I am finding it increasingly difficult to know what the readership of this blog does as a role. Given the common thread is how technology supports business, in the past the readership would have been CIOs in large enterprises looking at matching the business requirements. The term technology would have been synonymous with computerisation of process delivered by Information Technology. Today the term technology means … well anything that is now on the market. This ties into an increasing recognition that individuals want their own devices, particularly when it comes to smart phones and tablets.
I have been struck by a series of product announcements that allow enterprises access to, and control of, specific content on the employee’s personal device. As an example Blackberry – the major player with 40% of the US market according to a recent survey – has introduced new capabilities to handle these issues. This looks to be the reality of this decentralisation that enterprises are experiencing brought on by new and different technology. But as I have alluded to in previous posts take this too far and an enterprise loses corporate leverage, the very asset it has built up so successfully with enterprise IT.

This blog is firmly about connecting with CIOs and analysing what the challenges they face are and the values they can bring from the direction of the huge investment in, and extremely vital use of, IT. As is usually the case this was sparked off by a really interesting post entitled ‘Lack of Organisational Capacity = IT Waste’ on the Blog of Burgher Jon, a sometimes quirky, but often interesting place. Written by Jonathan Cavell who describes himself as working in enterprise IT, this thoughtful piece offers a view that we have been, and will for a while continue to be, passing through a phase when ‘available technologies’ exceed the ‘capability of the IT department’ to deliver competently.
His point is that ‘when this happens, you have CIOs who are flying by the seat of their pants. They don’t actually understand the technologies that their company is attempting to implement, so they waste money figuring it out’. He goes on to talk about the challenge of hiring staff to implement and provide ongoing support when it’s difficult to assess their real skill level etc. It’s a good piece with some practical comments and an ending that states there will be a sea change at some point as the ‘new technologies’ force radical change in the whole game.
I reckon hard on CIOs who are effectively being led into this situation. They are faced with the impossible problem of business managers forcing the pace of change in line with the competitive need to use technology in new ways. The real point is that to increase the flexibility at the edge of the enterprise where it touches the market place with these new technologies should not be at the expense of the existing structure and experiences of the IT department. Indeed it is increasingly becoming clear and arguable that to successfully enable the edge actually means ensuring that core IT is maintained effectively.
‘Build it and they will come’, the battle cry of the Web boom/bust era, proved to be the great undoing that wiser heads predicted. It wasn’t a technology issue, it was a business case and process issue, so the question should come back to the CIO ‘providing just enough flexibility’ to support the new requirements. In doing this the emphasis will be on allowing the new requirement and new technology to be supplied in the new ways; i.e. accept the role of ‘services’, with the provisioning and funding being on a different model. ‘Providing Just Enough Flexibility’ is another piece from Jonathan Cavell on the Burgher Jon site and has some interesting observations on flexibility, standardisation, commercial off-the-shelf software or COTS, and custom development.
In summary its time for CIOs to make a stand and clearly understand the value that they bring – the experience in evaluating and managing projects – and use this to ‘manage’ others providing new technologies for new business use, rather than trying to acquire the knowledge and skills piecemeal. Given the speed with which the ‘edge’ of the enterprise is changing, not to mention the amount of technology, it’s unlikely that an IT department would be able to win using the traditional in-house approach.