Why Corporate IT Fails when Competing with Consumer Tech ...
and How to Change the Game
I've been working with internal developers over the past few weeks,
experimenting with a
-style visualization that is quite interesting / insightful when loaded
up with data, but very tough to configure and manipulate. We are also
struggling with a presentation layer (surrounding this data control)
that doesn’t adapt to the size of your browser screen, or behave well
when placed inside a frame set or table.
I suspect our primary challenge - typical thinking for most corporate IT
departments - is that we only work with the tool we know. The only way
to display information in a browser from XYZ's data warehouse is to use
their particular Web portal platform. We need to switch focus; let the
data warehouse provide beautifully aggregated and accessible data, but
go elsewhere for the presentation layer.
Corporate IT needs to develop a sense of adventure, a thirst for new and
different ways of doing the same thing, and a curiosity about different
presentation architectures (ie. there's more than one way to
a cat). Manufacture some spare time, and get down to some serious
"play", with CSS, HTML, and SharePoint (
as previously noted
, our target intranet platform); learn all you can about the level of
control you have. Note that you probably have
more flexibility than you think
Unfortunately, we all seem to get to the same creativity-killing
question: "how do I charge my time?". Full disclosure: I'm a big fan of
quantifying IT alignment
with the business - but therein lies the subtle yet significant
difference with "the IT guys" and the iPhone / iPod / Kindle / Nintendo
/ Best Buy expectations of our business partners.
Rewarding Different Behaviors
Corporate IT is measured by and rewarded for
- specifically, getting things done. In most organizations, that's where
it ends; IT is usually not
based on the ongoing use of the project deliverables; in fact, ongoing
support ("maintenance") is expected ... a cost of doing business ...
overhead ... part of baseline costs ... and, in a manner of speaking:
(no premium is paid).
on the Internet and consumer IT; you are expected to build the stuff for
free, and just give it away. You will get your rewards when people come
to your website, click on your ads, buy your products, become sales
leads. You’re rewarded
the build is complete – but (if you are good), you are rewarded over and
- Corporate IT – metrics for success stop
when the project is complete
- Consumer IT – metrics for success start
when the development work is done
This also helps explain why Consumer IT delivers "stuff" that people
like, that is intuitive, easy to use, and
. Witness the apple iStore – developers earn cash only when they sell
their apps, long after the build is complete. But it's not as simple as
that - note that even though there are a huge number of apps out there,
less than 5% are big successes
(>100,000 users). Competition and market dynamics drive quality and
innovative, creativity is rewarded when an app rises above the fray.
Check out the disturbing collection below; how many different ways can
you write the same, silly, popgun program? You'd be amazed ...
... yet five minutes of playing with each of these shooters, and you
start to see the subtle variations and evolving methods that
applications that get the most return visits.
Hope for Corporate IT - the Anti-PMO
The iGun story tells us about the darwinian action that comes with large
amounts of repetition, duplication, and failure. Success can be
quantified by your
- how many failed experiments have you thrown out there, just to see
what sticks? On the internet, preferably a lot - because that’s how you
learn what works, and how to make the “really cool stuff”.
Corporate IT might stand a chance in an environment where
experimentation and failure is encouraged (but not necessarily rewarded
- we need to learn from our mistakes). In essence, we need to build an
and give permission for folks to do stuff that has no apparent value.
What will it take for you to facilitate a more creative environment? For
more ideas on establishing an
, check out
this old post