Well actually no its not and it probably won’t be for some to come, however, we are moving very slowly towards the death of IT (Information Technology) as we currently know it. I was having a conversation with a colleague recently and I made the comment that most IT departments are there solely to keep the lights on.
He was bemused at first but I went on to explain my reasoning, suddenly he had a light bulb moment and started to agree with me. In my view, IT is often seen as an expense that is used to keep the computers systems going, it is valued but almost begrudgingly as it costs money that some people within the organisation often believe could be better used elsewhere.
In a lot of places, IT still has no presence on the board or is associate with someone with limited technical understanding, granted they will have the companies best interest at heart but their lack of comprehension means that technology is never used as a vehicle for business development.
I was doing a PHD in ‘strategic business – IT alignment’ and I learnt a valuable lesson when I did my research questionnaire, I made the naïve assumption that in large financially regulated organisations technology was well understood and was being used as a revenue generator. After all that was what I strived to do when I was a senior technology manager for a number of financial organisations.
How wrong I was, far from providing statistical evidence showing that regulated companies were advance in their understanding of how to maximise technology, all I could prove was the vast majority of respondents really didn’t know how to use technology as an enabler. Unfortunately, whilst this revelation was interesting it wasn’t enough to warrant a doctorate (this is still a work in progress).
So why the title; well in my view the way that we use technology needs to change as does the way we go about implementing it. We are now on the third generation of really technically savvy people with each generation starting to use technology from a younger age to the last. Everyone I know tell me that their children can use technology before they can do anything else from manipulating the mouse to bashing the keyboard it is just fun to them.
It is almost ingrained into them now from their earliest experiences and whilst a lot will not go onto roles in the technology industry their awareness and understanding of how technology works and adoption of new technology is far and above an old technology enthusiast like me. I still like pen and paper.
So why are we not capitalising on this semi trained army of people who are in or entering every sector and business vertical, why do we still insist on having a support desk and relying on an engineer to turn up and fix an issue when a lot of this could be administered within the department if the business and IT were correctly aligned.
Moreover, it costs a lot of money to have highly trained specialists on site all the time, surely having a pool of people who can be brought in when they are required for projects is far more cost effective. Well I believe that this is the way that technology will ultimately go, it’s not going to happen overnight but it will happen.
So, what needs to change to get us to this position, well firstly we need to start aligning our business and technology processes. Technology needs to be the enabler to drive the business goals and aspirations, we need to move away from separate business and technology strategies that rarely compliment let along embrace each other and create a strategy that embraces technology as the enabler for the business to succeed.
There needs to be a technologist on the board who can translate technology into business deliverable and vice versa, this role can be outsourced and in fact it is often a good idea to do this as the person is then independent of the organisations politics and therefore less likely to have an agenda based on their bias for either the technology or business.
The organisation also needs to change and embrace a learning/change culture where change is perceived as positive. This is easy with younger people who are used to changing their mobile phones etc. every year but more difficult for some of us older people who can be reluctant to change.
However, once the company has started the process the benefits are quickly realised and the organisation can start to look at technology as a business enabler. If this was of interest let me know and if enough people are interest I will write up stage two of the process “technology as an enabler”
Paul Wells, CTO