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Bedouin Companies

"Bedouin Companies" is a term that's been floating around for some time, and I wish I could give the writer a credit because it really captures the idea of a truly distributed company. According to a famous book by the name of "Discipline of market leaders " there are only three legitimate company styles, the Walmart-ish market share model of centralized expertise and minimal wage workers, the Nike-ish expert-driven market share model and the IBM customer centric model.

A Bedouin Company represents in my mind the ultimate expert driven market share business.... in today's climate, expertise is diverse, specialized and powerful... so powerful that it is impossible to employ a guy (even a very smart guy) and expect him learn some specific field of expertise when, in a connected world, finding the specialist is a web search and two web sites away... as long as you are set up right...

When the term Bedouin Company was first coined it referred to a decentralized, no-central-office based group of telecommuters who rent a meeting room as needed, use the Internet and possibly even video conferencing to focus all the companies efforts away from centralized resources to supporting the talent wherever they are and where ever it makes sense for them to be.

In a high tech scenario this means a lot more. Besides the sales organization the heart of high technology is an R&D team passing prototypes to production teams that pass on the product to marketing and customer support teams, all of which can be glued together by collaborative web services and communications.

But with the advent of talent aggregators like Rentacoder, TopCoder and the like, the ability to pull in specialist knowledge and talent cheaply and more importantly quickly is reaching a blinding pace.

Add to this the ability to store and monitor every change to code and even to get the coders to work on remotely controlled sanitized company computer systems means that even the security risks of having outside contractors work on key software components minimizes a companies intellectual property exposure.

Add to this the quickly dying dependency on compiled code to protect company copyright in non human readable machine code is forcing hi-tech companies to patent their key technologies or use a growing array of anti debugger/ anti reverse engineering wrapper tools.

The picture this paints is a core set of elite manager-coders who know how to source out mini code projects quickly and succinctly to talent sites and then qualify and screen the results so that the dross is lost and the real talent is used for their specific expertise. The resulting code is quickly integrated into a controlled code management system such as Microsoft Source Safe. Then as the outsourced coder gains company trust they are allowed to code more important components of the product code, eventually leading to them having full access to the complete code on a remote locked down server...

This is happening today. The days of development teams slaving away in cubicle hell are dying quickly. Long live the work at home expert!

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