My front-row seat in the internal (to companies) Information Technology (IT) world provides an interesting vantage point, one that is at times disappointing. In the past few years, internal IT has struggled to maintain its relevance in the face of cheaper (and better) cloud-based service providers armed with GPL'd software. Internal IT's cost structures are out of whack, and IT executives know it. The solutions they have built on proprietary products sold by monopolists are brittle and increasingly expensive. The solutions they have built on internally written closed source comes with a huge technical debt, and that debt is now due.
So what's an internal IT executive to do? Internal IT has trapped itself in a death spiral and now must find a way out, or simply disappear. The business leaders they support aren't dumb and they aren't impressed. A CIO's admission of their past (and present) mistakes would amount to political suicide.
Here's the path forward:
Some IT executives understand this, or at least claim to. Here are some quotes from the lips of IT executives I've met along my journey.
"We are innovating."
"We are building a culture of innovation."
"We are delivering value to the business through innovation."
"We will demonstrate industry leadership through innovation."
Sounds good so far. But here's the problem: They aren't. The words are simply words on a presentation deck. The methods remain the same, or in some cases even get worse; more proprietary nonsense, more lock-in, more double-speak. Millions of dollars spent on no outcome.
Are you an IT executive? Are you saying similar things yet not demonstrating anything innovative? Here's Randall's advice, free of charge: You are in clear and present career danger. Your employees aren't dumb, and neither are your business stakeholders. It's time to "Walk the talk."
If you're an IT executive and looking for a really quick way to demonstrate your commitment to innovation, and a way to steer clear of this trap, then join the most innovative technology project on the planet: Ubuntu Edge. That's right. Ubuntu Edge!
When you join the Ubuntu Edge project you are helping to shape a technology future that is inclusive, and a future that will serve your business leaders well by leveraging the power of crowds of really smart people, without all that nasty lock-in. You will also be showing your employees that they can work on something fun and empowering.
Here's the link to get involved:
This article was partially inspired by Bloomberg's recent announcement of financial support for Ubuntu Edge. No CIO's were harmed in the making of this article. Names have been omitted to protect the careers of those quoted.
A colleague passed along an article today that I felt compelled to comment on. Go ahead and give it a read. Executive Summary: IT strategies are a folly.
So, "Is the best IT strategy no IT strategy"? That depends what planet you're on. On planet "tech journalism" it makes for a controversial headline. But, on planet earth a CIO with no strategy is like a ship's captain with no destination and by extension no map to get there. A CIO that operates under this slogan is an ideal customer for LORT (lots of random technology.) Have any of you worked in a LORT shop?
As a CIO, formulate a sensible strategy that is aligned with your company's (CEO) strategy. Innovate on a technology level to make it sizzle but while doing so keep your costs under control.