Geoffrey Moore: Why Middle Managers Are the New Kings, Stiff-arming Shortsightedness, & the Money “Chasm” in the Mobile-Social Sphere

3/16/11Follow @curtwoodward

Author, consultant, and venture capitalist Geoffrey Moore has written a half-dozen books—his latest comes out later this year—including the classic “Crossing the Chasm,” an analysis of how businesses can push through the deadly barriers to broad adoption.

This Friday, he’ll be a keynote speaker at the Washington Innovation Summit sponsored by the Technology Alliance. Booking him may not have been as difficult as you might expect, since Technology Alliance director Susannah Malarkey is actually a cousin of Moore’s.

We checked in with Moore ahead of the event to get a preview of his speech, the lowdown on his new book “Escape Velocity,” and some thoughts on how his chasm metaphor applies to today’s rapidly expanding tech world.

Moore says his speech for the summit focuses on the need to spread social network-type technologies into the middle management layer of business. He argues that business has relied for too long on the baseline computing power that undergirds modern commerce, without building up new systems that mirror those available to regular consumers.

Think of it this way: Jane the middle manager spends her weekend buying gifts on Amazon.com, reviewing restaurants on Yelp, getting a hotel deal on Priceline, drumming up better customer service through Twitter, and checking in with her high school friends via Facebook.

Then she gets back to work, and she’s armed mostly with some basic computers, e-mail, and some instant messaging or project-management software. There might even be a conference call or two.

“So the question at some point in the venture community was, ‘Well, are we just going to invest in cleantech and biotech, or is there another wave here for IT?’” Moore asks. “The next big wave of investment in enterprise IT will be around this consumerization of enterprise IT. And it’ll be around, in particular, helping companies communicate, coordinate, and collaborate across company boundaries.”

Why are the folks in the middle so important? Moore says it’s because the organizational model of business has been flipped on its side. Instead of operating as a cog in a vertical monolith, middle managers are now straddling huge, globally scattered processes and need information tools and connections to make things happen with their peers elsewhere. Some big companies and startups have begun to develop better stuff for people at this level, Moore says, but it’s still not getting the investment it deserves.

“We have not invested in technology for middle managers, really ever. A BlackBerry and a laptop have been the two biggest things we’ve ever done for middle managers,” he says. “In this new world, middle managers are the cartilage. They’re the ones who hold this whole thing together. The guys in the big office don’t do it, and the guys who are doing transaction processing don’t do it.”

In his new book, Moore tackles a bigger topic: How established companies can get new businesses to market without losing them in the mire of besting last year’s or last quarter’s … Next Page »

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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  • http://www.geoffreyamoore.com Rich S

    Great article, we need more pioneers like Geoffrey Moore making sense of the fast twists and turns that technology and business are taking these days. Looking forward to reading Escape Velocity!