Now that I’ve had a little while to work with my new iMac, I’m beginning to come down from the techno-induced stupor I’ve been in and am thinking about what this all means to me. I’ve also been thinking about what it should mean for many people who work in corporate America, where I have been laboring for the past two decades and more.
Let me explain what I’m getting at. From the first day I started working at what was then Rockwell International’s Rocketdyne division (formerly North American Rockwell), I was stuck using technology that was already a little behind the eight-ball. Back then (1987) there wasn’t much in the way of personal computers, but they were developing rapidly. I went from an IBM 8086 to an 8088 to an AT and, finally to Windows and on and on. As time wore on the level of state-of-the-artiness of the available technology I had available at work, unfortunately, fell further and further behind.
Now, this isn’t about the battle that took place between IT (formerly MIS) and Engineering for many years, and how it affected the development of the first LAN in the company (hint – it wasn’t pretty), but rather about the level of security and, perhaps, paranoia that built up over the years with respect to the use of computing resources.
Part of the problem for my line of work was the very real issue of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) which, sometime after we were purchased by the Boeing Company, was painfully and expensively learned after an inadvertent and ignorant violation of the Regs (another story this really isn’t about). This lesson required some education and was fairly easily addressed once understood.
I think I need to throw in a caveat here. I am not an IT person. I have absolutely no formal IT education. I am merely a business person who has worked with (mostly) micro-computers – now called PCs – for close to thirty-five years. I have participated in or led efforts in knowledge management and Enterprise 2.0 for Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, and I was instrumental in bringing in our first web-based social system over 7.5 years ago. I have also been the project manager for that terribly under-used application all this time as well. My point here is I may not use language that’s accurate, but I know the kinds of functionality available and I know all of it is – from a corporate point of view – there to serve the business.
What I’m concerned with is the application of a one-size-fits-all mentality to the provision of information technology to a company’s workforce, as well as the imposition of blanket security regulations that serve to cripple an organization’s ability to keep abreast of developments in that same technology. This becomes increasingly important as more capability moves out into the cloud (this includes micro-cloud environments, i.e. inside the firewall capability that utilizes cloud-like architecture.)
I have tried to argue, to no avail – I’m sure others will recognize this particular kind of frustration – for the identification of power users who could be provided with, for lack of a better term, beta capabilities they would exercise and learn about. These people would provide a cadre of workers who are constantly looking at new ways to improve communication, collaboration, and findability. People who’s job, in part, is to find newer and better ways to get things done. In my eyes, this is a no-brainer, and I have to say with the speed things are changing nowadays, I think this kind of approach is even more important.
I recognize it is difficult to get large organizations to move rapidly. One doesn’t turn a battleship on a dime. Nevertheless, it is conceivable to me (much more so now than a decade ago) a small group of people could help any organization understand – at the very least – how work gets done, how workers are communicating and collaborating with each other across various boundaries, and how knowledge is being shared in a timely and useful fashion. I also think, daring as it may seem to some, that paying attention to – and preparing to learn from – the processes that are changing the way we do these things can position a company competitively to be a player, rather than an also-ran. I quite certain failing to do so leaves you with the situation I grew used to; a company with computing resources and experience years behind state-of-the-art. In marketplaces where this can change dramatically in under a year, I think that’s unconscionable.
Have any of you experienced this situation? Does it resonate at all? Am I totally off-base or do you think this would be a viable approach for large organizations to engage in?