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Occupy IT: Is it coming to your door?


The recent protests known collectively as "Occupy WallStreet" may have a sibling coming soon.

Consider the Occupy Wall Street movement.  What's going on here?  Some people are fed up with what they see as corporate greed, Wall Street being the figurehead for corporate control.  

Whether their complaints are legitimate or not is left for your personal contemplation.  So, what are their complaints?  What do they want?  The best I can tell, they want to complain.  They want change.  They want to be considered.  They want corporations to consider the effects they have on people.  They want to see benefits.

Technically, I've seen this broken down as a desire for more integrity, transparency and an open and collaborative risk management approach (less secrecy and more scrutiny).  Maybe that's not quite right; I'm not really sure.  However, there's certainly a perception problem so severe that it has caused this movement to occur. 

The issues at play here are similar to the common disconnect between businesses and their own IT organizations.  The business sees IT as being self serving, spending lots of money on infrastructure and processes that the business can't see or understand, and never really coming clean on what they are doing and whether it's really necessary.  They don't see quick results from IT when they want and need them.

Here we have the makings of Occupy IT.  Now, I'm not saying this will literally happen, but it's worth considering.  How can you change this perception?  Even better, how can you begin to truly be in sync with your business and be a full and equal partner in the business?  These are things worth exploring in an effort to avoid "Occupy IT".

So, what's an IT person to do?  Become responsive to the business is the answer.  Even better, be the business.  Stop being IT.  If you really want to get in the game, you need to make a difference for your business - help it launch a new product, close new business, retain customers, or whatever you can do to drive the business.

So, how does one do that?

At the individual level it's not overly complicated.  Assuming there are no political barriers, just listen to the business and be an advocate and agent to help them get what THEY WANT.  A new system.  A quick report or analysis.  A Facebook page.  A twitter aggregation.  Whatever.

At the organizational level it's not so simple.  For the IT organization to do what the business wants, it needs to start by groking, truly understanding, the business' growth strategy.  You have to truly understand what the business leaders intend to do to grow the business, retain customers, become a better business and win.  Without this understanding, you will always be behind, reactive, a cost center.  In contrast, if you really understood the strategy, you could start thinking ahead, bringing forward new ideas on how to move faster.  You'll also be worried about the right stuff.

You may be thinking, "great. How do I do that?"  First, read anything that your organization has written on this subject and start listening to your business leaders.  Then, attempt to write down your own understanding of the strategy.  Don't ask them to tell you the strategy.  Rather, write down what you understand about the strategy.  Then, take it to business leaders and ask them whether your understanding is correct.  Most likely, it won't be.  Or, it will be insufficient in explaining the details of the strategy.  Or, in a large business, different leaders will have varying views; so, your version couldn't possibly be correct to each leader.  However, this is fine and exactly what you want, actually, because what you want to do is get into a genuine discussion with the principal stakeholders about the business strategy.  Of course, this may not be the only way, but it seems like a good and direct approach to starting a serious discussion.  And, starting the discussion is the first step.  If the business doesn't sense that you are really trying to understand what they're thinking, you'll continue to be an outsider and that doesn't put you at the table with them.

Technologies are emerging and being adopted by the business faster than IT can respond to them. Consider iPads.  Have you noticed that more and more of these are showing up around the conference table at meetings you attend.  Hello?  The business is adopting these, regardless of whether they are part of the sanctioned IT footprint.  And, they're going to keep doing it.  You should be asking yourself "why didn't we advocate that they adopt these things first? We're supposed to be the ones on the leading edge of technology."  If you consider it openly, you'll realize that the days of IT being in control of the information technologies the business will use are long gone.  Instead of fighting for control, figure out how to deliver business results. These devices are ripe for all sorts of business innovation - geo-tagged pictures alone can solve all sorts of business problems.

I've said all that to make the point that unless IT becomes a partner with the business, adopting the same goals as the business in regard to producing tangible results that are directly tied to the business strategy, we should all be on standby for Occupy IT.

Quick chronological bio: Panther, Gopher, Blazer, Husband, Father, Doozer.