Digital transformation. Disruption. The technology revolution. These are all phrases that are freely used to describe the state in which we find ourselves at the moment. If we are not undergoing some form of disruptive digital transformation, then we are not part of the technology revolution and will become irrelevant. You can read the latest research findings and insights in the Digital Trends Report 2017.
Unfortunately, many organisations who are embarking on or who are well-established on such a journey will not emerge as a radically different organisation. Much time and money will have been invested and many new job titles will have been created, but many organisations will remain fundamentally the same. Why? Because many organisations fear failure, especially IT organisations, and people who fear failure often restrict their curiosity to safe areas.
IT is a risk-averse function where success is measured by limiting failure. That is not to say new ideas and new technologies are not a fundamental part of IT. However, embracing ideas from outside the IT function without subjecting them to significant scrutiny and requiring a high degree of compliance with ‘internal procedures’ is an anathema to many IT functions.
The risk aversion of IT is evident in the notion of Shadow IT. Shadow IT is the purchase and use of technology by the business for the business without the involvement of the IT function and is generally considered by the IT function to be a ‘bad thing’. Why is it a bad thing? The IT perspective is that the technology may not have been tested, it may not be secure and it may not adhere to corporate standards. The business perspective is that it is a quick and efficient way to introduce technology that can deliver business benefit, and if it doesn’t work it can simply be turned off again.
The result of these two opposing forces is that IT creates inertia at a time when technology is leading the business revolution and IT should be leading the way. IT needs a cultural revolution. IT needs to create a culture where failure is not only acceptable, but is a positive activity as it promotes learning and development. There needs to be far less energy applied to avoiding failure and far more energy applied to curiosity, failing rapidly, learning and moving on.
In some ways, IT needs to embrace their inner child. As children, we developed and learned through trying and failing. We were curious and we experimented. Pain taught us what worked and what didn’t. IT needs to recapture that approach and become curious and experimental once again.
It isn’t only IT that needs to make this change, but IT is the one function where avoiding failure is inherent in the DNA. How do we achieve this? A common attitude where fear of failure prevails is a distrust of external ideas. Not trusting external ideas can mean not listening to progressive technological suggestions from other, non-IT parts of the business. ‘External ideas’ at one extreme can come to mean any idea not emerging from IT. This creative inertia will erode the value of any business.
IT needs to lead the way in a new revolution and establish a culture of curiosity, innovation, positive failure, and change and then engage across the organisation. We need to bring out our inner child, share it with everybody else and be curious about our future.