IT like Mr Wiggin?

Posted under: From the Blog 20th of January, 2011

IT folk often combine a naive technology optimism with a primadonna’s hubris at their lack of recognition by their organisation. Or they have developed a hard bitten cynicism about those outside IT, for their philistine lack of appreciation. Are they behaving professionally?The current methods for IT’s engagement with the rest of the organisations they serve seem basic, and not adequate for strategic contribution from next generation exploitation of technology.  There seems to be some awareness of the need for engagement capability improvement but not of the scale of the apparent deficit.

IT folk need to be much clearer and more proactive in strategic engagement with the rest of their organisation, their customers and other stakeholders, to exploit emerging technologies like the cloud, and easy to use consumer devices like iPhones/iPads. IT folk need to be much more active in working on the future of their organisation, with the key business people who are shaping it.

IT folk aren’t being admitted to the executive table and can’t seem to comprehend that it is their behaviour stopping them. See recent Paul Glen article and Monty Python Architect sketch for examples.

Like Mr Wiggin from Ironside and Malone, IT haven’t understood the requirements and are professionally offended when their best effort is comically wrong. And their behaviour guarantees their exclusion from the conversations that might have informed them. They get blackballed from the corporate Masons.

IT folk struggle to develop and exercise the necessary interpersonal skills, leadership and relationships across their organisation. They lack the leadership juice to help their organisations exploit the cloud.

Even if internal IT groups have a reasonable CIO or IT Director, they are only one person and are usually caught between needing to do whatever they can to lift the engagement of their group, while also being the primary go-to person for all things technological at executive level. They are drowning in urgent day-to-day message switching and unable to get to the more important development of strategic relationships.

The widespread lack of understanding of IT folk of, and/or their inability to communicate, the impact of cloud and consumer technologies is unsettling – the transformative effects of these technologies will be wide and accelerate competition making bigger winners and bigger losers, faster. Some of the latest thinking globally is that disconnected or under-performing internal IT groups are becoming one of the largest risk factors organisations must deal with as this next wave of technologies drives their transformation over the next decade.

Major Australian retailers like Harvey Norman are running scared from advanced internet retailers because they can’t match them online and the next wave of cloud and consumer devices is rapidly democratising online retail, driving online usage up to the levels that have eaten their usual Xmas bonanza. Harvey Norman stores still print out a separate paper copy receipt using a dot matrix printer, showing all the signs of an underpowered IT relegated to the back office.

IT staff must move rapidly to contribute leadership to their organisation’s transformation, or be marginalised and relegated. Small and medium size enterprises are the fastest sector to use the cloud – to avoid the need for their own IT department.

Over the next few years, large organisations are also going to lose their fragile patience with clumsy IT departments struggling to be relevant. Most large IT groups seem to be rear guarding the cloud by having a look at infrastructure as a service and fudding (spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt) on issues like cloud response and data protection – hopefully buying time to get their act together . When software as a service is what their business folk really want a hand accessing. IT folk should be focussed on what value they can add, accelerating access and reducing risk, not doing a Chicken Little routine for months.

More on what I think Mr Wiggin should be doing in next blog.

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