Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Enterprise 2.0 and the shrinking IT department



The IT department needs to shrink for its (or IT’s) own good. There is no paradox in increasing the use of IT in an enterprise and shrinking the IT department. Rather, it is a necessity for an enterprise to do so in order to use the full potential of IT. Even the need for IT experts will decrease. But, the need for people that combine business skills with a deep understanding of IT will increase.

This reasoning makes sense if you accept that there really are no IT projects, only business projects with more or less IT involved. Even an upgrade of a mail server is done for some business reason. In such a reality, IT experts that lack a business mindset do not function very well. Nor does an enterprise that relies on these persons to make or heavily influence their decisions about IT. You don’t necessarily need ROI calculations for all IT investments since an enterprise sometimes need to take chances and try things out (in small scale), but you always need strong business reasoning backing up all decisions about investments in IT.

In many (most) enterprises there is a void or gap between the business side and the IT side. Just the fact that we often talk about “the business side” and “the IT side” implies that it exists. The solution to close this gap is not for the IT department to send out ambassadors or infiltrators to “the business side”. Instead, the business side should recruit people with a deep understanding of both businesses and IT. The real change must happen on the business side.

To me, this is partly what Enterprise 2.0 is about. For an enterprise to quality as Enterprise 2.0, the majority of the business people must not only understand the potential uses of various information technologies but actually anticipate, explore and adopt those that can improve the way they work and do business. Web 1.0 became Web 2.0 for the same reason. Instead of passively and anxiously watching what business and early adopters are doing on the web, a majority of the users now understand how the web can be used and actively contribute to the life, growth and development of the web. Enterprise 2.0 is about business people driving IT initiatives instead of the IT department trying to drive or control the business. Or put in another way, Enterprise 2.0 is about making IT an inherent part of all business.