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IT needs an epic journey, especially now!

by Mark P. McDonald  |  September 28, 2012  |  4 Comments

An epic journey is a one where the hero performs amazing deeds and adventures.   The hero often starts this journey reluctantly facing challenges leading them away from the world they know and requiring them to leave home, hearth and family.    Facing trials and temptations the hero earns a great prize and all looks well.  Then facing a final choice or challenge that transforms the hero realizing their potential and eternal reward.

IT is in need of an epic journey as the road IT is on is more than well worn and rutted into a track that can easily lock out opportunities for innovation and growth.  For the last 10 years or so, IT worked its way toward a dominant design where if you have seen one IT organization, chances are you have seen them all.

Its time for IT to break out of its rut, smash the mold and find new answers to new questions related to growth, innovation and digital transformation.  In other words, its time for IT to take a ‘road trip’ but not just any road trip – an epic one – that will leave them changed and the organization forever transformed.

The good news is that the elements of an epic journey are coming ‘online’.  Here is what I mean:

  • The value of remaining in the existing model, playing be the current rules of cost, risk, security and enablement is falling.  Falling in the sense that CIO IT budgets are devalued , core expectations remain constant, and alternatives are on the rise.  In an epic sense, the status quo is ripe for disruption and a crisis that requires a hero to respond.   It’s not quite a pestilence in the land, but definitely a building case for change.
  • Our heroes, the CIOs and IT leaders have untapped potential as they have demonstrated their ability to manage IT operationally, financially, and organizationally.  In fact the declining value of staying put – pointed out in the previous point – would not be possible if CIOs were incompetent or unable to lead an organization.  Delivering more in an environment of tightening resources and increasing skills gaps requires a kind of silent leadership that few recognize until its gone.  It is a leadership style that goes beyond ‘muddling through’.  It is time the heroes in waiting, become heroes in the making.
  • The challenge is here. The forces of change are not only in place; they are riding through our enterprises, customers, markets and world.  The consumerizationindustrialization, and transformation created by lightweight technologies and what Gartner calls the ‘nexus of forces’ need to be reckoned with else the world as we know it will be destroyed.  We can sit idly by, we can double down on the past, we can commit to last year’s plan plus or minus 10% and all of that will fine are increasingly recognized as folly.
  • We have reminders and examples of our future potential.  We can prove that future is within us and within our heroes.  Mobile applications, innovation projects, and our own internal transformation all point to the world we could have if we choose to lead in that way.  Look around the shop and across the web, can you build what you see?  The answer is yes, but often with caveats.  We need to get up and get going to take action and leave those caveats behind.  We need an epic journey.

The future of IT is not in its past.  The practices, leadership traits, structures and ideas that dominated the past 40 years to IT have served us well, but our own success has changed the world and now its time for us to change as well.

We have been talking about the need to change for more than a few years.  Now its time to get up, pack our bag, accept the challenge of the journey that will change the future of technology in the organization.  Technology is bigger than IT and technology is the future all we have to do is be willing to recognize the past and use it as the origin for a journey that will change the enterprise as we know it.

It’s true that we will not be the same after the journey, but we will be better.

Any one up for an epic road trip?

Category: 2013  amplifying-the-enterprise  digitalization  leadership  re-imagine-it  strategy  technology  

Tags: 2013-planning  cio-leadership  it-leadership  symposium  technology-leadership  

Mark P. McDonald
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

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  1. […] Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a 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 Coverage Areas: ← IT needs an epic journey, especially now! […]

  2. […] IT needs an epic journey, especially now! […]

  3. I agree! The nexus of forces will creat a rift along the liks of the fax machine over postal mail and scans & emails above that. The use and usefulness of technology is changing dramatically and it’s time to begin that epic journey to get to the other side of chasm. Or as Guy Kawasaki puts it, time for a little curve-jumping.

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