The Socialization of IT

I know the subject line sounds kind of creepy. But, Co-conspirator Martin Schneider wrote a few weeks ago “What is ITs role in the Social CRM Revolution” and I could not help myself. Then, on this bright and sunny Monday morning, I see a post by Irving Wladawsky-Berger, where he tackles the topic of “IT in the age of the Cloud” The article was forwarded to me by friend Prem Kumar (who we should all welcome to the US for a few weeks). Just to be thorough, I am using the following definition of Socialization: ‘the means by which social and cultural continuity are attained’ – which is grabbed from wikipedia.Where Martin raised some great points in his post, but claimed not to have the answers, I will tell you know that I have all the answers! Uh, what was the question again?

IT is definitely changing – changing to what is the real question

Mr. Wladawsky-Berger references a study on The Future of Corporate IT by The Corporate Executive Board.While the study identified did a have a few scary facts about numbers (like “IT function will diminish and its headcount fall by 75% or more”), I am not going there today, I am going to focus elsewhere. The post and the source are both worth taking a look at but I would like to highlight just one or two (as I am writing, I have not decided yet it is going to be one or two) of the core shifts identified.

Information Over Process:

The rise of technology delivered as a service, or the cloud, will significantly reduce sources of competitive advantage from information technology. In theory, a start-up could use the cloud to obtain the same functionality, scale, and quality as an industry leader. Differentiation will lie in how an organization manages change, integrates its service portfolio, and critically, exploits the information the services generate.
The nature of demand for information technology also is changing. Most employees are now knowledge workers. Social media is becoming vital for customer and internal communication, and data volumes continue to rise. As a result, in the business areas that drive growth—innovation, marketing, sales, customer service—up to 80% of IT enablement opportunities relate to business intelligence, collaboration, or the customer interface. At the heart of each of these opportunities is the need to capture, integrate, and interpret information, both structured and unstructured.

I like this one, almost agree with it, and think that is going to be crucial to CRM, Social CRM and Social Business moving forward. I do believe that information is crucial, critical and also really important. More important than the information however, is what you do with it. I would like to think that I am a smart person, I would also like to think that the readers of this post are also smart. The question then is, what would happen if we came upon the same information at the same time? So, I do not see this as really a shift from information to process, just, well, a whole lot more information available to everyone, thus process is even more crucial. This may not really change the point about who has the job, role, function of dealing with this stuff, as I have always said, technologists and business strategists need to work closely together. IT will shift from managing technology in the form of machines to managing technology in the form of processes (remember the good ole days of data processing).

OK, I guess I am going to limit myself to one today, seems like there is a lot to come back to at a later time.  To my starting point about the Socialization bit, I do not think it is all that complex, really. IT, like everyone else simply needs to alter the focus over time to information and information processing. Getting the business users the right information at the right time, which for a while I believe is going to still require some technology. What do you think? I am looking forward to dissecting this further, could be fun 🙂

10 thoughts on “The Socialization of IT

  1. Mitch,

    Good point. The cloud offers up bite-sized services (in the twitter world, a, a tweetfeed, etc.). The need for the IT department to re-invent them is wasteful.

    Smart companies will focus on their competitive advantage. They will determine their goals, their strategy, layout the processes and tactics to implement their strategy and then quickly *assemble* the “value chain” they need to meet their goals.

    In all this, the major work is upfront in understanding the company’s secret sauce. The components become far more plug-and-play.


  2. Munish,

    Thanks for the note. I have a concern, two actually. One, I would like to believe that the components will become plug-and-play, but we are not quite there yet. My fear here is not only are we not quite there, but that new components seem to crop up like weeds on my lawn (with more value though).

    The second concern is that someone is going to need to help business users to understand where, when and how to integrate these new components. UX designers, usability folks, technologists. Do we call these people “IT”? Interesting food for thought.


  3. Mitch,

    Agreed on both counts. The analogy of lego bricks may explain our viewpoint. There may be a variety of lego bricks to choose from and an unlimited possibilities of things that can be built. But, doing a good job requires an artist, an architect and an engineer to put it all together.

    What has changed is that the engineers do not have to learn how to mold a lego brick. The engineer’s work is reduced — not eliminated — but the work of the artist and architect becomes the differentiator.


  4. Interesting post. There is indeed a shift going on for IT. More and more business than just IT, As cloud can provide all the server power and storage you need, and even a bunch of applications it will be crucial for CIO’s (and IT manager) to redefine themselves as business thinkers, something that a number of CIO’s have been struggling with for a long time (why is there something called business and IT alignment of IT-Business Fusion? Isn’t it quite obvious that IT need to serve business purposes)
    As to the point that IT is going to shift to managing processes, wasn’t that already the case? A lot of IT’s work is supporting processes. I can agree that the focus will be even more on processes than before, but it’s nothing new.
    What is new is the issue fact that internal IT departments are not necessarily best equiped to deliver the services at the best price; that’s what the cloud bring in. So IT departments should become advisors & give guidance in the selection of these external cloud services. They should guard security policies and ensure compliance to Enterprise Architecture.
    Finally, I absolutely agree with you that business strategists and IT should work together closely, they are working towards the same goals.

  5. Franky,
    Thanks for the comments, I appreciate the dialogue, it helps me (and hopefully others). I do think IT has been managing processes for a long time, maybe I am simply thinking more along the lines of business (read: Modern, Social data type) processes. For example, what are the most relevant pieces of data required by the sales, support or marketing personnel at the time of need. Maybe that is what you meant already.

  6. Mitch – thanks for illuminating my points from the other week in a more articulate manner 😉

    As myself (and InsideView’s Umberto Miletti) noted a few weeks ago – the role IT plays, or does not play, in an organization must change if knowledge workers are going to truly reap the benefits of the social web.

    Living “through the Firewall” is scary to many, and for good reason. But issues like security are being trumped by the ability to differentiate and create a fitting culture for both customers and employees. Think about it – you not only have to be transparent to customers, but also with your employees. Strict firewalls, security mandates and IT-managing every little application change will create bottlenecks that can have a major ripple effect through a company – all the way to the bottom line.

    It will be interesting to see which companies take the social revolution seriously and make the most of it, and which have setbacks due to rigid IT mandates.


  7. Great posts and comments!

    I’ve experienced many situations where traditional IT departments seem to forget their place is to facilitate business and not dictate terms. I don’t know if it is the classic old fear of becoming obsolete or if people tend to get hung up on specific technologies, but it seems to me that IT departments have always had a great adventure before them in continually evaluating better ways of facilitating the growth and success of their respective businesses.
    If it means moving to the cloud then so be it; but ultimately it is delivering what the business needs, when it needs it and with as much efficiency as possible (cost, level of effort, etc).
    We’ve always been Information Technology, so instead of a change in focus, perhaps its more of a realization that the technologies we use are simply the tools and not the end and instead of simply stopping at being good with a hammer and drill; become the carpenter you were meant to be.

  8. Russell,

    Thank you for adding your thoughts! I do not have much to add – boring I know – but it is a journey, and maybe simply being better prepared for the journey as opposed to a locked in destination may help everyone!


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