The rise and fall (and rise again) of IT

It’s been over 20 years since I started my career in IT. The rise and fall and rise again of an industry has been one hell of a ride. Digital Transformation is here. Again!

A few of you are probably scratching your heads wondering when IT fell? Well it did, you were probably part of it, I was part of it. The problem is our age and training, which we could do little about.

Even over the years of blogging on this website, I was most definitely a cloud denier. The years spent building on-site server systems, email servers on site and the like, creating rigid IT department structures, embracing ITIL and ISO 20000.

Couldn’t stop the cloud

The years I spent moaning that the UK didn’t have sufficient broadband connectivity for an adequate move to the cloud, could have perhaps been better spent.
The tech giants of the USA (and now everywhere else) pushed us that way, they built it and we had to embrace it. The infrastructure in the UK, eventually (kind of) happened. Like a wick in oil, killer cloud technologies drew forth the connectivity that was required to fuel the flame.

I knew it would happen, always did. However, like most traditional IT people, I don’t think I really wanted to admit it. We all got a bit stuck in our ways, which is ironic as when we started in the industry, we were the disruptors, we were the people who brought the change.

Tired old mainframes, clunky distributed systems and really, really, dumb computers were around when I was a kid – we brought forth the age of the PC and the Windows Server and the 70s and 80s pros were ousted by us. It’s a cliché but fact that there’s more computing power in my pocket than there was in all the computers I had when growing up combined (and I had a few).

It’s maybe the circle of life, but our time is at an end, it’s time to support and embrace the next generation – the 20 somethings with ideas. We all did our degrees in Computer Science at a completely different time to the millennials who see things much differently.

Seeing the transformation coming, but doing nothing

We knew this was coming – even ten or more years ago we banded terms like ASP (Application service Provision), then that got old, so we called it SaaS (Software as a Service). The millennials just call these ‘apps’. Us IT Pros are certainly good at predicting the future – but did we truly embrace it?
As we have been busy trying to control IT, get everything in order in the corporate IT environment, set the rules, use the policies and procedures, the millennials have been sneaking into the company.

They are absolutely dumbfounded as to why they can do things on their mobile phones that they can’t do on the corporate IT network. They use what they like to use, and we block them.

The rise of Shadow IT

Some of them persuade the local managers to make investments into cloud software. Salesforce being one of the most popular and established Shadow IT applications. Then the ease of which applications can be deployed, dawns on non-IT savvy management and a whole bunch of Shadow IT is dumped on a company credit with no-knowledge or management from IT.

This self-perpetuates, with the management going to the millennial hipster who “understands that stuff” as the go-to guy or gal for anything techy and more and more Shadow IT is bought in.

Being what I like to consider as a well-qualified IT professional – and certainly one with interests in Cyber Security, I know and share IT’s concerns of Shadow IT. However, my thinking has changed of late.

Whilst I hate the term blocker or barrier as I’ve often heard this term used by inept management in companies, doing down the more knowledgeable underlings when they’re expressing legitimate concerns. In this case, this is what IT has become.

IT has security concerns, I would too. IT worries about the spiralling Shadow IT costs not contained within their budget, I would too. The list goes on and I must admit, I have exactly the same worries and concerns that any IT Director would.

However, we can’t contain it and we must be mindful that when we brought the world of the internet connected PC and Server infrastructure. The guys running the VAX Mainframe systems probably had similar concerns as to what we do.

I speak to management quite often at a business level (I like to make sure my MBA, Master of Bugger All, is occasionally used) and what they tell me is that they want to be user friendly to their customers. They want to be the people who when the customer says, “as you’re already here, can you just…” and inflexibility of corporate functions such as IT is a barrier to becoming that. In the meantime, their smaller more agile competition is off taking business off them, because they’re able to make things happen quicker.

Even large companies staffed by predominantly millennials don’t have this problem.

Bring Shadow IT into the light to enable Digital Transformation

Whilst we may all have opinions as to why some managers are in their jobs, most do set off with the honourable goals of making a difference. As the millennials creep more and more into managerial roles – they will solve the problems. Shadow IT is how they’ll do it – they’ll want to perform using the tools they’ve been used to, if IT is in the way, they’ll go around it.

Did we older IT Pros, not once or twice go around structures in a company to get from point A to B when we started?

In my opinion, Digital Transformation is happening quite often despite my cohort of Computer Science grads from all those years ago. It’s happening because more and more millennials are entering the world of work, working their way up the ladder and demanding change. They’re buying in the apps they need to deliver success for their customers and transforming their businesses.

If IT is to have any hope of governance, control – it must become the user friendly, helpful – “can you just” environment that the business wants to become itself. IT was always sold to me as the career of disruption and change. That’s what I first loved about the field. Now, I spend much time saying to people why they can’t do something because of the rules people like me established.

It’s now for the Millennial’s to show us the way to transform business technology

I may not be wearing the flares of those 70’s people I deposed in the late 90s. Although to a millennial, I probably look not much different. Heading towards 2020, I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that what I learnt 30 years ago about technology is becoming irrelevant.

When I started, I was mentored by quite a few flared-trouser wearing, sideburn toting gurus who’d spent far too much time with giant tapes. I showed a millennial a 3¼ floppy disk only last week and was greeted with a “what’s that?” (keeping this business, and not making my usual puns by the way).
I know our time is not quite up in the industry, for indeed we were the “cyber kids” and I cling on to my tapered, twisted and boot cut jeans, however now is the time to embrace what the millennial’s are bringing us. Their insights to easy to use software, mobility – apps as they call it and Shadow IT as we call it, will fuel the Digital Transformation of businesses large and small.

I don’t really know what a Chai Latte is (I just had to Google it, as I couldn’t even spell it). Nor do I have the same taste for full sleeve tattoos or piercings. However, I’m willing to admit, the people who do like such things, probably understand a lot more about the usability of technology than I do given the world they grew up in. For Unleashed like any other business, there is the case for the development of new talent and new ideas.

Unleashed is an IT Consultancy, we embrace the main worries and concerns of Digital Transformation, including Cyber Security. With qualified consultants who can speak business and speak technology and information security. We are one of the best boutique consultancies in the UK working with medium and large organisations. IF you think you can benefit from a little help, then feel free to reach out – a chat costs nothing. If you supply the tea, we will bring the biscuits. We’ll even try a Chai Latte if you have one.

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