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Lane: No Telling What's Next Big Thing

The former Oracle president urged attendees at the Software 2004 Conference to "work on the little things that will make the last big thing better."
The economy is picking up, IT spending is getting stronger, so why are software industry CEOs so paranoid? That's the question Ray Lane, general partner at venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, put forth to attendees Monday at the Software 2004 Conference in San Francisco.

Too many companies, he says, are so busy scrambling to find "the next big thing" that they look for a way out before finishing other things. That's compounded by a long history of proprietary software, lack of integration, and lack of simplicity in software.

"I don't know what the next big thing is, but I know there will be one," said Lane, the former president of Oracle. In the meantime, he added, "we ought to be working on the little things that make the last big thing better."

The software industry will forever be changing, he said, and companies need to pay close attention to key enablers such as global knowledge workers, network-based services, portability, and a leveraged IT infrastructure. And while the debate over offshore outsourcing isn't likely to settle down any time soon, Lane urged the audience not to think of India simply as a black box where they can send unimportant work.

Lane recently returned from a trip to India, where, he said, "I saw innovation, work ethic, incredible skills, and business schools that would rival any campus in the United States." Offshore outsourcing, he added, "is going to globalize the software business, not just the back office."

In India, Lane said, the dynamics of innovation have shifted from how, not what. He also warned that in the United States, it's not a scarcity of engineering capabilities that companies need to be wary of, but rather a scarcity of management capabilities.