The Old IT is New Again

The more things change, the more they stay the same. This age old adage is perhaps best exemplified by the constantly shifting IT landscape where the role of the CIO must continually evolve to meet new realities.

But, does that mean today’s IT has to completely abandon its traditions? If IT must change, are the best practices we learned “yesterday” completely moot? Hardly!

In fact, some now argue that since the recession appears to be stubbornly holding on, this may be just the right time to take a look back and re-examine lessons learned in the past.

Bob Lewis thinks so. In his article, The IT Survival Guide for Uncertain Times, Lewis contradicts several recent studies and makes the claim that, because the economy is so shaky, CIOs need to strike a balance between the new and “old IT.”

From the article:

“ . . . the "new IT" -- the IT that says "here's how" rather than "no," that encourages end-user innovation rather than stifles it, and that builds technology to support practices as well as processes -- isn't simply a replacement. It is something IT leaders will have to take hold of in addition to the old IT.”

In other words, now might be the time to borrow a page from an older playbook.  After all, old IT kept a closer eye on the budget, ran with leaner teams and knew how to say no to initiatives (and personnel) that could be considered “organizational chart luxuries,” Lewis says.

The sentiment is also echoed in Michael Vizard’s recent post, "Time to Re-evaluate IT Management Strategy."

Vizard argues that today’s IT management processes have become overly fragmented and unwieldy. In addition, they’re under constant stress from the downturn in the economy and the rise of mobile computing.  Have some IT organizations grown too fast? Are they now unmanageable and/or incapable of effectively responding to more changes looming on the horizon?

“ . . . the fact remains that IT organizations are being asked to address a host of issues that existing processes were never designed to cope with,” he writes. “If that’s the case, then maybe the time to take a giant step back in order to re-evaluate those processes from end to end might be more than a little overdue.”

The key is to find balance. No one wants to see IT move backward. Nor should it stop innovating, improving and updating. But, IT’s approach has to be thoughtful and strategic. Plot your course carefully. Look at the problem holistically. These days, technology is pervasive across the enterprise. IT can certainly learn from its past, but it needs to adapt the best of its older tried-and-true processes so they can drive revenue and growth for today’s businesses, where technology is more integrated than ever before.