Online Storage Optimization.

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