Time for a Revolution in IT: Five Steps: Page 2

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3) IT’s About a Strategy

All revolutions need a strategy. What are the objectives? What, for example, should the IT organization look like after the revolution? What should the acquisition, deployment and support strategy look like?

Should X-as-a-service delivery models prevail? Should open source software play a role? Should technology be globally decentralized? In order to get somewhere we have to know (a) where we’ve been and (b) where we’re going – and why. If the revolutionaries can’t agree on what the post-revolutionary world should look like then the revolution will stall and then fail. Worse, the backlash will be brutal: most if not all of the revolutionaries will be executed.

4) IT’s About Partnerships

Nothing good happens in a vacuum. All revolutions need partners. In IT, the range of partners includes the revolutionaries themselves, board members, technology vendors, product and service providers and customers – among anyone and everyone that comprises your company’s ecosystem.

Reach out to them and keep them informed about what’s going to happen, how it will positively affect them, and how they might well be enlisted in a battle or two.

Here too you will find a lot of willing partners – if they’re already pretty disgusted with the way things have been going with the incumbents. But be careful here. There are spies everywhere. Make sure that the “partners” you enlist are not actually supporters of the status quo. Many people talk big but are really pretty small.

5) IT’s About Accountability

Successful coups and revolutions require accountability. Before-and-after metrics should be established to determine if the new regime is better (or worse) than the old one. Run for the hills if the performance data indicates that the new regime is only as good as or – God forbid – worse than – the old guard. They will hunt you down and kill you.

You have some choices here. If you live in a business technology insane asylum, you can just collect your check week after week, month after month, year after year. You can leave. You can become the resident-critic-without-teeth.

Or you can start a revolution. Job one is to assess the people, culture, leadership and stakeholders. If you find that nearly everyone thinks that the company sucks, that the corporate culture is about to implode, that the leadership is clueless and disrespected, and the major stakeholders think things have to change, then by all means start burying land mines.

But if there’s considerable support for the current regime – even if it makes no sense – then you might want to take your weapons somewhere else (or just keep cashing the checks). Just remember that the same guys who screwed up your company are the genetic cousins of the same guys who screwed up healthcare.

The good news is that insane companies generally don’t get people killed, so you can honker down, wait them out, leave or just retire. Too bad millions of Americans don’t have similar options when it comes to the health of their families. Put another way, in the final analysis IT doesn’t matter all that much when compared with problems like war, cancer or the environment. Maybe Nick Carr had IT right all along (though perhaps for the wrong reasons).

As the way old TV drama Hill Street Blues used to sign off – “be careful out there.” Revolutions can be fun and productive. They can also be dangerous.

Steve Andriole is the Thomas G. Labrecque Professor of Business at Villanova University where he conducts applied research in business technology convergence. He is also the co-founder of The Acentio Group, a new economy consortium that focuses on optimizing investments in information technology, executive education, Web 2.0, technology audits and pilot applications. He is formerly the Senior Vice President & Chief Technology Officer of Safeguard Scientifics, Inc. and the Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President for Technology Strategy at CIGNA Corporation. His career began at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency where he was the Director of Cybernetics Technology. He can be reached at stephen.andriole@villanova.edu.

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