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All the trends are to de-centralization; what does that mean for governance?

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The one common feature that unites the various reported trends is that they all represent some form of de-centralization, and since the core reason for adopting the current Enterprise IT model was to centralize, this is a challenging moment.

PCs as the Disruptive Technology of Their Time and the ‘Post PC Era’ Today

When PCs first appeared as the disruptive technology and business wave of their time, they stood for many things that we now also talk about on what the new disruptive wave would bring. In other words, a focus on ’personal’ as in ‘Personal Computing’. They changed the way people worked: a reduction of the cost / complexity barrier enabled an enterprise to provide every employee with a PC, together with a stack of new applications ranging from simple word processing and changing regular documents to digital formats, spreadsheets, and email.

Today Gartner thinks the new PC stands for Personal Cloud, which they believe will have overtaken the personal computer by 2014 as being at the center of our personal productivity at work. In this interview with Wired they link this to a number of other shifts. Okay so this time around we are talking about consumerization of IT, or Bring Your Own Device, or rise of the smartphone or tablet with app shops – or to summarize, the dawning of the ‘Post PC Era’.

At the launch of the iPad 3, Apple CEO Tim Cook talked about Apple’s surprise of iPad’s success and how it began to noticeably hit the sales of PCs in conjunction with the equally successful smartphone market. Whether it’s the Google Android Market or the Apple app shop these two – plus the astonishing sales of the Amazon Fire Tablet representing 28% of Android sales in its first quarter – have simply transformed the way individuals use technology devices.

How Decentralization Brought About the CIO and the Modern IT Department  

It was the same story with the PC. Managers learned how to buy and use revolutionary office automation software especially the spreadsheet back in the late 80s through to the early 90s. At the time, the improvements seen in individuals and their departments work was immense and undeniable. However, the impact on the enterprise through the decentralization was fragmented key data and information. And that triggered the establishment of the Chief Information Officer, CIO, and the modern IT department to manage the governance of this disruption to ensure enterprise level value. BUT this happened in most enterprises after the damage had been done, and the first expensive job was to put things right!

The lesson is obvious: the disruptive technology and its use has arrived. It’s being promoted from management down because of the value it brings so it’s not going to be stoppable. Even if we are yet to know the final model including on what it will cover, or how it will be used, although a lot of the dangers have been spoken about. Contrary to some articles’ opinions, it won’t be the end of ERP since it remains key to the back office and many aspects of compliant enterprise operation, but it will be the end of the governance model of ERP and Enterprise IT.

A New Governance Model that Accepts These Disruptions

So the message is that it’s time to face facts. Stop trying to defend the old governance model of Enterprise IT but start designing a new governance model that accepts these disruptions.

A governance model around relationships needs to start with defining any relationships and risks with enterprise activities, the law and yes Enterprise IT complete with new decision makers and guidelines. Right at the heart of this will lay a new set of responsibilities and training for users and business managers on their role in this, and the appropriate requirements that the enterprise places upon them.

If you want to know where to start because you think it might be a controversial move then focus on recent legal judgments on the use of social tools. For example, the use of LinkedIn and to whom such contacts belong, and on how content in emails and attachments are handled and stored in the user domain. Both of these will seem to be ‘safe’ to users as they are ‘outside’ the Enterprise IT domain, and both are already proving to be ‘new’ issues that need solving.

The stakes are high. If Enterprise IT clings to the old governance model, enterprises will be caught between a rock of slow, stable inward focused IT that is unable to deliver at the pace required by competitive business forces. Or in the hard place of a chaotic frontier where users face no restraints whatsoever and the enterprise pays for fines and audits and brand reputation suffers.

Neither outcome is attractive or leads to enterprise growth and success but it’s difficult to know or even imagine what to do about it. For a fresh look at the topic and a new set of capabilities, take a look at the concepts of ‘Servicemesh’. I am not saying it’s the right or only answer but I liked the way they look at the challenge and we all need some inputs to our thinking right now!

About the author

Andy Mulholland
Andy Mulholland
Capgemini Global Chief Technology Officer until his retirement in 2012, Andy was a member of the Capgemini Group management board and advised on all aspects of technology-driven market changes, together with being a member of the Policy Board for the British Computer Society. Andy is the author of many white papers, and the co-author three books that have charted the current changes in technology and its use by business starting in 2006 with ‘Mashup Corporations’ detailing how enterprises could make use of Web 2.0 to develop new go to market propositions. This was followed in May 2008 by Mesh Collaboration focussing on the impact of Web 2.0 on the enterprise front office and its working techniques, then in 2010 “Enterprise Cloud Computing: A Strategy Guide for Business and Technology leaders” co-authored with well-known academic Peter Fingar and one of the leading authorities on business process, John Pyke. The book describes the wider business implications of Cloud Computing with the promise of on-demand business innovation. It looks at how businesses trade differently on the web using mash-ups but also the challenges in managing more frequent change through social tools, and what happens when cloud comes into play in fully fledged operations. Andy was voted one of the top 25 most influential CTOs in the world in 2009 by InfoWorld and is grateful to readers of Computing Weekly who voted the Capgemini CTOblog the best Blog for Business Managers and CIOs each year for the last three years.

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