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Straight Talk Technology

Ovum view

While most players in the industry generally accept the need to break down the artificial barriers between “the business” and IT, the reality can be surprisingly difficult. However, the situation is different when the discussion turns to personal technologies, such as watches, smart homes, and entertainment. Suddenly, everybody becomes an IT expert, with a passionate desire to drive innovation and outcomes.

Judging from recent Ovum interviews with senior executives, the incongruity of organizational barriers has become a popular topic of discussion:

  • One IT manager remarked with some frustration that discussions about customer experience are easy at the beginning of the project, but are quickly forgotten as it progresses. The relative comfort of old habits is just too enticing.
  • A CIO reported that personal and mobile technologies have become one area where there is a pause in hostilities and where there is genuine agreement about the need to drive innovation. He has found that the journey toward change is easier when the starting point is something concrete.
  • Another CIO took a very different view, noting that personal technologies have simply inflated expectations, compared to the tough, practical realities of enterprise security, privacy, and information management.

Despite these mixed opinions, there was clear agreement about the need for change. The barriers between the business and IT must come down, because they continue to create structural rigidities and stifle innovation.

Leading change is still all about leading people. It is about winning hearts and minds. It is about constructing a narrative to engage people in the change process. A different set of management skills is needed. These skills will require not only better technical methodologies but also softer people skills to drive cultural change. It is about entrepreneurial skills for managing expectations, creating alignment, building commitment, and constructing partnerships.

Leading people is not always about structure and logic. Governance and structured processes are still vitally important for managing any organization, but these skills are not sufficient for leading people through times of change. People do not always behave logically.

There was a time when it was common to hear managers declare, “I’m not an IT person.” Generational change has now delivered a very different perspective. In an age of smartphones, apps, and social networking, everybody is an IT person to some extent. There is an inner geek at the heart of many contemporary organizations, and these organizations are increasingly ready to embrace new technologies and are searching for solid technology-enabled outcomes. However, this sort of change cannot happen without solid leadership.

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