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What does YOUR IT crystal ball say?

Taking a cold hard look at change

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Lab Here’s a question for you. Is change really afoot in the way your organisation ‘does’ IT? I know, dumb question, of course it is – but not in the way that some might think.

For a start, business and IT are constantly about change, for better or worse. My corporate days used to be full of meetings, initiatives, reorganisations, activities and events. More often than not, these seemed to get in the way of doing the job, and I’m reasonably confident without needing to flick through past research studies that things won’t be all that different today. I can already see the feedback – “Change, don’t talk to me about change! There’s quite enough of that going on already, thank you very much!”

Change is just about the only thing that we can be certain about in these ‘interesting’ times. But despite the power of technology to shrink in size even as it broadens in reach, it’s not done such a good job of achieving the goals it set for itself. Specifically we were all going to be more productive by now (whatever that means), we would collaborate more effectively, understand our customers better and innovate faster, all the while spending more time on the golf course. Fantastic – unless you don’t like golf.

What changes has technology brought? Business is certainly more global – it’s fascinating and just slightly humbling to think just where this article might end up for example. That’s the power of IT. Organisations are more distributed, more reliant on outsourced services and subcontractors. But was this all down to the computer revolution? While IT helps in these areas, it can’t really claim the monopoly.

The increasing commoditisation and general availability of IT have led some to suggest that IT might not matter at all. Of course IT matters – one of the biggest changes it has brought is that now, just about everything we do, we do with computers. The tools of just about every trade have been transformed, fundamentally and forever. And while new tools evolve, businesses get new opportunities to get one over on the competition.

We can see this everywhere we look – communications, data management and BI, email and messaging, enterprise resource planning have all made their mark. Perhaps not everything has been successful – I’m personally still waiting for customer relationship management software to deliver on the “single view of the customer” promise for example.

However, my problem with the whole ‘change’ theme goes broader than any individual capability. IT people may think that they have invented a whole bunch of smart things – but change certainly wasn’t one of them.

Against this constantly moving backdrop, organisations large and small are now being told that IT itself is going to go through a fundamental shake-up. As an outsider to corporate IT these days, I do confess to being a little flummoxed. I’m not sceptical, so much as wondering exactly what form such a revolution will take – particularly given that, from past Reg reader comments, IT as a whole doesn’t appear to be changing all that fast. I have to wonder whether this is yet another example of people thinking they have invented change.

Let’s get back to the question then. From where you’re sitting, is change really afoot in the way your organisation is doing IT? It could be for any number of reasons – something technological, such as virtualisation, social networking applications or smart phones. Or it could be down to decisions being made at corporate level, about how (and where) technology is sourced, built and run.

If you see business as usual for the foreseeable future, or if you really do believe something profound is just around the corner, for better or worse, we’d love to know. ®

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