Archive for November, 2015


Is the IT Department being left behind in the 21st Century?

I was sparked into writing this article this morning after hearing an expression I thought we had moved away from. I overheard a couple of Senior IT guys at my client talk about “end user computing”.

This is an expression I haven’t heard since the 90’s or even the early 2000’s but with all the changes with devices and technology over last 10-15 years is it still a relevant concept?

This got me thinking about IT departments and the 21st Century. Has the march of technology overtaken the ability for the IT department to react and deliver technology solutions? Has the advent of digital given the business the opportunity to cut the IT department out of the equation and if they have what does the IT department need to do to reclaim the “technological authority”?

In the 80’s and 90’s we implemented massive organisation and productivity changing systems that impacted an entire organisation (without email and mobile phones in a lot of cases). Many of these system still exist with organisations and are deemed “heritage” or “legacy”. These needed a massive cohort to implement and then to support and this formed the bases of the IT department.

Large frameworks for the “management” of these projects and systems were developed and a governance structure put around the, ITIL; Prince 2 are two of the most popular. This led to longer delivery times and an administrative burden.

In parallel to these changes going on in the consumer space new technology was being introduced. Smart Phones, Netbooks, Tablets, Smart TV’s to name but a few. The internet that had ballooned during the late 90’s, and crashed, suddenly became mainstream and, as I predicted in the late 90’s the 4th utility.

All the while whilst this was going on the IT departments continued to get bigger and apply more and more frameworks and overheads along with outsourcing, what it saw as commodity skills which, were in fact, intellectual property (this will be the subject of a future article). What this meant was that to even have an idea to change a small bit of technology cost you thousands before you started.

It also led to the rise of the “shadow IT department” where end user departments were hiring, developing and supporting their own solutions.

Then we entered the digital economy. The rise of smartphones; tablets; ubiquitous internet via mobile phones and WiFi caused a perfect Nexus. Everything had to be digital. Again the IT department tried to impose a lot of the legacy disciplines onto the business which was rejected and as a result a new part of the business was created and called “digital” which meant the Technology Skilled staff worked alongside the business people as one to deliver what the business wanted.

Now we are deep into the new world. We have IT people looking after “heritage” and “Lagacy” systems and the Digital teams looking after the social media and digital world. Where does this leave the traditional IT department? My answer is well behind the curve.

People existing in the old world need to upskill and understand where the world has moved on to. Certain ideas and understandings need to be challenged and refreshed.

In conclusion there is no such thing now as “end user computing” everything is.

Managers versus leaders

businessmen-152572_640Managers versus Leaders

One of the disturbing developments I have noticed in a career stretching over 30 years in length is the rise of the manager and the demise of the leader.

Back in the 90’s when everybody was talking about “the new economy” businesses removed layers within organisations and “empowered” people to get on with it and make decisions. This enabled businesses to make major productivity gains and with the advent of the Enterprise Resource Planning systems businesses became quicker and more efficient.

Being a project manager you role was to keep the team motived and drive the timelines whilst making it fun! We didn’t have mobile phones or emails it was down to energy and strength or personality and charisma that made things happen.

Then something happened. I don’t know what it was but suddenly there were managers everywhere. Process and people were managed. Countries were managed by their politicians there was more emphasis on measuring everything; KPI’s; Scorecards; targets all leading to people managing their processes and business in such a way as to meet the measures not what was good for the business.

I think this trend has led to the phenomenon where managers are being paid massive bonuses and have no risk associated with the remunerations. It has also led to a lot of the scandals we see in the banks and other organisations.

This trend has to stop. We need leaders to be back in the forefront of business and driving the growth that the economies need.

My gut feel is that the true leaders will make a resurgence in business. The tools available now in terms of social media and collaboration and the “sharing” economy means that the managers have nothing to hide behind anymore.
Hopefully this will lead to innovation and risk taking and not just managing what currently exists.

I for one believe that the leaders ate the most important management resources we need in the 21st century world of business.