IT Doesn't Matter: What every IT pro needs to know to survive in the cloud era

Nearly 10 years ago, Harvard Business Review published the now infamous report, "IT Doesn't Matter." IT pros the world over were disgusted by the perceived inference; however for business leaders, this article and the principles it shared were an epiphany they have continued to build upon to this day. To me, this statement is the epicenter of business/technology alignment - any IT pro wanting to survive and advance his or her career in the cloud era needs to understand exactly what it is about IT that many business leaders feel just doesn't matter.

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Going back to the Acme vs. Duff example, we saw how COTS technology does not provide differentiation for your business, which leads us to another significant implication of "IT Doesn't Matter." If COTS technologies are undifferentiated, shouldn’t customizing them fix the problem? Typically, the answer is no, or at least with client-server era tech, cloud technology is changing this. Customization can provide differentiation, but there are a couple aspects that reveal the flaw in this idea. First, most customization is simply what is required to get COTS running. These customizations are not intended to provide any differentiation.

There is another aspect, and that is customizing in a way that has a strategic benefit. A good example of this is looking at client-server era IT automation platforms. Most process automation in large enterprises today comes from very expensive software modules that during installation require significant customization and rigid manually encoding of processes. These systems are proving to become a greater liability for businesses than undifferentiated COTS…because they predominantly use very complex and proprietary methods of customization that create extensive lock-in. They create temporary agility but do so at the expense of creating extensive rigidity as these primitive models do not have the benefits of some new cloud-era tech and its strong emphasis on portability that will go a long way towards resolving this problem. To this day there is no shortage of companies that still have some reliance on legacy mainframes and older client-server-era tech simply because the extent of the lock-in that many of these solutions required and still today the landscape of IT solutions is littered with vendors using proprietary lock-in methods that will not survive in the cloud era. And finally there is a 3rd and potentially most significant aspect of “IT Doesn’t Matter” I would like to highlight … and that is how exactly to define the scope of “IT” and how it fits into your organizational structure.  However, this is already too long so I will post part 2 of this article within the next 2 weeks. The next section to me is the most important and I will also follow up with more on some good actionable strategies to to help take a leading role in the adoption of cloud tech and use this transition to your own benefit. I should also note, Derick 'Captain Underpants' Winkworth did an excellent post on this same topic I recommend checking out. If you look around at a lot of the leaders in IT today, many of them got their by  positioning themselves to take advantage of big industry transitions in the past. So whether you want to climb the ladder or simply define a new job for yourself with the attributes you want, now is the time to start positioning yourself. The cloud era is here, and with the intense pace of business competition today, every business needs tech-saavy people not to already be experts, but rather to dive in head first and use your knack and passion for technology to help your business lead. I am sharing a lot from my experience here, and there are plenty of things I havent experienced or didnt address here, so please chime in! and together, we can define the standards for a new era.  

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