If the IT you have didn’t exist, what would you put in its place?

Here’s a thought experiment for you. Suppose you didn’t have any information technology in your workplace? What would you choose to do, with no pre-existing investments getting in the way?

Let’s presume, for a moment, that you’re an office-centred business. (Plant floor or resource extraction environments, to choose but two, are office-centred with field operations, so choosing the office fits just about everyone.)

Well, these days, you’d start with individuals. What tools do they need to be able to communicate, share, handle workflows, etc.?

In today’s world, you’d look for technologies that have as much security built in as possible. So you might well choose BlackBerry 10 devices for their phones (excellent security features coupled with best battery life while leaving them all turned on, including all-day-long VPN), and then decide whether to go with tablets, laptops or desktops. Those phones, incidentally, replace phones on the desk, so you’d only put speakerphones in meeting rooms. Your company switchboard forwards calls directly to handsets.

For, in 2013, more people text message, instant message, email, or the like than call anyway. Meanwhile the large purchase of cellular service allows for a custom contract to be negotiated.

The office is fully enabled with wireless networking. Most people use tablets or ultra light weight laptops, so that they can move from place to place as needed. For people in clerical roles, the desktop may still be used.

But those devices are all chosen for longevity, security and ease of use. Gone are the days where one standard machine was imposed, not good enough for the few who needed power and overkill for many others.

That’s because you’ve read the studies, and know a mixed environment actually doesn’t cost more, any longer, to maintain and support.

All your applications would probably be drawn from the cloud. You’d certainly put core services like email there. You’d probably put a lot of your data storage there, too.

Better to pay for hefty network capability than to build a data centre — or to manage one. Since the capacity on the network is needed even if you outsource, you might as well go whole hog.

Only those applications that can’t be bought in the cloud would end up in a managed service facility of some sort — and there, you’d want to implement them as a private cloud in any event. Fully virtualized, fully responsive to load changes.

But mostly, what you’d be doing is removing functions left, right and centre, that built up over the years and aren’t needed now.

You might be surprised, in fact, of how little you’d actually put in place, relative to what others have.

Do you think this little thought experiment is a pipe-dream? Well, look at a start up company. None of them go hog wild on technology. Just about all of them follow this model.

That’s not just because they’re small. It’s because they can’t use all the specialized functions without whole departments of people there to drive the work.

Instead, they expect individuals (managers or staff) to take responsibility and to act responsibly. Quick discussions keep everyone synchronized, and “sign off” takes place so that procurement, for instance, can happen.

So, having concluded our little experiment, let me ask you: what’s stopping you from simplifying your life?

Odds are, depreciation on an install base isn’t the biggest reason. It’s a lack of imagination — and years of reducing trust in individuals.

IT made it possible for organizations to “have control”. Along the way, many used it to remove authority.

You couldn’t run what you’ve got now without it. But your next competitor can.

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About Bruce Stewart

A philosophically minded politically interested fellow with more opinions than is probably good for him.
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