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Who plays the Technology game?

by Mark P. McDonald  |  March 25, 2013  |  1 Comment

This is the last in a series of posts evaluating the differences between technology and IT.  While it is easy to list differences, this approach rarely reveals the dynamics behind those differences.  Applying an analogy to compare two things helps communicate those differences.  In this case we are using the analogy of a game and how game mechanics applies to IT and Technology. This post concentrates on participation, answering the question, who plays the technology game?   The answer is everyone and that is one of the differences between technology and IT.

The figure below highlights the game elements.

Participation describes those involved in the game, their roles, motivations and the relationships to the rest of the game elements.  Determining participation involves understanding the basic type of games:

  • Individual progress against a fixed goal such as Shoots and Ladders, Sorry, Call of Duty or Myst.
  • Individual interaction against a fixed goal like Monopoly, Clue, HALO in multi-player mode or Farmville.
  • Individual role playing with interaction against a variable or comparable goal, guilds in World of WarCraft

IT is a game of individuals working around a fixed goal.  IT projects and services represent fixed goals.  IT participants follow IT management and organizational practices that concentrate on highly structured participations.  RACI charts, governance structures, project charters, roles and responsibilities are each examples of a highly structured IT game.

Here comes everybody –­­­ the nature of the digital technology game

My apologies to Clay Shirkey and his excellent book of the same name, but everyone plays in a technolog­­­y game.  Everyone has the potential to play any or all roles in the game.  That is what it makes it different from the IT game.   It is what is behind a more thoughtful approach to consumerization of IT.  It seeks to capture the essence of the ‘maker’ culture.

The evidence that everyone can play in the technology game is all around us.  A mobile applications marketplace that the WSJ estimates to be worth $25 billion dollars, application stores with millions of downloads and citizen developers each point to the diversity of players in a technology game.

So how do you define a game in which everyone participates?

Well you have to keep it simple, open, with clear connections to the goals and a self-evident connection with the context that shapes the interactions among participants.  That all sounds pretty academic but lets consider the degree to which participation has changed from the old IT game to the new Technology game.

In the IT game, participants were required to perform a dizzying array of technical tasks from development, to testing, to migration and provisioning.  All of that manual labor has largely been replaced by machine labor via data center, change management, testing and other forms of automation.   Everyone can provision an application or app to the entire world via an ‘app store’.  Programming languages have been simplified with API’s lowering complexity and the requirement for deep systems knowledge.

Increasingly the Technology Game is open to every one and their participation will lock in and shape the differences between IT and Technology.

Related Posts

The IT game is a stalemate, time to define a new Technology Game

What are the rules for the “Technology Game?”

What are the feedback systems that drive a Technology Game?


Category: 2013  it-epic-journey  re-imagine-it  

Tags: it-and-business  technology-game  

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

Thoughts on Who plays the Technology game?

  1. Thanks for finally writing about > Who plays the Technology game?
    < Loved it!

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