Information technology has fundamentally changed every aspect of our lives. The notable exception is, well, IT itself.
There are plenty of innovative IT departments, but a walk through an average one is not so different today, to how it was a decade ago, and in some fundamental ways, they haven’t really changed at all.
Many companies address modern trends by creating new innovation teams for websites, analytics, blockchain, or the IoT. But the core of their IT hasn’t principally changed, it remains extensive, complex, and drains most of the effort and costs.
Many SMEs in Central Europe I have visited, have dozens or hundreds of servers and complex software solutions spread across several locations.
A distribution company in the Czech Republic I got to know recently, has forty employees, and more servers than people. Most of their IT systems are hardly used, they explain they have them still for “historical purposes”.
This company, along with all organisations, should reduce the number and types of components and consolidate the number of physical sites they have to a minimum. Apart from saving costs, they can free up their resources and focus on new challenges, because IT really has changed enormously.
It’s no longer about the infrastructure. Effort and creativity are only desirable when it comes to differentiating from the competition, so in the part of IT related to the core business, marketing, or sales.
I know a large telco that custom develops software to manage its car fleet, yet buys an off-the-shelf web portal to sell its services. It should of course be the other way around.
When it comes to infrastructure, innovation is only desirable when it brings efficiency. That’s often achieved by migrating to the cloud, standardizing, and automating.
One of the barriers to focusing IT departments on core business is their organisational structure. This is often split into functional areas like storage, networking, and software development. Cross-functional teams around the product are often a better approach.
Finally, computers now run our lives and there are so many ways they can fail — physically, due to a bug, or by being a victim of an attack or malicious code.
Computers can hurt people now, so their security and integrity should be the top priority, not user requests, new functionality, or a cute user interface. We are still in the phase where we release a new technology and only then find out what harm it can do.
Drones are a good example. Was it so hard to work out in advance that they have the ability to invade people’s privacy or disturb airport traffic? The limits and regulation of the technology only came along after countless negative experiences.
IT’s impact on society needs to be well examined and regulated before we put such inventions out there. The progress we all desire will only come if technology serves people well.
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