As I look out into the future of IT over the next 5 to 10 years, I see a huge shift in how IT shops will need to operate in order to help their companies survive. We are already well aware of the pressing needs for IT to provide agility and flexibility for its business partners due to the speed at which the business landscape is changing. The forces of globalization, economic pressures, and advancements in technology are creating as much change in an 18 month period than we used to experience in a decade. In order for companies to survive and thrive, they need to adapt. As Charles Darwin once said,
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” I wrote a post last year called How did we become a Dilbert cartoon which discussed my theory on how IT has become so out of touch and bogged down with trivial issues. I see Dilbert every day whether it is at the places I have worked, the case studies that I research, the discussions I have with peers at conferences, or from the forums and user groups I participate in. Somewhere along the line, many IT professionals in the US have forgotten what IT's purpose is and take their IT profession for granted. These people put themselves and their favorite technologies first and their business and shareholders second. How many important initiatives have you seen stalled because certain individuals refused to change or learn something new? Look how many companies are struggling implementing transformational initiatives like SOA, ITIL, business process reengineering. All of these types of initiatives can make a huge impact to the bottom line. But how many of these have stalled because people fought these initiatives with all of their might? The basic problem is that transformational initiatives requires transformational leadership! How many leaders within IT do you know who excel in the three critical areas of transformational leadership required to deliver technological solutions: Business Acumen, People & Organizational Skills, and Technology skills?
|From Misc IT|
Looking down the road, I see certain technologies maturing and becoming critical to helping businesses staying competitive. These technologies are:
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
- Platform as a Service (PaaS)
- Social Networking/Software within the enterprises
- BPM, SOA, and Event Processing working in harmony
“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”I still remember the naysayers doubting PCs and distributed computing and declaring that nothing could beat the mainframe. Do you here the negatively by some about social networking and social software? Doesn't it sound like the negativity we heard when people were trying to bring the Internet into corporations?
Why do we get in our own way of progress? Why are we living in Scott Adam's world of Dilbert? Why do system administrators fight cloud computing? Is it fear of job elimination? Loss of control? Not wanting to learn something new after 20 years? Why do IT professionals revolt against SOA? Does it require them to actually architect something rather than drag-n-drop some code in their favorite Microsoft IDE? Does it force them to collaborate with other people including business people and take them out of their comfort zone? Is it hard work? I don't know what the answer is but I do know that with out transformational leadership, the resistance can put up huge barriers and can kill initiatives that can give a company an edge over its competition.
What about outsourcing? Do you really want to get IT professionals fired up? Just the mention of the word brings anger and negativity to many. But why? Maybe we all need a lesson in economics or should simply read the book The World is Flat. While we in the US are sitting here complaining about change, countries like China, India, Taiwan, Ireland, and many others are graduating engineers by the thousands. These folks are more than willing to work on any task that they have the privilege to be given. And there lies the problem. To these people, work is a privilege, a way to have a better, more prosperous life. In the US, many people see their job as something that is owed to them. How many people in your shop are actively working on improving their skills? Just the fact that you are reading this post puts you many steps ahead of most. Many people that I have worked with in my 23 years do not invest their own time and energy required to continue to learn and adapt to the world around them, both from the technology and the economic standpoint. I am fine with the fact that many people value their personal time way more than some of us do, but if you don't invest the time you do not have the right to impede in the advancement of the organization!
Getting back to the emerging technologies that I mentioned above. To be successful implementing the transformational change to embrace these technologies, IT shops need the following foundation:
- Strong leadership with the ability to promote and manage change
- A well run and planned Enterprise Architecture
- Solid working relationships and trust with the business partners
- Fiscal awareness
- Numerous Strategic Partners
The leader(s) must be visionary, strategic, emotionally intelligent, and must be able to execute. I have seen leaders who have great ideas and are pretty smart, but they fall down when it comes to execution. Nine times out of ten, the failure can be contributed to people not the technology. In other words, resistance to change prevails and the company reverts back to the status quo leaving IT with the reputation of a cost center. The following presentation speaks to how to anticipate and plan for change up front to reduce the odds of failure.
To enable a flexible and agile enterprise, it all starts with an architecture that maps to the overall business strategy. No longer can we afford to build software in silos and continue to pay huge sums of money to keep the lights on. In order to be efficient with our ever shrinking budgets, we must have an IT strategy that is supported with an architecture geared towards maximizing our resources (both human resources and technology resources). The more standard and consistent the architecture is, the easier a company can move to the clouds, alter business processes in days instead of months, change business rules on the fly, adapt to mergers and acquisitions, and connect to partners, suppliers, and customers. Remember this, your biggest threat tomorrow might be a company that does not exist today! Why, because a startup does not have legacy to deal with and will most likely embrace these new technologies from the start and race right by you to the finish line. Companies must change or die. The following presentation speaks to the value of EA.
Relationships and Trust
In order to accomplish transformational initiatives, IT must forge great working relationships with its business partners, both internally and externally. Without the trust, funding and executive level support will be extremely hard to come buy. To earn that trust, IT must understand the business and put forth solutions that are beneficial to the business first and IT second. The following presentation shows an example of how SOA was explained to the business in tangible business terms (increase sales, customer satisfaction, etc.) instead of technology terms (reuse, ESBs, services, etc.).
This is critical. We can no longer fly by the seat of the pants anymore. It costs the company too much in maintenance and hinders agility. That is not to say that we should all embrace heavy methodologies like CMM. There needs to be the right balance between process and agility. And for those IT professionals who will fight process to their death beds, there are millions of knowledge workers in foreign countries hungry to do your job for you. Today's resistance is tomorrow's unemployment.
Being fiscally aware is a key contributing factor to allowing IT professionals to see the "big picture". After all, the main purpose of most companies is to make money, or in government, to make the best use of tax payer dollars. It's all about money! So why are so many IT professionals so clueless about the financial impacts of the work they do and the decisions they make? How many times have you sat in meetings with armies of people for an hour or two and nothing gets accomplished? How does that contribute to the bottom line. When technologists argue about .Net vs. Java, or IBM vs. Dell for months on end while projects get delayed, why doesn't anybody seem to care? When IT professionals make technology decisions primarily for the sake of technology, they often make a choice that is not fiscally responsible. When making these decisions we must think about more than how we will use the products within IT. There are many factors that need to be consider. We should look at the feasibility not just from a technical standpoint, but also from an economic, operational, and political standpoint as well.
And finally, there is so much change and so much to learn, it would be suicide to think that we could deliver anything transformational in a reasonable amount of time without the help of partners. The business can't wait for IT to train an entire staff to a high level of competence on these emerging technologies. They also can't wait for us to stumble and learn from failing in production. Instead we will need strategic partners in many areas to help build the agile enterprises of tomorrow. These partners may be used for the following reasons:
- Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) - (example: Payroll, HR, web site hosting, etc.)
- Acquire new skills (SOA implementers, BPM experts, Cloud specialists, etc.)
- Strategic partners (Organizational Change Management expert, EA help, etc.)
- Technology outsourcing (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, etc.)
- Project based outsourcing
I apologize for the length of this post (if you made it this far). I am very concerned for the future of my IT colleagues in the US and had to do a "core dump" on this post. After many years of prosperity, many IT professionals in the US have become intellectually lazy and blind to the opportunities and challenges that this new economy has created. The combination of our financial crisis coupled with the forces of globalization and technological advances will create radical changes over the next decade. Many professionals are too wrapped up in reality TV to realize that the world is catching up and is ready to pass us by. Those who understand that can embrace the new opportunities that these conditions will create. The others will be the equivalent of the Y2K programmers who did not embrace the post 2000 innovations. I'll leave you with another great quote from Darwin...
“In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed"