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Thank you, Amazon, for saving IT

Chad Dupin
April 19, 2016

I’m old -- well, at least in Information Technology terms I’m old.

In college, I used a green screen connected to a mainframe to write my term papers. To pay my way through college I sold 286 Intel PCs with 5 ¼-inch floppy drives and 20 Meg hard drives. You could say I’ve been around for awhile. You could also say I’ve seen the full lifecycle of PC adoption in the enterprise. This perspective has helped me develop some appreciation for how far we have come, and the technology changes that got us here.

When I got started in my first IT job, I was a young, newly minted MCP on my way to finishing my MCSE. My first few days on the job I learned from my mentors, “Users get what we give them!” We were the uncaring gods of their world who told them how they would use the technology we gave them. It really was amazing; looking back now, it’s hard to believe we got away with some of the demands we made.

I remember telling corporate leadership, all the way to the president of our organization, that they didn’t know what we knew about technology. We made all the decisions when it came to IT. At the time, this seemed like the right way to manage IT. We thought we were doing the right thing by making the decision for the end user.

Because of these attitudes, we really didn’t respond well to needy customers. Any attempt to get IT to listen was met with a lot of technical jargon and a basic “We can’t do that” or “It must be an id10t problem."

If you enjoy the more friendly IT of 2016, you can thank the creative people in your business, primarily the marketing department.

Here's why: in all of corporate America during the reign of IT in the 1990s, the creative people and marketing gurus were the lone holdouts. They held out and would not accept the IT standards. These teams demanded to use Macs and Apple products and showed good reason why the device of their choice was better suited for doing their job than what IT gave them. As IT professionals, we were beaten by business logic we had forgotten, which was: You have to give the end users the tools they need to do their job. So the designers and creatives deserve a mention for their integrity and wisdom, and the fact that they created the first crack in the IT stronghold of standards.

The crazy years where IT did what it wanted faded away.

Over time, IT began to think more about the end user. We spent time trying to figure out what they needed to solve their business problems. Most companies developed customer focused support desks. ITIL was developed to help IT relate to the business. We were on our way to getting better at serving our end customers. We still had our standards (PC only) and rules (you can’t connect your own device to the wifi), but the change had begun.

For a while, the progress in IT seemed to stall. We were doing a better job of working with our customers (or the “users”), but there was still significant change on its way. During this stall, customers pushed IT to deliver more value. The challenge at this point was speed and agility. Customers were asking for so many new things, and that scared IT. Yes, we were doing a better job of serving them, but we still had not made the ultimate evolution.

In order to make that next evolution, IT needed an EOLAWKIE (End of Life as We Know it Event). Amazon and Apple gave us that event. Almost simultaneously, Apple launched the App Store and Amazon introduced Prime. (Sure, it was technically a few years apart, but let's generalize and say it was the same time.)

Professionals within the IT community like to refer to this event as the consumerization of IT.

Apple making it easier for people to get the technology and apps they wanted was the tipping point that made so much of what we see today possible. This was an epic change, and it was a critical turning point to create an environment that would force IT to offer similar services to the end customer.

It is important to recognize what Apple pulled off. No other company was able to make that significant of a change in the mindset of both IT and the business. At the same time, I believe there was another very significant change that doesn't get as much press. When Amazon introduced the easy-to-use interface and the ability to have anything in two days (Prime), our customers (the users) changed the way they looked at IT forever. Now, between Apple and Amazon, they didn’t have to wait days or weeks for something they wanted.

The good news is IT had already started the change. For the most part, we had started giving the customers what they wanted.

Over a decade or two, we (IT) had evolved from telling them what they get to helping them get what they need. But while progress had been made, we still had a big problem in IT: we hadn’t improved our processes. Delivery time on what the customer needed was beyond unacceptable; it was really bad. This was mostly because the customers didn’t know any better. At some level, they still had to take what we gave them. A work order for a new VPN account could take weeks to get implemented, when to create the account only takes a few minutes.

Between Apple and Amazon, our customers realized there was a better way. In their normal life, they started getting what they needed, when they needed it. So they started asking, “Why can’t I get that level of service at work?" The change that was about to happen was accelerated by the fact that Amazon was delivering a web-based interface to help people get what they needed. This was exactly what end users wanted from their corporate IT, but weren't getting. This new reality changed the demands on IT forever.

Obviously, not every IT department has made the jump to Amazon level service. While many companies still have a lot of work to do, the consumerization of Information Technology has changed our world for the better.

At ITS, we believe the consumerization of IT has been a positive change. It is something that we strongly encourage our customers to embrace. Often we hear leaders in our own industry speak of this change as a new challenge that they have to deal with. We hear a CEO of a software company say, “Our software will help you address the consumerization of IT.” We don’t need to address this change, we need to embrace it! This is a huge opportunity to provide what our customer is asking for.

At ITS, we've coined a term, "Productive IT," and this core value of delivering better services to the end customer is the center of our mission.

Our reason for being in business is to free IT from the constraints of the past, and let customers embrace the new IT. And yes, this new Amazon-like IT department is far more productive.

The beautiful part of our belief in “Productive IT” is that it does not take a significant change for your team to deliver significant value to the end customer. We have created a white paper that explains the seven doctrines of a “Productive IT” department. Ifyou believe, as I do, that Amazon has helped to pave the way for us to deliver world class IT to our customers, I would encourage you to check out our white paper - https://goo.gl/mTrdgi. When you're done, give me a call, and let’s talk about how we can get you closer to an Amazon level of service.

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