I spent part of today like I do many other days. I sat in a meeting where people were discussing technology and how to deploy it. It was a conversation that, while not above my head, had me swimming in daydream land. It wasn’t the first time this discussion had been had and certainly wouldn’t be the last time. It only got worse later in the day when I attended a tweet chat about clouds and mobile. It was the same old stuff that I had listened to earlier in the day. People were talking about things like what mobile cloud service should people in the enterprise use, do mobile cloud services save enterprises money and more like that. It isn’t hard to see why IT is failing these days. We get stuck in the technological conversation and forget what we’re actually trying to.
Think about it for a second. How do most IT departments act? They have spent years being the gatekeepers of everything that involves computing in one-way or another. It used to be what type of desktop you got; then it became whether or not you could get a laptop and unless you were some high muckity muck, you got the standard laptop with barely enough memory and certainly not the best processor or hard drive. Then there’s the infrastructure. It used to be easy for IT. They could choose what servers and storage you got and you had to know the right person to bribe to get it just a little bit faster for your project.
Now those same tendencies are coming into play with clouds, mobile and big data, and really, just about any technology. IT is trying to keep hold of the reins except these days, anyone can whip out the corporate Amex and order as many machines as they want from Amazon or Rackspace and be off and running before IT has any idea what’s going on.
The real question is how do you turn this ship around. How do you get IT to go from being reactive to proactive? Their job is no longer to be the gatekeepers of technology but to herald technological innovation and use it to enable the business. The key word there is enable, we don’t want to slow the business down but rather enable them to get where they want to go as quickly as possible while still being secure and smart about it. It certainly is a tall order.
The easy part, not really easy but it only requires a change in attitude, is to start partnering with the business and understanding where they want to go. It’s hard to help anyone get anywhere these days unless you understand his or her strategy. You certainly can’t align your technology strategy to meet the business’s need if you have no idea what it is.
Once you understand the business’s strategy and where they want to go, the hard work has to start. The only problem is most people try and take the easy way out. They start looking at technology because it can help people get somewhere but no one ever bothers to make sure it’s the right destination. You see, the business couldn’t care less what technology you’re using. They have spent the last few years learning all about technology and they are certainly happy to argue tech with you but the truth is, they don’t care. They spent the time learning tech because IT couldn’t be bothered and they had stuff they wanted to get done. Is it any wonder they still talk about the best way to lay out a database, provision memory to a virtual machine, or ask for a specific networking technology in a project?
It happens to be the same thing with your consumers and employees. They really couldn’t care whether their data is cloud enabled or you control things from on premises or off. They are just looking to be enabled so they can get their work done or buy your product; they aren’t looking behind the curtain.
The big secret to enabling enterprises or consumers is actually quite simple. Stop worrying about whether you can enable mobile with a cloud, you can, or whether you can use a Hadoop cluster to parse big data, yeah you can do that too. Instead, start looking to build a stable of capabilities. You want to build architectures from a stable of capabilities. You may have three, four, or five different types of cloud. They may be IaaS, SaaS, or PaaS. They could be public, private, or hybrid. The real question is what are the capabilities that you can provide with these tools. It’s how you put them together to enable your users to get their work done and the business to get where they’re going. You’re going to add security pieces to the stable and undoubtedly will be using APIs. It’s the way you assemble the horses that will determine if you are successful and how quickly you can get it done. IT is successful when it concentrates on building the stable of horses that it needs, as opposed to today when they buy the hyped thoroughbred that can win the Triple Crown when they really needed a few workhorses to plow their fields.