May 2, 2012

The ‘Occupy IT’ Movement of Organizations

In 2003, when Nicholas Carr penned the piece “IT Doesn’t Matter“, an overlooked definition of what he referred to as ‘infrastructural technologies‘ may now be, in 2012, unintentionally defining the relationship between IT and the organization.

“The characteristics and economics of infrastructural technologies, whether railroads or telegraph lines or power generators, make it inevitable that they will be broadly shared – that they will become part of the general business infrastructure. In the earliest phases of its buildout, however, an infrastructural technology can take the form of a proprietary technology. As long as access to the technology is restricted – through physical limitations, intellectual property rights, high costs, or a lack of standards – a company can use it to gain advantages over rivals.”

In the Web 2.0 world of today, arguably the infrastructural side of a more collaborative technology-based society, where we introduce terms such as Consumerization of ITShadow IT or SoMoClo to depict what is happening to organizations, employees and the CIO’s office, we’ve perhaps lost sight of why we’re at this junction. (10 years ago we called it ‘Rogue IT‘ if you can believe it)

Further fodder for your consideration:

  • By 2015, Gartner predicts that 35% of enterprise IT expenditures will be managed outside the CIO’s department and budget
  • PwC indicates that at their “top performer” companies, IT controls less than 50% of corporate technology expenditures
  • Diamond Digital IQ suggests 41% of organizations witness 30% or more of IT expenditures residing elsewhere from IT

So … what’s happened? What’s happening?

Organizations and its employees outside of IT have begun to, well .. “Occupy IT“.

Not on purpose, mind you. At least that’s what I think.

Those ‘infrastructural technologies‘ that Carr referred to circa 2003 have actually become the de facto technology, choice and user experience expectation of workers inside the organization. ‘Proprietary technologies‘ are becoming extinct, and an organization will now yearn to begin future planning with an ‘infrastructural technology’ mindset first. Business units and its constituents are now employing an “Occupy IT” movement due to, in part, the belief (whether right or wrong) that IT has morphed into the 1% and the rest of the organization is viewed as the 99% when it comes to control of the technology to perform one’s role.

The 1% is controlling the experience for the 99%. They are the proprietary mindset.

And as a consequence, the organization is pushing back.

Shadow IT, Rogue IT, Consumerization of IT … call it whatever you like, is back, growing and not going away.

This is not merely about BYOD (bring your own device), nor the recent success of Apple nor is it because Facebook is getting close to one billion users.

The organization wants a seat at the IT table; it wants to become part of the solution, part of the infrastructural conversation. The organization, in essence, is camping out in the park trying to be heard, trying to help IT shift to, as Dion Hinchcliffe calls it, the “everythingization of technology“. It is at its root a case study in behaviour change.

For years, perhaps decades, IT has controlled. Be it the infrastructure, technology roadmap, innovation, ERP, human capital systems … and of course devices, PC’s and laptops, IT was the gatekeeper of technologies and the organization was the recipient. One might argue that they (IT) were the benefactors of Fayol or Taylor in so much that the hierarchical way in which it (IT) was allowed to operate with the organization ensured its proprietary technology plans remained steadfast and unadulteratedly in control. It may never have reached the infrastructural stage for some companies.

Most important is the culture,” says Tim Bray when referring to IT and how it must reverse trajectory when designing and implementing enterprise systems.

I agree.

There may be an upside of shadow IT out there, but the staid, industrial revolution-like way in which IT operates must evolve.

The organization doesn’t want to “Occupy IT“, per se, but its inadvertent occupation is growing. I can assure you that any organization would be better suited to have IT as a collaborative, proactive and engaging partner rather than viewed as an OPEX cost centre simply in charge of keeping the lights on or, worse, launching roadblocks at any “Occupy IT” intersection.

To avoid the current predicament, to avoid the ‘occupation‘, IT might create history by looking back to history. It’s no secret IBM’s longevity and its 100+ year history is as a result of being able to reinvent itself in spite of depressions, recessions, revolutions and dissolutions.

Although a marketing effort, the following words from IBM’s “THINK: Our History of Progress; 1890s to 2001” encapsulates my point:

Entering the 1990’s,moves into major new growth businesses, principally services and software, and embraces open standards for computing. The company also fundamentally reshapes its culture to refocus on clients and to be more agile, responsive and collaborative.

Perhaps IT might look to one of its own and lead the charge to becoming an infrastructural proactive and community driven business unit as opposed to one based on proprietary close-minded thinking.

This would ensure the “Occupy IT” movement subsided and cooler, more collaborative heads prevailed.

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