Chris Gabriel argues that IT is primed to take on a unique role at the strategic heart of organisations – but must once again be driven by inspiration – by remembering to focus not just on what technology does and how but, first and foremost, on why.
A couple of weeks ago Computing Magazine (a UK IT publication) emailed me a link to a series it is running on the last 40 years of ‘personal computing’. Later, I sat in New York with our platform development engineers talking about how we can make what we do more accessible and relevant to our clients. Then, on the way back from New York I watched the Steve Jobs film, aptly named Jobs.
Those three things made me sit awake on a red eye flight and hit the keyboard - because something occurred to me. Have we somehow lost some of the inspiration in IT? I mean the feeling that hits you in the gut when you get really passionate about something.
Watching the Computing Magazine videos took me right back to an age where simply owning a computer was a luxury and an adventure - something I have covered in a previous blog - Why the Digital Natives need new Digital Adventurers.
The meeting with our platform developers got me into the same frame of mind. What I sensed in the room, and over a beer in the evening, was real passion for evolving, enhancing and pushing what we do and how we do it forward.
Which brings me to Mr Jobs. My UK MD made me watch a video on YouTube from a business speaker whose mantra is that all businesses know what they do, and how they do what they do, but very few know WHY they do it. His thesis is that customers buy into the why, not the how or the what. Apple is the epitome of why.
My briefcase and my home are filled with Apple products not because I know how Apple works as a company, or how Apple does what it does. I buy them because I can sense why they do it - every time I pick up my iPad I get the feeling that I am holding something beautiful and functional that was designed by people who love the ‘why’.
And all of that got me thinking - we can never forget why IT does what it does. Because it is not the what or the how that inspires us. It is the why. Our line of business colleagues are now starting to see that too. They are being inspired because they can see what IT can do for a citizen, or a customer, or a passenger, or a student, or a patient when applied in new ways – they can see the why.
Two examples spring to mind – examples of technology that should inspire those of us in IT, and the impacts of which (the why) will inspire the wider business
- Why SDN? Because it takes the network closer to the business and allows the business, whatever that business, to do things it has never done before.
- Why ITSM? Because business consumers want to buy services not technology and, if IT can feel and act like a service provider, the business will understand more clearly not only what IT does or even how, but why IT does what it does.
So, yes, for me it IS time to be inspired by IT again.
Why? Because IT has the chance to not simply maintain its position as distinct part of the organisation it works in, but has the chance to become a unique part of that organisation – the part that can play perhaps the biggest role in helping organisations to meet massive economic, social, and environmental challenges and opportunities.
But to do all of this IT must focus on the why. So find that Computing Magazine video, see if you can talk to the people in your IT team that inspire you, like our platform developers did me, or simply sit down and watch the Jobs movie.
Why? Because our organisations deserve to be inspired by what we all do, and so do we.
Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action.