The pendulum has definitely swung—our personal and home technology is now often better than what we are using in the office.
It wasn’t always that way. Early on, technology was mysterious to those not professionally engaged as system engineers or IT professionals. Technology was expensive and made sense for business purposes, but not for home use. IT was a professional enabler to get the job done, but consumer applications were scarce and not intuitive for anything but the office.
The world has turned upside down. Now as consumers, we are using the latest and greatest computers, smart phones, gaming devices, and software applications, including everything social media and e-Commerce, while in the office, we are running old operating systems, have nerdy phones, locked down computers, applications that aren’t web-enabled, and social media that is often blocked.
The Wall Street Journal (16 November 2009) summed up the situation this way:
“At the office, you’ve got a sluggish computer running aging software, and the email system routinely badgers you to delete message after you blow through the storage limits set by your IT department. Searching your company’s internal website feels like being transported back to the pre-Google era of irrelevant results…This is the double life many people lead: yesterday’s technology for work, today’s technology for everything else…The past decade has brought awesome innovations to the marketplace–Internet search, the iPhone, Twitter, and so on, but consumers, not companies, embrace them first and with the most gusto.”
What gives and why are we somehow loosing our technical edge in the workplace?
Rapid Pace of Change—We have been on technological tear for the last 20 years now; virtually nothing is the same—from the Internet to cloud computing, from cell phones and pagers to smart phones and iPhones, from email to social media, and so much more. From a consumer perspective, we are enamored with the latest gadgets and capabilities to make our life easier and more enjoyable though technology. But at work, executives are tiring from the pace of technological change and the large IT budgets that are needed to keep up with the Jones. This is especially the case, as financial markets have seized in the last few years, credit has tightened, revenue and profitability has been under extreme pressure, and many companies have laid off employees and others have even gone kaput.
Magnificent Technology Failures—Along with the rapid pace of change, has come huge IT project failure rates. The Standish group reported this year that 82% of IT projects are failing or seriously challenged. Why in the world would corporate executives want to invest more money, when their past and present IT investments have been flushed down the toilet? Executives have lost faith in IT’s ability to upgrade their legacy systems and fulfill the promises behind the slew of IT investments already made. Related to this is the question of true cost-benefit and total cost of ownership of all the new technologies and their associated investments—if we haven’t been able to achieve or show the return on investment on all the prior investments, why should we continue investing and investing? Is the payoff really there? Perhaps, we are better off putting the dollars into meeting core mission requirements and not overhead, like IT?
Security Risks Abound—With all the technology has come a whole new organizational risk set in terms of IT security. Organizations are hostage to cyber criminals, terrorists, and hostile nation states who can with a few keyboard strokes or mouse clicks disable the company transaction capability, wipe out its memory, steal its information, or otherwise neutralize it from functioning. And the more technology we add, the more the risk level seems to increase. For example, the thinking goes that we were safer when we ran everything in a locked down, tightly controlled, mainframe environment. The more we push the envelope on this and have moved to client server, the web, and now to even more transparency, information sharing, and collaboration—through social media, cloud computing, and World 2.0—the thinking is that we are potentially more open to local and global threats than ever before. Further, with the nation under virtually constant cyberattack and our capabilities to slow or stop these attacks seemingly not existent at this time, executives are reluctant to open up the technology vulnerability spigot any further.
While there are many other reasons slowing or impeding our technology adoption at work, we cannot stop our march of IT advancement and progress.
We are in a global competitive marketplace and the world waits for no one. The problems resulting from the speed and cost of change, the high IT project failure-rate, and the cybersecurity danger/challenges cannot be allowed to inhibit us from progress. We must address these issues head on: We have got to achieve efficiencies from technological advancement and plow the cost-savings into next generation technologies. We have got to drastically improve our IT project success rate though mature implementations of enterprise architecture, IT governance, project management, customer relationship management, and performance measurement (Reference: The CIO Support Services Framework). And we must invest heavily in IT security—with money, people, policy, training, new technology safeguards, and more.
Innovation, technological prowess, and information superiority is what gives us our edge—it is tip of our spear. So yes, we must carefully plan/architect, wisely invest, execute well, and secure our IT. But no, we cannot dismiss the evolving technologies outright nor jump in without proper controls. We must move rationally, but determined into the future.