Ask the IT Consultant

May 21 2011   5:30PM GMT

The Big Enterprise Technology Disconnect

Beth Cohen Beth Cohen Profile: Beth Cohen

Question:  How can we reconcile the rapid uptake of cloud, social networking and mobile communications in the consumer market with the cautious approach of the risk adverse enterprise?  Are big enterprises missing an opportunity or just being prudent?

“Everything is mobile, everything is in the cloud.”

At the recent MIT CIO Symposium the theme was Beyond the Crossroads, the intersection of cloud computing, social media and mobile applications.  On the surface, the connection with these three themes would seem obvious to a technology savvy audience.  As proven over the past 150 years, first mover advantage can offer lasting benefits for a company that is smart about taking educated risks.  You would think that the enterprise would be embracing cloud and mobile technologies that have proven to be so successful in the consumer market.

However after spending a day listening to industry leader CIO’s primarily in the technology sector, what struck me was how much these supposedly leading lights in technology were stuck in the old school not invented here mentality.  The most exciting technology I saw all day was at the Innovation Showcase held long after most of the 900 attendees had left for the day.  Too bad, because these companies, such as Hadapt , a company that is creating the next generation of distributed database tools, and Apperian, a company building tools for managing enterprise mobile applications in the cloud, are demonstrating that there is plenty of room for innovation for the enterprise beyond the crossroads.

Meanwhile back at the main program, the discussion in the keynote panel on Opportunities and Strategies in the Digital Business World revolved around how the CIO needs to be thinking about how they can become the CEO of the company.  In the companies I have seen, you do not get to be in the top spot by being bold and innovative, rather a demonstrated ability to cut costs and produce short-term gains for investors wins every time.

According to Brian Halligan, CEO & Co-founder, Hubspot,  “Cloud and mobile is not the future, it is a couple of years ago.  IT needs to be deflationary, destructive and disruptive.”  The CIO should be leading the cultural change to the new modern flat organization by leveraging the cloud and mobile application in new and interesting ways.  Instead the reality is that real innovation happens at the edges in the marketing dept, etc., or more often, completely outside of the typical enterprise where conformity and process thinking is encouraged over creativity and originality.  The Cloud moves IT from a capital intensive function to an operational expense activity.  The venture folks understand that paradigm; no right minded startup today is building an internal IT infrastructure.  At the same time, the typical corporate CIO is more challenged by the business manager with a credit card and a grunge against the poor service they have been getting from the IT function.

The dilemma is how can you pull innovation into the IT core functionality without disrupting the flow of new ideas, when the modern understanding of IT at the enterprise is focused on operational excellence and cost control?  Innovation is the marriage of the technology and organization change.  You do not see innovation in IT about 98% of the time because there has been zero input to how the IT tools are actually going to be used.  The trick is creating ways for people to quickly test and validate their ideas so they can implement new ideas that work within the enterprise framework.  The new tools can be used to deliver on that promise, but is the enterprise up to that challenge?  What do you think?

About the Author

Beth Cohen, Cloud Technology Partners, Inc. Moving companies’ IT services into the cloud the right way, the first time!

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