"It makes men imperious to sit a horse; no man governs his fellows so well as from this living throne."
-- Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., Elsie Venner
What if we substitute IT for men, network for horse, provides service for governs and users for fellows? I think you get my drift -- there's still way too much arrogance in IT groups, because they see themselves in a position of power.
This is because IT knows the arcane formulae and incantations that summon forth the angels of networking and chase away the digital demons, and as some kind of penance for this exalted status, IT has to speak to mere users who know not what they speak.
(Please note: This does not apply to you. You get IT. It's the guy next to you who needs the clue.)
This issue was discussed in a recent thread titled "Minding the empathy gap" (www.nwdocfinder.com/5064) on Ken Fasimpaur's Network World IT Borderlands blog. Fasimpaur's point was that IT doesn't seem to exercise empathy skills.
He wrote: "Far too often we remain mired in the silo of our technical mind-set without being able to picture the world through the eyes of a typical person." So true, but he goes on to suggest, "Instead we tend to think that everyone is just like us," which I don't agree with. I think many IT groups still see a major distinction between IT and the rest of the company.
For example, in the ensuing forum thread (www.nwdoc_finder.com/5065), Anonymous (him again!) wrote: "Since when is it IT's job to help other segments of the company get their job done?"
Anon goes on to say, "IT has created a brilliant way to achieve this . . . make everything to do with IT so unbelievably difficult for anyone else to understand that only IT can be relied on to 'translate' it. And then, to reduce IT's workload . . . develop obnoxious procedures, policies and personality disorders to discourage users from asking for 'translations.'"
Anon's conclusion (without any apparent tongue in cheek) is, "What you call 'inefficiency,' I call 'job security.'"
So is that it? Is that how IT and the rest of the organization are destined to orbit each other?
In fact, that isn't it at all, because the relentless evolution of technology is changing the ground rules, and what's driving the change is software-as-a-service.
Software-as-a-service providers are providing business- process infrastructure (as opposed to hardware infrastructure) at a total cost of ownership that is usually considerably less than the in-house alternatives. That tends to make the decision to migrate to software-as-a-service solutions relatively easy.
The effect will be that the role of IT will change as it becomes more involved in devising business-process solutions rather than running lots of servers with big applications on them. IT will become program and vendor managers rather than programmers and become more accountable for business-related results.
And it will work. The cost savings alone often will justify the move to software-as-a-service. So what could be argued as the downside of software-as-a-service -- security? Any software-as-a-service provider that wants your business should be able to detail its security architecture and show, to your satisfaction, that it is doing it right.
Could you do security better in-house? Possibly, but you'd need a large budget, and the future is about doing more with less, so as security problems get worse (and they will), you need to manage your expenditure on things that have greater business value.
How about features? Software-as-a-service vendors typically design their products to meet the needs of a diverse organization, so most have feature sets that are far broader than clients typically need.
Software-as-a-service isn't competitive with IT; it should supplement and complement IT and as a result make the I in IT stand for information rather than imperious.