Despite what may have been a slightly overstated prognosis of doom and gloom, no one has (as of this writing) stepped up to refute my scenario. We may quibble about the details of the CorpTech-pocalypse (CTP) , but no one has suggested that it won’t happen at all. So…where do we go from here?
Well, we have two options:
Option 1: Ignore it, maintain the status quo, stick your fingers in your ears and la la la la...
IT departments that maintain the status quo will be the first to collapse under the weight of the CTP. Chances are good that a favorite topic of conversation for your CEO is currently “my IT department doesn’t understand what we do.” I am friends with educators, doctors, accountants, business people, and even a few lawyers, and they have all at one time or another expressed to me their displeasure with their own IT department using a variation on that phrase. It’s probably the most common IT related phrase ever spoken by professionals, with the possible exception of “why do I have to reboot again?”. Eventually your CEO will be lamenting your general un-helpfulness while seated across the table from a salesperson for a major technology services provider who will helpfully explain that they can offer all of the services that you currently provide for a quarter of the cost. At that point it’s too late to change. So, ultimately, option 1 isn’t really an option.
Option 2: Change the way you operate now, learn the business your company is actually in, prepare your company to transition into the post-IT environment, and develop the skills that will be useful in your next career.
Change the way you operate now.
This is less a practical suggestion, than an exhortation that you need to change sooner rather than later. Change is never easy, but it's not going to magically be easier in a few years. In fact, it's never going to be easier than it is right now.
Learn the business your company is actually in. (Hint: it’s probably not IT services.).
IT departments were created because management recognized the need for someone with special knowledge to maintain and support the technology needs of their business. As technology needs have exploded, IT has too. IT policies originally set in place to make it easier for IT to provide services, have evolved into de facto Company Policies with IT as the enforcer. This has created an antagonistic relationship between the IT department and the company at large. When someone finds a new or better way of using technology to do their job, the last people they want to tell is IT because IT will shut it down. We've become obstructionists standing in the way of innovation. A company within the company, but fundamentally disconnected from the primary business.
Your value as a technologist isn't in your general understanding of technology, but in your understanding of how technology can improve business practices. If you don’t understand those business practices, you are providing minimal value to your company.
Prepare your company to transition into the Post-IT environment
First and foremost, stop habitually saying “No” to non-standard technology requests. If you don’t know about a particular technology that is being requested, ask the user to explain it to you. How do they want to use it? What service will it provide them that they don’t currently have? You may already have a system in place to provide the service the user is looking for and if you don’t it might be a valuable addition to your network. If you’ve already reviewed, evaluated and rejected the technology, give the user an explanation for why it was rejected in language that they can understand. Rattling off a string of techno-babble is tantamount to just saying “no”.
Develop processes to quickly review, evaluate and adopt (when possible) popular consumer technologies and services. You should have a small group whose job it is to review new technologies, see how they work in your environment, discuss the value of the service with business management and present a report with risks and benefits clearly defined so that management can weigh the options and make decisions about technologies that will be allowed.
Develop an End Point Agnostic network. Once upon a time, mobile computing devices were the province of corporate IT. That ship has sailed. Mobile computing is a wing of the fashion industry, and people are passionate about their fashion accessories. Let them use whatever device they want. Blackberries, iPhones, Androids are all capable machines and there are ways to connect them to your network safely. Experiment and document acceptable usage of all devices, If you provide an acceptable way to use the devices people want to use, they will most likely use them correctly. Most people understand the issues of security and compliance. They will try to comply right up until you tell them they can’t use their pretty pink phone, then they will figure out how to connect said pink phone to your network in a way that isn’t secure.
End Point Agnosticism is a first step toward Cloud Computing, Telecommuting and SaaS adoption. Each of these become easier if your network is already EPA.
Develop the skills that will be useful in your next career.
This is not to say that your next career will not be in technology, just that it probably won’t be in a non-tech corporation, unless you are consulting on using technology to enhance business practices. Step 2 above, learn the business your company is actually in, will help your company now and enhance your personal value in the future.
Most of us originally got into corporate IT because we had a deep interest in technology. Redevelop, or in some cases develop, that interest! Don’t just know how you do things in your company, study how other companies accomplish the same tasks, learn new technologies, and explore new solutions. We are living in the most exciting technological period in history, revel in it.
Lastly, throw out old biases. PC vs. Mac vs. Linux, Blackberry vs. iPhone, Google vs. Yahoo. It doesn’t matter anymore. You need to know them all. Embrace it. The more you know, the more valuable you are. The more focused you are on a single technology, the more easily you are replaced.
The CorpTechPocalypse is going to happen, but it doesn’t need to be painful for you or for your company. In the end, you might both be better off going your separate ways and seeing other people, having grown for the experience. And if you do it right, you can still be friends.