Mark McDonald

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Mark P. McDonald
GVP EXP
8 years at Gartner
24 years IT industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a former group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs. He is the co-author of The Social Organization with Anthony Bradley. Read Full Bio

So long and thanks for all the fish

by Mark P. McDonald  |  May 16, 2013  |  5 Comments

This all started back in January 2009 and 718 posts latter with more than 3,700 comments it is time to conclude this blog.   During the past four years, the blog has sought to present and share ideas about technology in the enterprise, the role of the CIO and the changing nature of IT leadership.   During that time we have explored a range of issues from  digital technology to management practices and even the introduction of a magic quadrant covering magic.

It has been great fun and I have learned much from all of the smart people who have taken the time to read, comment and contribute to the blog.  My deepest apologies as the blog often featured grammar that would make an English teacher cringe.  I will admit to not really proofreading every post all the time as the ideas and the desire to publish them got ahead of prudent respect for the reader.  Please accept my apologies.

I have provided a few links below to the posts that garnered the greatest interest, comments or are worth remembering.

Leading in Times of Transition: the 2010 CIO Agenda   - the most links via Bitly

Gartner announces a new magic quadrant – the most comments

The Nature of Change is Changing: A new Pattern — the most comments for a serious post

An IT value sampler for the holidays

Chief Digital Officer, What type does your organization need?

Digitalization creates new dimensions for disruption

Everyone will recall the source of the title of this post from Douglas Adams’ book of the same name.  Part of the Hitchhiker  set of books that should be on everyone’s must read list.  I took his title as the title for this post not because things are ending, but because they are always beginning.   That beginning in 2009 started with a simple question about IT budgets and now I turn the conversation over to my peers at Gartner and to the community in general.

Thank you for your time, attention, energy, knowledge and experience all shared on this blog.  It is not mine; it is ours.  It is also my privilege to share.

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Category: Personal Observation     Tags: ,

Executives need digitally different thinking

by Mark P. McDonald  |  May 14, 2013  |  4 Comments

Digital technology is on the mind of every executive from Sales and Marketing to IT and Operations.    Executives concentrate many of these thoughts center around issues of responsibility, authority and budget rather than looking at what is possible, profitable and the other potentials of digital technology.  It is a narrow mindset driven by the language of finance rather than the logic of value.

So how should people ‘think digitally’?

Not the way they have thought about IT and other technology.

Executives think about IT as sterile 

IT technology is sterile as executives view it.  Sterile in the medical sense as it describes a state where no bad things exist.  Executives and CIOs apply IT and corporate technologies to sterilize their operations.  Sterilizing a business involves killing off things like cost, variance, duplication, and inefficiency to make the company safer for shareholders and support customers in the marketplace.

Removing problems, like removing germs, is a way of thinking about technology that drives strategies based on automation, integration and consolidation.  These strategies assume that it is possible to create value via subtraction.

Getting better by getting rid of bad things makes sense in a financial way of thinking.  If you have a bundle of good and bad things, you can increase the value by removing the bad things.   In an accounting sense the logic is right. Innovations that support elimination are welcome and quickly climb the corporate adoption curve.  These have been the three letter ‘management’ systems like CRM, ERP, SCM, etc.

The only problem is that in a world where Supply > Demand, doing fewer things wrong is no guarantee that you are doing anything right.  Customers choosing your products, services or brand because you make fewer errors, or are generically better will easily move to someone who ‘sucks less’ than you do.  You can do the ‘not wrong’ things, think of major retailers but still lose out to the Amazon’s of the world.

Your only response is to invest in a race to the mundane bottom of generic, dependable, repeatable processes that deliver consumer utility that is about as exciting as many see corporate IT today.  A death driven by PC-Beige, process consistent mediocrity of trying to just be better than everyone else.

If executives apply the same mental models to digital technology (DT) as they have to information technology (IT), then we will all miss a tremendous opportunity.    Because digital technology is generative, but only if thinking digitally means thinking about how to create good things rather than just remove bad things.

Digital Technology is Generative 

Jonathan Zittrain, one of the better thinkers about the digital world captures the ethos of thinking about technology as generative.  Generative in the sense that solutions build from the bottom up, gets better the more you have, etc.

Technology creates generative value by creating combinations that expand the range of possible solutions.  Look at smart phones and the combinations it has created from location-based services to apps to remote sensing etc.  Generative sources of value that expand the value pool and encourage further investment to create even more value.

Generative thinkers concentrate first on creating things, combining them, realizing new positive goals before they think about consolidation, streamlining and scale efficiencies.  Generative thinkers are not Pollyannaish; they know that creating often involves destroying and introducing new ‘problems’ into the system.  But they are not hung up on what can go wrong, so much as they recognize the potential to expand, grow and build new sources of value. I am not talking about just creating ‘ecosystems’ but in creating truly new and innovative solutions, where the value created outweighs the bad things it introduces.

The future is all in how you think about digital technology

Digital technologies like mobile, big data, analytics, social and cloud are neutral technologies.  They are neither good nor bad.   They remain neutral until you start to think about how to apply them, then they take on relative values.

It is possible to see emerging digital technologies as new ways to sterilize the world.  That is the essence behind predictive analytics for example and the notion of preventing crime in the movies.  It is a way of thinking about digital technology as a substitute for today’s IT technologies.  Digital substitution is a strategy of decanting old strategies and encasing them in new digital bottles.  It’s a viable strategy, but probably not desirable if you want to move the organization forward.

Rather than thinking of using new technology to remove old errors, problems and inefficiencies, innovators think about all the new opportunities these technologies create.  Opportunities to democratize the organization, drive engagement of customers and associates alike, raise human ability, influence human behavior, etc.  There is a world of possibility out there, much bigger than the Internet as a channel, if only we open our minds to that possibility and realize that the other way to create value is by adding more than you take away.

 

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Category: Digital Edge Digitalization Management Strategy Technology     Tags: , , ,

Social media versus knowledge management

by Mark P. McDonald  |  May 9, 2013  |  17 Comments

What’s the difference between the two?

On the surface they sound very similar, particularly for someone who had had experience with knowledge management.  Both involve people using technology to access information.  Both require individuals to create information that is intended for sharing.  Both technologies profess support for collaboration.  But as Monty Python might say:

If it walks like a duck, quacks like one and weighs as much as a duck …

… then it floats and therefore …

… it is made out of wood.

Social media and knowledge management may seem to be the same thing based on their basic characteristics, but in reality they are different.   I am not going to argue that one is better than the other, playing that type of zero-sum game is a waste of time.  Rather than a ‘these’ vs. ‘those’ argument, it is time to recognize the differences and move on to figure out how best to apply each.

Equating social media to knowledge management makes sense if there is only one way to create, serve, and consume knowledge.  Thankfully there are many ways and that makes social media different from knowledge management.

Knowledge management is what the company tells me I need to know based on what they think is important.

Social media is how my peers show me what they think is important based on their experience in a way that I can judge for myself

The descriptions may sound harsh and biased in favor of social media and to some extent that is true.  Knowledge should be like water — free flowing and permeating down and across your organization filling the cracks, floating good ideas to the top, lifting everyone in the organization.

Knowledge management, in practice, reflects a hierarchical view of knowledge to match the hierarchical view of the organization.  Knowledge may originate anywhere in the organization, but under knowledge management it is channeled and gathered together in a knowledge base (cistern) where it is distributed based on a predefined set of channels, processes and protocols.

Social media looks chaotic in comparison.  There is no predefined index, now pre qualified knowledge creators, no knowledge managers, ostensibly little to no structure.  Where an organization has a roof, gutters and cistern to capture knowledge, a social media organization has no roof allowing the rain to fall directly into the house collecting in puddles wherever they happen to form.  That can be quite messy and organizations abhor a mess.

It is no wonder that executives, knowledge managers and software companies seek of offer tools, processes and approaches to ‘tame’ the social media.  After all we cannot have employees, customers, suppliers and anyone else creating their own information, forming their own opinion and expressing that without our say.  Think of the impact on our brand, our people, our customers…  We need to manage this.  We need knowledge management.

This is exactly the wrong attitude for one simple reason.  It does not stop people from talking about you.  Your people, customers, suppliers, competitors etc. will talk about you whenever, wherever and however they want.  Sure in the past these conversations were not readily available across the World Wide Web, but they were happening. But now is not the time to seek control as much as its time to engage everyone.

Leaders recognize that engagement is the best way to glean value from the knowledge exchanged in social media.   The do this, not by seeking to control social media with traditional knowledge management techniques.  That only leads to what Anthony Bradley calls a ‘provide and pray’ approach.

Translating your Lotus Notes Databases or Corporate Intranet is not the answer. It only swaps out technology without recognizing the innate difference between social media and knowledge management. If your KM capabilities were poor, adding social media will lead to the same old result only on new and different technology.

If social media is not knowledge management, then you need a different approach to create value out of social media — you need to become a social organization.  Anthony Bradley and myself have been looking at this, as we have seen more than our share of social media as next generation knowledge management fail to yield results.

Answering the question of, how do organizations gain value from social media, particularly in situations here they have not been successful with knowledge management rests in a new view of collaboration — mass collaboration.

Mass collaboration consists of three things: social media, a compelling purpose and a focus on forming communities

  • Social media technology provides the conduit and means for people to share their knowledge, insight and experience on their terms. It also provides a way for me to see and evaluate that knowledge based on the judgment of others.  That is important but it is only a part.
  • Purpose is the reason why people participate their ideas, experience and knowledge.  They participate personally in social media because the value and identify with the purpose.  They do so because they want to, rather than being told to as part of their job.
  • Communities are self-forming in social media.  Communities in knowledge management are often assigned by job classification or ‘encouraged’ based on work duties.  Participation becomes prescribed creating the type of ‘mandatory fun’ that is the butt of Dilbert cartoons and TV sit coms.  Knowledge management assigns communities because it sees knowledge as a hierarchy.  Social media allows them to emerge as a property of the purpose and the participation using the tools.  This lack of structure creates the space for active and innovative communities.

Making these factors work and create mass collaboration involves more than building technology and telling people to participate.  It involves a range of vision, strategy and management actions that we will discuss in subsequent blog posts.

The point here is that while they may seem similar, knowledge management and social media are not the same.  Recognizing the differences is a crucial step to getting value out of both and avoiding a struggle of one over the other.

It is a step to becoming a social organization.

Anthony Bradley and Mark McDonald are the co-authors of Fall 2011 book, The Social Organization: How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees.

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Category: Social Media Social Organization Technology web 2.0     Tags: , ,

An atlas for digital opportunity

by Mark P. McDonald  |  May 6, 2013  |  Submit a Comment

An atlas is a collection of maps, graphical representations of the world that allow others to find their way in the new world.  We all face a new world of digital technology filled with uncharted territory.  Having an atlas of digital solutions would be helpful.  That would be nearly impossible given the endless and evolving world of digital possibilities.  Any digital atlas would be about as accurate as an atlas of the world constructed in the Renaissance — informative, incomplete and inaccurate.
While it is not possible to create an atlas of digital solutions, it is possible to outline the world of digital opportunity. An opportunity atlas provides a map for the relationships between various digital technologies and the solution areas where those technologies create value.  The digital opportunity atlas draft below reflects these two dimensions.

 

Insert the appropriate digital technologies in the columns of the atlas.  Gartner’s nexus of forces provide the columns for the example above.  The Nexus describes what the digital technologies are, but they shed a limited light on how those technologies come together to create value.  That is the focus of the rows in the digital opportunity atlas.

 

Ability is the opportunity for digital technology and its solutions.  Raising the ability of humans to be more informed, make better decisions, take more powerful actions, etc. reflects both the intrinsic nature of digital technologies as well as an immediate need for mankind.

Raising human ability demands raising enterprise ability, otherwise individual gains are lost in combination.  Enterprise ability revolves around creating new sources of value, revenue, sustainable operations, etc.  You cannot have one without the other, as many firms are finding when they near the edge of the productivity in their current business and technology models.

Raising ability, whether human or Ability requires creating new combinations that expand and evolve.  These combinations replace the prior focus on integrations that focused and consolidated actions and activities.   Thus an atlas of digital opportunities represents a combination of technologies (the columns) and the rows.

Draw your digital opportunity atlas by creating these connections and begin to map your digital solution future.

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Category: Digital Edge Digitalization Tools     Tags: ,

The difference between HYPE and reality

by Mark P. McDonald  |  May 1, 2013  |  Submit a Comment

How can you tell the difference between hype and reality?  This was the question the President of a Business Unit asked me in front of the corporation’s entire leadership team.  Answering this question was a matter of professional and credibility risk.  After all Gartner knows a lot about hype.  Gartner has been known to foment hype.  Gartner is famous for having a cycle about it, etc.

The answer, one that has stood me in good stead is simple.  Listen to what the speaker is talking about.  If they concentrate on telling you WHAT something is, chances are its hype.  If they focus on HOW you apply technology to business, then you are talking about reality.

WHAT = HYPE

Speakers concentrating on HYPE follow a fairly consistent pattern.  They tend to be very focused on the following:

  • Supplying a definition, the more grounded in semantics the greater the hype
  • Contrasting their definition with others, the more pejorative the comparison the greater the hype
  • Locking things together in a singe simple diagram, the more circular or three-dimensional the bigger the hype.
  • Answering questions with further definitions and descriptions, the more the speaker tries to correct you, expresses one way to think about it the more the hype.

Speakers hate wasted space, aka silence, so when they have little substantive to say they will fall back on definition and description.  They assume that by showing the audience the depth of their knowledge about WHAT something is, that the audience will ascribe expertise and connect the dots on their own.

Definitions are important, but they cannot be the lone focus of a session.  When the speaker centers the entire conversation on definition then definition and description is the only thing people talk about.  This is a form of intellectual bullying as no one wants to appear ignorant so only the brave speak up.  When they do ask, a reiteration of the definition often takes the form of a subtle slap on the wrist. It is another way of talking down to the audience.

HOW = REALITY

Speakers who talk about how something is used, how it achieves a goal, offers multiple examples from different industries speaks in terms of reality.  Speakers who do more than say it depends when ask a question, follow up a question with clarification and then respond in that context speak of reality.  Speakers who name names, cite examples, give metrics, share business benefit levels demonstrate not only their knowledge but more importantly give the audience anchor points to build understanding and generate new ideas.

A simple rule for making an important distinction

We all have to separate hype from reality as a speaker and as the audience.  Given the blizzard of you know what going on in the marketplace the distinction between the two is hard to make but even more important.  So listen to speakers and notice that when they describe what something is versus how it is applied.  Hype and reality exist in the space between the two.

Related Posts

“What I want to talk about” – six words that say I don’t care about what you think 

Sometimes honesty is the best policy, even when you are having a bad week.

Signs of weak management

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Category: Leadership Personal Observation Signs of weak management     Tags: ,

A late spring and instant summer, the CIO and Digital Technology

by Mark P. McDonald  |  April 29, 2013  |  Submit a Comment

I have just come back from a week travelling around Europe and everywhere the story was the same – spring is running a month to a month and a half behind schedule.  The temperatures in late April are below normal, the leaves are behind schedule and the first flowers of spring are just appearing.  It’s the same thing here in Chicago where I live – everything is running late.

Forecaster are predicting, at least in Chicago, that we will go from a cold, wet, cloudy spring into what they call ‘instant summer.’  The temperature will go from highs in the low 60’s one day to high’s the mid 80’s the next day.  In an instant summer you go from running the furnace at night to the air conditioner the following afternoon.

So what does that have to do with anything?

Well the idea of an “instant summer” fits as a scenario for CIOs and digital technology.  You see adoption of digital technologies is running a little late, uneven and unpredictable for multiple reasons.  But the signs for a ‘digitally instant’ organization are there.

  • Executives are anxious to understand not only what digital technologies are, but also and more importantly how do they use them to create value.  Executive attention is like sunlight heating up the organization and encouraging it into action.
  • A critical mass of organizations, according to Gartner’s CEO survey, have created a digital strategy or incorporated digital technology in to their strategy.  It is hard to act without a plan and having a plan encourages people into action.
  • Slow current rates of adoption coupled with high interest signal a demand build up for digital solutions.  Just as you cannot see the tulip bulb before it breaks through the ground, you cannot see the digital solutions that are lurking out there until they appear in the market.
  • The time it takes to build and pilot a digital solution is shorter than traditional IT, making it easy to release new capability without a protracted build project.  Digital technology based solutions can sprout up anywhere at any time without warning.

We all know that the weather will change.  But an “instant summer” of digital solutions is possible and that will take many executive teams by surprise. Surprise in the sense that executives often think about the future in terms of the recent past.  The weather for them does not change. If things have been gloomy, then they are likely to be gloomy in the near future.

Either way its worth the time to consider and prepare for an ‘instant digital summer’ by taking one or more of the following actions:

  • Look at your customers with a digital light, what apps are they using, how often are they asking for you, your products and your services to go mobile.  Technology is the brand, so what customers think, feel and ascribe to your technology they attribute to your company and its leadership team.
  • Monitor your competitors, go to their web sites, visit their locations, look at their blogs and listen for early signs of future digital capabilities.
  • Get your own garden ready, streamline and accelerate development of a few digital solutions – prioritize the ones that will give you the most customer visibility either directly or indirectly via digitally enabling sales and service personnel.
  • Prepare your organization to stop moving at the pace of a slow, dark, damp spring and get ready for the frenzy, energy and heat of summer.  Tighten up delivery schedules, challenge people to go faster, make time equal money and concentrate on harvesting business results from every technology investment.

This is no time to expect April showers to give way to May flowers.  An instant summer goes from April straight into June.

It has been a cold, late spring across the Northern Hemisphere.  This usually gives way to an instant summer.  The adoption of digital technology may work the same way as all of the sudden it seems that everything springing up is digital

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Category: Digital Edge Digitalization Strategic planning Strategy Technology     Tags: , ,

How strong is the business/IT relationship in your industry?

by Mark P. McDonald  |  April 25, 2013  |  7 Comments

How strong is the business/IT relationship in your industry?  How easy to business with technology is for you and your peers?  It’s a good question and one that we explored in the 2013 Gartner Executive Programs CIO Survey.  More than 2,000 organizations responded to the survey providing a basis for calculating an index to measure and rank the business and IT relationship relative to other industries.

The industry rankings, shown in the figure below, are entirely subjective based on the CIOs assessment of the effectiveness of their enterprise and their IT organization.  Based on the data available, we used the following criteria to create an index for ranking the business and IT relationship.

  • Executives and managers provide clear and effective leadership
  • Executives understand customer and market needs
  • Executives accurately communicate customer and market needs to IT
  • The Enterprise has clear and effective governance
  • The IT Organization has clear and effective governance
  • The CIO is a key player in business strategy

These criteria look from the outside in at the business and IT relationship the necessary conditions for a successful relationship.  The information is presented as a rank order with no indication of how far ahead or behind anyone industry is with another.    My appologies for the eye chart nature of the graphic

Based on these rankings CIOs in these industries believe that they have the strongest/most effective Business and IT relationship based on the criteria mentioned above.

  1. Healthcare Insurance and Payers
  2. Life Insurance
  3. Transport – Air Transport
  4. Healthcare Providers – Hospitals
  5. Retail – Specialty Retail

Take these rankings for what they are, an analysis of how CIOs feel about aspects of their business and IT relationship to provide an example of the strength of the relationships in various industries.  This post also offers no additional analysis as to why, more on that latter.

What do you think about this list?  The position of your industry in this list?

 

 

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Category: Hunting and Harvesting in a Digital World     Tags: , ,

Blaming sales or has sales technology outpaced sales management?

by Mark P. McDonald  |  April 22, 2013  |  2 Comments

There is much to talk about in last week’s news of the Free Fall in PC sales, IBM’s results and potential sale of its server business.  Coupled with prior misses at Oracle, Dell’s dilemma and HP, it is easy to describe these events as evidence of a fundamental and tectonic shift in technology. (Link to Michael Hickins post on CIO Journal) It is and that is another post.

What is interesting about these events is blaming the sales force for these results.  I recall that sales force lack of execution was specifically mentioned in at least two of the companies mentioned above.  It is interesting, because for years Sales has been sacrosanct, a protected class, a group that was held accountable in private but rarely chastised in public.  That got me thinking, has something changed?

Yes, yes, yes and no.

Yes, instrumenting the sales force creates the information needed to assign blame for poor results.  It is now possible and ‘good management’ to actively manage sales as a process, just like any other function thanks to significant investments in sales force, marketing analytics and other ‘generate demand’ technologies.  Execs now have the data to prove that Sales is not doing its job.  Managing all of that information at the center and running the blame storming processes only drives up the cost of sales. Too bad that these announcements illustrate giving executives data does not mean that they know how to use it effectively.

Yes, weak management will use the ‘data-fication’ of sales to assume they can remove customers and choice out of the sales process or equation.  Making sales a formula: number of calls, persistence of calls, adherence to processes = sales.  If others can make the equation work, and they will because of the nature of data, then the problem must be you. That works if your running a repeatable and predictable process in a supply chain where there is no room for people to refuse to go along with the process.  Last time I looked customers have more choice than ever as the lines between B2B and B2C smear.

Yes, weak management will use sales execution as a reason to ignore or postpone tough decisions around products, services, pricing and the inevitable evolution of the market, what it wants and values.  Simply saying sales did not get the job done works as a legitimate reason if suddenly a pack of wild dogs starts eating all the purchase orders, not if customers do not want to buy your products or have already bought all they need.

No, I am not saying that sales is not to blame and we all have met some rather interesting sales people who we would rather not buy from.  But technology is changing the nature of sales, the information around it and ultimately the way you manage demand generation and revenue recognition.  It is a sign of weak management when one applies new technologies and instrumentations to old management practices and axioms and expects a different result.  A common problem whenever big data gets into the picture.

Sales management and sales leadership processes, most developed in the 1960’s to 1980’s, must evolve from current underpowered approaches that do not to make efficient use of the tools and information technology now provides.  Blaming the sales force is a symptom of that gap and a sign of weak management and a call for a revolution in sales management to match the revolution in sales technology.

Related Posts

Signs of Weak Management

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Category: Management Personal Observation Signs of weak management     Tags: , ,

What are you going to do with those ducks? by Seth Godin, a book review

by Mark P. McDonald  |  April 19, 2013  |  Submit a Comment

The intentional use of older, often obsolete cultural artifacts may be regarded as anachronistic according to Wikipedia.  What are you going to do with those ducks? By Seth Godin is just that.  A more than three-inch thick compendium of Godin’s blog posts seems like a duck out of water in a digital world.  But it works really well and although it is not the most portable format the book is highly recommended.

Most blogs, mine included, are topical and timely but also short lived.  However, the selection and organization of Godin’s blog entries makes for an easily accessible, inspirational and thought provoking book.  By putting these all together, in short order and organized, the book creates food for thought rather than being a chronological recitation of past work.

Godin’s credentials as an innovator, observer, and antagonist for change are well established.  This collection of posts lets you see into Godin’s mind a little bit better through their topic, repetition of terms, and direction.  The combination does more than have you chuckle at a good turn of phrase or witty observation.  It gets you to think and hopefully to act.

While I saw someone reading this book on an airplane, the books physical heft makes travelling with it difficult.  I am reading the book at home, in little snippets as I have a break during the day and at night before going to bed.  Here the short format and engaging style are very effective.  Reading it in short spurts also helps avoid a ‘mental twitching’ that jumping from subject area to subject area can produce.

Godin’s advice and insight throughout the blog-book are aimed at getting you to realize and activate your own talents, motivation, interests and engage in the world.  Most of his posts conclude with a specific call to action that a point out the time to start is NOW!

Godin’s work proves that the blog can be as legitimate a form of writing as the poem, short story or other forms of narratives.  Highly recommended and thoroughly enjoyed.

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Category: Book Review Personal Observation     Tags: , ,

The Duality of Technology – or why business and technology leaders look at the same thing and see it so differently

by Mark P. McDonald  |  April 17, 2013  |  1 Comment

The relationship between business and technology is complex and confusing for both executives and their IT peers.  I believe that much of the reason behind this has to do with the very nature of technology and how business makes sense of that nature.

Beware this is more of a thought piece than a set of practical advice, but its interesting to think about.

Light has dual properties.  I can be thought of as a particle and as a wave.  Scientifically this is known as the wave-particle duality.  Follow this link to Wikipedia for an explanation.   Light can be explained as a particle – the photon – that acts like a think, bombarding other things, making pictures, giving force to interstellar winds.  Light can also be explained as a wave – the spectrum – that is the basis for microwaves, communications, and literally the color in our world.

Technology has dual properties.  It can be thought of as one of two things with each being accurate and not distorting or compromising the other.  I believe this is part of the reason behind the complexity of the business and technology relationship.

Technology can be explained by business via two different models that are mutually exclusive but some how co-exist. In that overlapping segregated space lays the generative power of new combinations of business and technology that are easy to over simplify but incredibly difficult to explain.

If scientists can explain light using both particle and wave theory, then how can business and technologies leaders explain their views and their theories behind technology?

Technology is a stock of things that act like particles.  They are acquired, maintained, operated, consume resources.  I think that is what we think about most often – the particles — when we think IT.

Technology is also a flow of things that act like waves.   They move throughout the organization, drive information, communication, etc.  This is perhaps the essence of digital technology and what distinguishes it from traditional IT.

You cannot explain one with out the other, but each alone does not cover the observable reality of technology.

The Wave-particle duality explains part of the quantum nature of light.  Without trying to stretch the analogy too far, technology is also quantum in the sense that the observation of technology influences its state.   See technology as a stock and you lose appreciation for its flows.  Concentrate on its flow aspects and technology’s stock nature will come back and remind you of its presence.

You may have noticed that I keep talking about technology and not about IT.  Increasingly I am coming to believe that TECHNOLOGY > IT not in the sense that technology is something new or emerging from IT as much as the emphasis between the two is shifting back toward technology waves that move through an organization – the flow rather than IT particles that accumulate in an organization – the stock.

The business wants the wave form of technology, active, low impact, dynamic — something that gives the operations, products and services a healthly glow from a good tan.  Alternatively IT organizations concentrate on the particle form of technology, the apps, data, communications, infrastructure, elements etc.  The things that are complex, high impact, stable — things that add weight and reality to the cost of doing business.   The problem is you cannot one or the other, you need both, even if you are buying cloud services all you are doing is seeking the wave by outsourcing the particles.

Something to think about and consider as we talk tech in the future — are we talking about the wave or the particle or both?

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Category: Digitalization Personal Observation Technology     Tags: , ,