Reality 2.0: Instant IT

Posted on July 14, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

My friend and former colleague, Vaughan Merlyn, wrote a blog about IT Leaders and the challenges they face as their organizations transition from what he calls IT Reality 1.0 to IT Reality 2.0. In his blog, Vaughan has nicely described the two worlds:

IT Reality 1.0- is based on the idea that IT must be managed, is difficult, complex, and detail laden. IT must be owned, internally controlled. People in the business must be protected from the potential pitfalls of the IT systems. IT leaders work tirelessly to lower risks, manage resources, and plan for the future. Decisions are made by constructing and then endlessly debating the business case. Vaughan sums up this world with the observation that ‘development’ and ‘production’ are two separate worlds, and moving from one to the other is like moving through an airlock.

IT Reality 2.0- is based on the idea that IT is simple and ubiquitous, and essentially open. Things naturally fit together and therefore almost anyone can be creative and productive with IT. The web is a place where any level of user can find any solution they seek or they can ‘mash up’ their own solution from existing options. Decisions are made by any and everyone using a quick experiment. Instead of a bureaucratic process, Vaughan suggests that this new reality prefers to come up with an idea, test it, validate or eliminate it and then put it into play. Projects are solutions created in days or weeks and used just as long as they are effective.

He’s got this right. With his usual amazing clarity, his blog nicely lays out the differences in the two realities. As he suggests, most organizations are somewhere in between.

What struck me about this dichotomy is that most organizations IT I work with are firmly in the 1.0 reality, while pockets of their business are crying out for the 2.0 reality. It’s a rare IT organization that has started to transition to the 2.0 reality. Why is that?

Clearly there are huge investments in IT systems that are at the core of many corporations. The hardware and software that provide the backbone of the operations of most companies lives in the data center. The people who make sure things work are seeped in experiences from this former era. In many cases, they don’t have a vision of how to provide IT services (if that’s even the right paradigm) for the 2.0 reality.

It may be hard to know if your company is moving faster than the you realize. I asked around and here are a few tongue-in-cheek answers about how you know you are living this dichotomy:

  1. Your business unit counterparts don’t call you for technical advice any more. They have just hired a millennial who set up the facebook fan page and the blog and manages their online community.
  2. Email from your colleagues comes to you as DMs from Twitter. You set up your account a while ago, but don’t see the value in using it (after all, you don’t really care where anyone had lunch today, do you?). Instead of regular emails, you find these pesky emails from twitter telling you in 140 characters what your colleagues said.
  3. Customers tell you that they are getting most of the support they need from communities made up of other customers, rather than from the well-thought-out customer support department. This is perplexing since the customer support group is connected to the CRM system which keeps the database updated on all customer interactions.
  4. At the executive meetings, the strategic ideas being discussed are being presented on slides with one word (or no words). The Powerpoint deck is extremely long, but the speaker is flipping through them quickly (after all there aren’t many words on the slide). Your slides still have static graphs and lists of bulleted points that unfold as you flip through your deck.

Here’s 3 things you can do when you find yourself struggling in this transition:

  1. Start the conversation. In an earlier blog I outlined the key conversations necessary for the CIO to participate in social business strategy formulation. This is a good place to start. Call a meeting with colleagues and listen to each of the visions and goals.
  2. Reverse Mentoring. Seek out one of your staff who regularly uses these tools and ask for private lessons. Most likely this person will be a younger member of your staff (but not always…there are experts in all generations now).
  3. Experiment with the tools, make mistakes and learn from them. We learn best from doing something ourselves. Your friends can tell you what you did, but until you try it yourself, you will continue to feel flustered by the new social world. Start a blog, follow some new people on Twitter, check facebook once a day for 10-15 min. Then evaluate what you have learned. I’m betting you’ll see the new Reality 2.0 faster than you imagined.

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