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Communicating The New: Methods to Shape and Accelerate Innovation by Kim Erwin

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The Mission and the Mess

Eighty-two-year-old Jim Bick was dying of cancer when he called up Andy Parham and asked him to come lead his business as CEO. Jim owned a number of companies in newspaper and radio. But he also owned a company called Bick Group that designed and built data centers for large enterprises. Bick was a client from Andy's days as a management consultant, but Andy couldn't imagine why Bick was calling on him to run his almost 50-year-old company. Moreover, Andy didn't know anything about Bick's business. Bick responded, “I'm not concerned about what you don't know. I'm hiring you for what I think you can do.”

It turned out that Bick's business was in real trouble. Beginning as a local punch-card machine sales business in 1964, the company had evolved to become experts in the design, construction, and operation of data centers and had customers across the world. Data centers were core to an IT model that reigned for over 25 years, but massive changes in the IT world meant that the era of that model was coming to an end. By 2007, revenues were down 85 percent from 2001. The aging and ailing Bick knew the business was going to have to change once more, but this time he wouldn't be there to lead it. According to Andy, “Jim knew that we were about to have another big change in IT. I didn't know that at the time, but he knew it and he knew that the company was going to have to pivot again, and that pivot is cloud computing.”

At the time of Bick's visit, Andy was ...

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