Is “IT” “in denial”?

Change: the only thing that’s constant!

Whither IT?

Wow, the big picture of the IT world seems to be crumbling with increasing rapidity! Many people are at risk of getting hurt if they continue to hold traditional attitudes.

The post “Why the New Normal Could Kill IT” captures it well.  Here’s how that article starts:

Plenty of seismic shifts have rocked and reshaped IT in the past. Some big rumblings’ epicenters had origins in an unstoppable technology shift; other fissures had nothing to do with PCs and servers. Consider the recent shocks: the Internet revolution and dotcom bust; Y2K and 9/11; the consumerization of IT; and the unstoppable broadband and mobile explosion.

However, the latest shock–the global financial meltdown–is like the recent 8.8 earthquake that shook Chile and knocked the earth off its axis. And for IT leaders today, it’s important to realize that the aftershocks are still coming.

Thomas Wailgum provides an insightful description of the challenges facing the important operational aspects of IT in many organizations. Many of the symptoms and some of the causes that he describes are undoubtedly true and have been adversely affecting the performance of many people for a long time!

But, who really cares?

I suggest that the people who really care are the people who are trying to serve the customers of the business. Consequently they will decide what they do and how they do it, including what services and products they use, including those that involve IT (almost all of them these days).

It seems to me interesting to describe this, as he has done, from the perspective of IT and IT people (of whom I am also, broadly, one!) .. but it is only interesting to IT people.

The people who require services are getting them from wherever they can and wherever they like and will continue, increasingly, to do so.

Many of the points that he makes are valid and accurate, including his list of  “recent shocks”. Two of those struck me as particularly poignant and relevant.

One is “the unstoppable broadband and mobile explosion”, which seems to be a strange way to describe it. My reading of this is that IT people would like to “stop” it; but why? The availability of communication services with increasing bandwidth and location-independence is enabling greater sharing of information and understanding; many people, especially those in the “third world”, are benefitting enormously from this. I hope that I have understood his meaning incorrectly because, surely, the task of people who understand IT is to help others to take full advantage of the opportunities, not to try to stop them!

The other is “the consumerization of IT”, which is one way of looking at it but, again, seems to carry a subtextual bias. I detect a sense that this is seen to be the use, in business applications, of lower quality facilities intended for individuals who do not know the implications. There is some truth in this, but this has been a trend for decades and, so far, the roof has not fallen in! I suggest that this is misunderstanding of the bigger picture and, in a sense, does not go far enough

This is not simply consumerization, this is the commoditization of IT. This happens in every industry as bespoke products become more generally available, the nature of the competition changes. What was custom becomes standard and the action moves up a layer!

Much of Thomas Wailgum’s account of the situation is accurate and, potentially, very useful; but, by viewing it from the perspective of the providers of IT services rather than that of the consumers of IT services, the nature of the solutions seems to be pointing in the wrong direction!

By John Lewis

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