Tech Predictions 2009: Slow IT

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When I first read Carl Honoré’s bestseller ‘In Praise of Slow’ I was devastated by his now famous example of speed-parenting. A few years ago, he was so obsessed with speed and efficiency that he actually liked the idea of One-Minute bedtime stories. Honoré read about it in a newspaper, impatiently standing in line at […]

When I first read Carl Honoré’s bestseller ‘In Praise of Slow’ I was devastated by his now famous example of speed-parenting. A few years ago, he was so obsessed with speed and efficiency that he actually liked the idea of One-Minute bedtime stories. Honoré read about it in a newspaper, impatiently standing in line at an airport gate. While figuring out how to get the complete series as fast as possible through Amazon, he suddenly realised that things had gone way too far. Being a father of a two-year-old son, he already found himself involved in nightly confrontations, his son fancying long, carefully told stories and Carl trying to find the shortest stories and the most efficient way to tell them (you know, why not have Snow White and the 3 Dwarfs…?). All because emails were waiting, calls had to be made, decisions had to be taken and every minute seemed to count.
The experience changed his life and since then, Carl Honoré has been one of the proponents of the Slow Movement: people that believe that the important things in life need to be done at the right pace, with careful dedication and a genuine love for foundation and quality. Where slow is already having a profound influence on cooking and dining (Slow Food actually started the whole movement), industrial design, travel and parenting, I predict that 2009 will be the year of Slow IT.
Here’s why.

Businesses depend on technology. One year of applying our TechnoVision approach in practice has shown that no business transformations exist without the crucial, enabling role of information technology. But to many people, technology is difficult to understand and evolving at an intimidating speed. No industry has produced so many buzzwords and nowhere else, trends come and go so easily. On the other hand, you don’t need to be a professional to see the potential of technology: especially now, solutions are readily available through the Internet and in our private lives – buying things, communicating with others, being at leisure – we know all too well what technology can do for us.
It makes us even more impatient in applying information technology to address our business challenges. Then again, we don’t have the time. Many IT departments are kicked around by the circumstances: fighting fires wherever they appear, dealing with botched-up, antiquated systems, heterogeneous infrastructures, incompatible interfaces, undocumented specifications and shattered, often overlapping applications. Between two breaths, business and IT people may find a few moments to discuss requirements, ideas, plans (speed-dating, really). Then it is back to the usual.
Some may turn to workarounds to deal with the situation. The business side may create its own, isolated solutions. And they are likely to add to the un-integrated mess that needs to be dealt with tomorrow.
For all the wrong reasons, organisations may start to practice agile development. Not because they want a better understanding of the real business needs and a more intimate alignment between business and IT, but because they think the approach delivers fast results without the need to carefully understand, plan and design. Put it in a time-box and all your worries will be over.
It is just a matter of time before we will have the One-Minute IT-strategy.
Especially in 2009, where on one hand the budget for IT is under pressure and on the other hand technology provides the tools to address the downturn, the need is greater than ever to slow down. Not in terms of doing everything at a snail’s pace. Much more in terms of striking the right balance between a well-architected, carefully crafted platform and ad-hoc solutions that solve business issues on the spot.
It is about taking the time that is needed to attentively go through the portfolio of projects and systems , so that decisions about continuation or termination can be based on insight, facts and real business value.
It is about really sitting together to discuss the IT strategy of the organisation. Not in a rushed workshop of just a few hours in which half of the participants does not show up – there is always an emergency somewhere – and the other half is checking Blackberries or running in and out to answer phone calls (the latter being one of the most saddening examples of the way we let ourselves being ruled by technology). Strategy is crucial to the future of the company. It deserves the proper amount of dedication, also in the preparation and the finishing process.
It is about using the principles of Enterprise Architecture to create a platform for continuous business change. This is not a paradox: only on top of a simplified, secure and flexible foundation of building blocks we can orchestrate and change solutions on a daily basis. On-the-fly processes, instant collaboration, mash-ups and real-time intelligence: we definitely need them to deal with the hectic business requirements of today and tomorrow. But not in a breathless, ADHD style that quickly will only agitate us more. Instead we need the confidence that we took exactly the right time and dedicated exactly the right focus to create a true architecture for change.
This is the world of Slow IT, the art of careful technology. And as 2009 is bound to be a transformational year, I am convinced that a renewed respect for properly timed and crafted technology solutions will be the unmistakable trend.
There is much more to tell about Slow IT. So much more that it is worth to write a book about. And although I cannot already tell when the book will be finished (it’s ready when it’s ready, remember), I will be most happy to share some insights with you while writing it. Just monitor SlowPlanet, Carl Honoré’s hub for the slow movement, where I will be frequently blogging on Slow IT from now on.
And thank you for reading this item, even if you got it through Twitter on a late Saturday evening.

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