I am a parent, futurist, and technologist. My career has spanned the birth of personal computers to the rise of cloud computing.
Identify the two camps quickly if you intend to sell a new technology!
This article starts with a disclaimer. There is no intent to belittle or make fun of anyone who says either of the next two statements shared. I want to point out that they are common in the IT world where I live. The first is we focus on what is possible. The problem with that, of course, is you don't take risks. You don't make great change without risk. Honestly, for the most part, that response is a limiter. Not bad, as risk can be bad, but not new and innovative. You hear that often from people who take the worst-case view of new technologies. That the new will limit their ability because it will fail. The other side of that is we do hard things. The two can be congruous because they can exist in the same physical space. Sometimes what is possible is hard. But for the most part, the reality is when you're dealing with IT people, if they accept and are willing to say we do hard things, they are looking at technology as an enabler. We do possible things, and people see technology as limited by what is available now.
I know because I have leaped into the great unknown in my career several times. There was a time at a previous company in my life when I and a few others were voices in the wilderness about technology. We said it was possible to do more. It's not about right or wrong. It just knows who is sitting on the other side of the table. Pitching you can do more idea to a person who lives by the art of the possible mantra won't win. Now sometimes, the two can live together. On occasions, what is possible now shuts down what could be possible if we applied the effort to make it possible. That is the internal power struggle within IT. People always say all you have to do to find people and influencers and talk to the right people in the organization. If you talk to the right people in the organization but present the wrong side of this argument, you're not getting anywhere. Someone who builds possible things will never see the value of more. They see the value of now.
Again an IT organization, you can encounter both types of people. And neither side is inherently right. They are different, but neither is wrong. Of course, the issue is that often one side or the other will say the other side is wrong. That is the tug-of-war over technology. I believe that organizations should approach technology in two distinct ways. What we need today and what we need tomorrow. As you consider adding new technology or new technology capability to your portfolio, it is important that you consider those two questions. Are we focused on today? Or are we looking to the reality of tomorrow?
Control in IT sometimes results in skunkworks outside of IT!
Most enterprise architecture (EA) frameworks in the wild today talk about mapping the organization's capabilities. That is what is possible in today's view of enterprise application capabilities. The possible view of enterprise architecture in an organization starts with the capabilities you have today. Then the EA framework looks then to the users to see what they're trying to do. I talked about the rise of consumer technology and how it now drives enterprise, government, and other IT organizations. The reality is that people sometimes have more capabilities in their devices than they do in an enterprise device. You often have more security in the enterprise, government, or educational provided device. In the end, it is not just capabilities. It is also the security of the device.
After 30 years of running into those two attitudes and 30 years of trying to convince customers to build an enterprise architecture capabilities map, I've come to realize that security is critical. I know many security people that you go to him early in the process and say this is what we're thinking of doing. How can you secure it? They will be on board and help you from day one. If you bring half a to complete to their desk, there likely to say no. The security team doesn't know the what, why, and how the solution works. Effectively we have a loop; we are back to having the enterprise capability map. When you consider what is possible with what you have, you'll always find yourself short of what you ultimately need. That's why as I said, the two types of IT mindsets have to exist in the organization. You have to have somebody saying, let's focus on what is possible. Because that's the person that you want to build and deploy the solution, the enterprise architecture team should integrate itself and work with the team thinking about what could be possible. Then you have the right mix of capabilities rolling out to users before they bring them into the IT world because they bought the consumer device in its pocket.
When IT only focuses on what is possible, you give skunkworks projects. It is called skunkwork, but you can also call them. IT projects that IT doesn't know to exist. You have no control over the skunkworks projects, and often IT doesn't even though they exist. The risk is significant from a security perspective, but the risk is also the reality of users needing the functionality. I'll end with this simple story. I was on an airplane many years ago, sitting next to a CIO. As the airplane landed and it was a long taxiway from the outer runway to the terminal, I turned on my phone and started syncing my email when we were allowed. The CIO looked at what I was doing and asked me for a business card. By the time I got back to a place where I could check my voicemail, I had two voicemails from the CIO asking me to come to his company and implement mobile email. Sometimes the reality of what you have isn't the reality of what you need.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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