Look to the future when evaluating conventional IT practice – Young

Look to the future when evaluating conventional IT practice – Young

Companies must take into account their future aims if evaluations over the continuing use of conventional IT practices are to be worthwhile, according to Colleen Young, head of chief information officer (CIO) research, vice president and analyst at Gartner.

Young told the Gartner Symposium in Cape Town that future plans were crucial when making decisions over current practices.

“Implicit in this conversation about conventional [IT] practice is this notion of age,” she said.

“We can’t look to conventional practices and decide whether or not they serve us well if we don’t have a view of the future of where we’re trying to head and what we’re trying to achieve, some basis to evaluate the way that we do things today and whether they will hold true for us tomorrow.”

On the topic of conventional practices and what leads to change in the IT industry, Young said the common reaction is that change is too difficult or impossible due to “immovable constraints”.

Young said before addressing the practices needing to change in IT,  the notion “it can’t be done” must be done away with.

“When we pursue conventional wisdom we’re abdicating our right to think, we’re giving that power to others who came before us,” said Young.

The first key issue is why many conventional IT practices “need to be retired” and what replaces them. Young referred to primary research, which indicates IT is disconnected from the business.

She said 80 per cent of chief executive officers (CEOs) are primarily focused on innovation, growth and perfection, while IT is focused on efficiency.

In terms of certain conventional practices being replaced by different methods as time progresses, Young referred to technology and software giants, which benefitted from identifying value their rivals or counterparts missed.

“How did Google find value Microsoft didn’t see? How did Facebook find value Google didn’t see? How did Groupon find value that Facebook and eBay didn’t see? Each of these organisations is building on the advancements of others because they’re particularly good at finding openings,” she said.

Regarding leadership, Young said most businesses today define the attributes of a successful leader by basing them on those of extroverts or “charismatic individuals”.

However, Young said this does not necessarily mean they are good at getting things done, or have the best ideas.

“Where does innovation come from? How many extroverted scientists do you know? How many extroverted IT managers do you know?” said Young.

“Introverts are the primary engine of innovation and introverts operate in solitude.”

However, conventional wisdom forces introverts into an “extrovert mould”, which does not work.

In terms of organisation restructuring, Young said companies should “resist the temptation to lead strategic change with a reorganisation”.

According to Young it is important to articulate strategic goals within measurable terms and create a metric to support them. “Focus more on the goals than on the practices.”

She said companies should avoid the idea of “group think” and encourage those that work in the company to work more independently.

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