The Business of IT: Mobility and Mythology
The emergence of mobile computing as a primary platform may not be as revolutionary a change for IT as the world seems to think.
The emergence of mobility as a key computing scenario has once again put the IT profession under enormous pressure. However, mobility doesn’t seem to be changing IT as much as most of the pundits seem to think. After all, many of these folks are paid to claim that all new trends are revolutionary.
The truth is always more measured, lying somewhere between stasis and revolution. It’s important for IT professionals to understand the ways in which the vast proliferation of mobile devices makes their world different. It’s equally important not to exaggerate these differences.
The issue is not the technology involved. It’s really about the nature of what IT professionals do and the manner in which they support the business units and corporate objectives.
The thesis here revolves around three core themes:
- The real measure of IT as a profession is its adaptability. Technology, business scenarios and current skill-sets are constantly changing. IT professionals have done and continue to do a remarkable job evolving to meet today’s challenges and anticipate tomorrow’s.
- The nature of learning in the IT profession is bound with the concept of experimentation. Unlike in other professions, theory does not precede “tinkering” in IT.
- IT is far more innovative than it’s generally credited for. IT gets constant high-fidelity input from its customers—the business users. Unlike a function such as marketing, in which the inputs are time-delayed and abstracted, IT benefits from a real-time feedback loop.
So what does all this have to do with the fact that while mobility is huge for IT, it’s not the cataclysm that some predicted? IT professionals not only understand the extent of the impact of mobility; they were in the know long before the business-side of the house. They’ve been well aware of the extent of the changes mobility would bring about in business and private life.
Revisiting the previous themes, we can apply them to the intersection of IT and business:
- Adaptability: No company, large or small, has ever encouraged IT to impede moving the workforce quickly to a mobile world of work. If anything, IT was ready before other departments were prepared to optimize work by using the levers that mobility allows.
- Experimentation:Because IT professionals are inherently experimenters, they’re often at the leading edge of technology. Those working in IT not only have the newest devices, but in almost all cases have experimented with different business scenarios in which these devices could come into play.
- Innovation: Many scholars and business leaders have written extensively about the role of customer input in innovation. Because IT professionals are the recipients of constant input, they’ve been able to skillfully innovate and anticipate different scenarios—including mobility-driven scenarios. There’s generally less true innovation in generating business models, marketing plans or sales tactics than there is in IT strategies and tactics.
Mobile computing devices, slate technologies, the near-ubiquity of wireless networks and a slew of innovative products and services enabled by the Internet have ushered huge changes in the way people live, work and interact. Some argue that these changes are tectonic—that they’ve created a fundamental rupture from which there’s “no going back.”
While it’s undoubtedly true that some of these changes are tectonic, it’s incumbent upon us to understand that these mobility-engendered changes are in many ways evolutionary—not revolutionary. IT has played a proactive, progressive and leading role in this evolution, not only because of heroic efforts, but because this evolution is built into the fabric of the profession.
So next time you hear about “threats to IT” created by emerging mobility platforms, challenge the person with that opinion on the ways in which IT has been the only part of the organization playing a constantly nourishing role in moving today’s workforce toward greater mobility.