Corporate IT insanity

fern by Randy Son Of Robert
8 Things We Hate About IT:

You may think that hate is too strong of a word for feelings toward a corporate department. I don’t. Yesterday, I was interviewing an executive on his perceptions of IT and he couldn’t spit his frustration out fast enough. He said, “In the quest of getting things organized, they are introducing a bunch of bureaucracy and, in the process, they’re abdicating their responsibility for making sure the right things get done.” This is completely typical of management’s frustration – no, management’s hatred – of IT.

It’s hard to remember the time when criticizing IT was controversial. Now, it’s ceased to be even interesting. The now-classic HBR article “IT Doesn’t Matter” resonated so clearly because it underscored the pervasive belief that IT mediocrity is the norm. And how bad is an industry’s reputation when a major outsourcer, Keane, can get away with insulting its target market with the slogan, “We Do IT Right”?

It’s not personal – nobody hates the people in IT – it’s the system that’s broken. And here’s the rub: IT doesn’t like it either. One global Fortune 200 CIO describes leading IT as “a sucking vortex.”

Harvard Business is never shy about stoking controversy. Let’s take a look at some of these items.

  • IT Limits Managers’ Authority
  • They’re Missing Adult Supervision
  • They’re Financial Extortionists
  • Their Projects Never End
  • The Help Desk is Helpless
  • They Let Outsourcers Run Amok
  • IT is Stocked with Out-of-Date Geeks
  • IT Never Has Good News

The eight things almost all deal with an unwieldy section of a large company having to deal with rapidly changing circumstances. I believe that most of the eight things mentioned above derive from the two opposing aspects of IT in many companies.

IT has to fundamentally provide a stable working environment. Things just can not break or go down. Otherwise, employees do not get paid, vendors do not get paid and lawsuits proliferate. So IT is under a lot of pressure to just make sure that the status quo remains. They want to get thinks working and then never change them again.

However, business concerns require continual tweaking of almost all IT processes, the addition of new innovations. This is driven by competition. Other organizations are adding new tweaks, ones that can provide substantial competitive advantages. A company that can not keep up will eventually disappear.

Stability versus Innovation. How a company deals with this dichotomy in IT often determines success or failure.

So, many IT departments are driven by diametrically opposed needs. No wonder they do such a poor job of satisfying everyone. Stability necessitates limiting what the rest of the company can do. But innovation often needs large amounts of money to complete a project right now in order for the company to remain competitive.

The help desk is not helpful because stability should mean things work and no help should be required. But then outsourcers provide expertise and processes IT can not because things change and real help is needed.

Their projects never end because there is always something else to add in order to remain competitive. The geeks are out-of-date because the innovators in IT often get frustrated (they threaten stability), see that the best route to getting new technologies adopted is to be a consultant and leave.

There is never good news because it is almost impossible to provide stability and innovation simultaneously.

I agree with F. Scott Fitzgerald. The people in IT usually possess first-rate intelligences but the requirements that are often put on them make it very hard to function effectively.

There will have to be changes in how IT is actually managed, how it is integrated into the corporation, in order for many of these problems to be attacked.

Perhaps splitting the two responsibilities or creating an independent IT group whose only mandate is to devise processes that can incorporate new technologies and innovative tools into the organization without disturbing stability.

But maintaining these two opposing needs is the very definition of insanity.

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Collaborative Adobe

adobe by longhorndave
Adobe Adds Features to Boost Collaboration:
[Via Enterprise 2.0 Blog]

Adobe has introduced two new products, Acobat 9 and The goal is to transform the way people collaborate—Adobe’s new Acrobat 9 PDF tool now uses Flash to let you embed video, audio, animation and all manner of files, which is very cool. Another new capability lets you leverage web conferencing from Adobe to mark up documents on the fly, in real time, without launching a full-blown conference. Both people can take turns walking through the document, there’s no need to pass the baton, making it very ad hoc. If you decide you need to, you can launch a full-blown web conference (via Acrobat Connect) with a single click.

Adobe is now making a wide variety of collaborative tools available online with the launch of Buzzword allows people to create collaborative documents. It looks like it has version history, access control and real-time controls. Nice.

ConnectNow permits online conferences for up to three people. Video can be used as well as IM. There are whiteboard options as well as display of computer screens. There is even an option for remote control.

Up to 5 GB of documents can be stored for free and they can be made available to all or to just a limited number. They can then be accessed from any web connection.

These tools offer some pretty compelling ideas. I will be examining them to determine just how useful they really are. There is more information at the Adobe site.

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Online Water Coolers

gerbera by aussiegall
What’s Your Internal Social Networking Strategy?:
[Via Enterprise 2.0 Blog]

Nemertes recently noted that eighty-three percent of organizations are now “virtual” meaning that members of workgroups reside in physically separate locations. The emergence of the virtual workplace has radically changed not only how we communicate and collaborate, but how we build social bonds among employees.

Informal interactions are very important in any social network. They provide secondary routes for information to bypass chokepoints, they permit radically different viewpoints to influence the creation of knowledge and they are just plain fun.

If the only way any of us ever got to interact with someone was in a meeting with a defined agenda, there would be a greatly weakened social network.

Yet, our online interactions are often just like that: directed, well-scripted, little humanity. One reason blogs exist is to provide an outlet for some of our need to interact randomly, to gossip just a little, to ask ‘Did you hear about…’

It will be important for any defined internal online social network to provide this outlet. Because, frankly, if it is not provided, people will either ignore the network or find ways, perhaps inappropriately, to create such an outlet.

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Appreciating a Chris Brogan post of a Seth Godin post

conversations by b_d_solis
Appreciating A Seth Godin Post:

The other day, Seth Godin wrote about the new standard for meetings and conferences. I loved the article (but couldn’t comment that I did), and have been thinking about it ever since. I talked about it twice with two different people over the last few days, and part of the sentiment Seth put out there found its way into my jumping over a mountain post.

So, I’m presuming everyone reads Seth, but if not, check this out, or as Clarence would say, “marinate.”

Because Seth came by and commented reminded me to show that I am reading and paying attention to him. A side lesson to this: comment where you’re reading. It makes a difference.

Part of the way information flow is enhanced by Web 2.0 tools can be seen here. Someone comments on a post that was initiated by someone else’s thoughts. Each of us in the chain adds our own viewpoint, helping to not only transmit the information to a greater audience but also adding our own context.

Seth wrote about the effects on conferences when the cost to travel to them gets very high. If we spend thousands simply traveling to a conference that cost thousands to register for, we may want more for our money that just some talking head presentations.

He extends this to meetings of any sort. If we are going to take the time and expense to meet face-to-face rather than use social media to accomplish our goals, then we had better take advantage of the benefits those sorts of encounters provide than simply information transfer. Like using our hands to talk.

Seth says this:

If you’re a knowledge worker, your boss shouldn’t make you come to the (expensive) office every day unless there’s something there that makes it worth your trip. She needs to provide you with resources or interactions or energy you can’t find at home or at Starbucks. And if she does invite you in, don’t bother showing up if you’re just going to sit quietly.

What are some of the benefits of face-to-face encounters that can not be accomplished with Web 2.0 tools? I think engagement of real time thoughts and processes is one. Taking advantage of the simultaneous juxtaposition of time and place that can not happen online. Snacks and drinks are another.

And the presentation had better be more than just someone standing there reading off slides that could just as easily be seen online. Use the human element for realtime, face-to-face encounters. Add emotion, inflection, drama.

Any other ideas?

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