How did your cornucopia get so full?

200_sJoseph Whitworth did not invent the nut and bolt in 1841. He invented the useful nut and bolt. He realized that the industrialization of our world lay beneath layers of haste and improvisation. The benefit of the threaded fastener would not be unleashed until Mr. Whitworth advocated standard sizes of nuts to fit standard sizes of bolts. It was then that a nut made in Glasgow could be combined with a bolt made in England.

Standards breed collaborative leverage that transforms the world

It may be a myth that the width of US railroad gauge was inspired by the track width of a Roman chariot. But what is not myth is that like the nut and bolt making that was going on in Europe the standard amount of distance placed between the rails of what became the backbone of modern transportation in the United States made economic abundance possible. The original transcontinental or Pacific Railroad was built by three different companies at the same time. And because they were all building their separate systems with rails placed 56.5 inches apart, it was available for use by 1869 and the modern age could begin. Some suggest that the Confederacy lost the Civil War for having incompatible rail systems that severely hampered logistical support for their soldiers.

Standardization begets commercialization

Rockefeller made lighting safe with his Standard Oil. Tesla gave us our power grid through not just an alternating current but one at a common voltage and frequency. Our communications, agriculture, medicine have zero effect at a meaningful scale until standardization is achieved. But before standardization can be achieved its benefits must be desired. It may have been easy enough to share the vision of universal bounty offered by a shared infrastructure which could transport to Portland rice grown in Arkansas. But taking for granted what was so richly produced by the industrial standardization of the 19th and 20th centuries it may not be so obvious why it would be important to pursue this in they way we manage IT systems.

If you have an IT staff, even a good one who goes to conferences and certifies their knowledge, you may still drift into a bespoke world of one-offs and improvisation that will always result in a higher cost of technology support/management compared to the benefits you receive from it. Standardization is your solution rather than retaining talent or procuring a particular technology stack.