…in other words, why don’t the business and IT get along better? The next few blog posts will explore this topic and offer some suggestions for improving the relationship.
In the late 1980′s when I started working many large organisations had a team of specialists that vanished in the space of just a couple of years. They did word-processing: now *everybody* does word-processing. I think there’s an argument that says that the quality of the output has dropped as a result, because any chimp with a keyboard can produce a document …and they do.
This trend is occurring in photography – the cost of the equipment and the level of skill needed to get “reasonable” results has shrunk to a point that if you can use a mobile phone then congratulations! – you can take your photo and get it published to a mass online audience in under a minute. Again the quality of output has dropped.
…and again with publishing. The stereotype has always been the struggling writer sending their manuscript off to be scrutinized by eagle-eyed publishers for months – years even, in the hope that one of them will pick out their work and judge it worthy of print, thereby validating a life’s work as having *meaning*. What kind of mug does that these days when you can produce and market an e-book, or go to a print-on-demand company and get professional looking physical books on sale at Amazon in a few minutes? As for quality…
In all cases the cost and skill of producing acceptable results is dropping, which opens up a specialism to the masses. Ansel Adams became world famous for his iconic photographs of Yosemite National Park in California. If you use Flickr.com you can see 1,032,710 photos of the same park by the many thousands of peaople who try to emulate his work.
Clearly there is still room for the specialists – I don’t think the photos for the National Geographic calendar are going to be crowdsourced any time soon, but it does mean that the “experts” have to work harder to justify their existence and their right to command large fees. However, at the “good enough” level, the experts aren’t required because people will do it themselves.
It seems plausible to me that in the next decade IT departments will go the same way as the typing pool. Business will just “do IT” – they won’t have servers to manage because their systems will live in The Cloud (or its future offspring), and they’ll be able to set up their own filing systems for documents, or configure their own CRM or ERP system using one of a dozen or so templates as a starting point. Sure, their systems won’t be finely tailored to their specific needs – but so what? They’ll be good enough, and crucially they’ll be live in 2 weeks instead of 2 years. Their investment will be a monthly subscription fee rather than a huge upfront payment, so if it turns out to be wrong they just throw it away and try again. No biggie.
I am not saying that the IT staff will be cast onto the scrapheap – but they will need to change their ways, and so will the business people and their attitude towards the IT guys. How many times have you heard things like this:
I am keen to hear your views – are the days of the IT department numbered? Are people in your business beginning to “do IT” for themselves and bypass the IT dept? What areas of IT do you think still require the specialists, and what can be done to a “good enough” standard by the business?
Five years ago the CIO and the IT department wielded considerable power with specialist staff working with kit that took years of experience to master. That power is fading along with the mystique surrounding IT systems. We are all becoming IT people now, in the same way we are all photographers and writers.
Next week: how to improve the relationship between the business and IT.