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Contributor Columns on Information Technology and Security

Playing Tennis in Russia


I’m sitting in St. Petersburg (Russia) on a clear morning after running an IT masterclass for a large group of CIOs. The main thrust of the masterclass related to how current IT trends will change forever the way we do IT, and in some cases how these trends will make internal IT Departments obsolete. But I found myself playing “IT” - Institutional Tennis. Two weeks ago I was in Lisbon and then in London, and I found the same game being played there.I have a view that IT trends like Cloud, BYOD, mobility, Big Data and many others are game-changers for business, but more importantly have the potential to cause the death of IT Departments.

Specifically, I talked in St. Petersburg, London and Lisbon about the “second order” meaning of some IT trends. For example, the “first order” meaning of Cloud for IT Departments is that their business may seek their IT services outside the organisation. And IT’s reaction to first order meaning is often to ban such behaviour, or perhaps introduce a single sign-on policy so they can retain control of who has access to what services. But the Cloud “second order” threat to IT should worry them much more. Because it’s more about the delivery model than the technology: I believe that executives will see the way that Cloud services are delivered: “On demand, pay per use, scalable, continuously evolving”, and expect their IT departments to deliver in the same way.

And I don’t believe that IT departments can do this unless they radically change the way they work.

If you find yourself saying: “Yes, but…” welcome to the game of Institutional Tennis (IT). This is where someone ventures an opinion, and you bat it back over the net at them with a powerful “yes-but” return, expecting to have the answer back over the net in a very short time. This can go on for a long time (the longest game of tennis was at Wimbledon in 2010: 11 hours and 5 minutes). Of course Institutional Tennis can go on for years - some people seem to believe that this is why they work for their company, to play IT, not to win anything.

So I would rather see us treat new ideas as a game of golf. Where players try to move progressively from one point to another, in order to achieve a goal. (Can you imagine a game of golf where your opponent was allowed to hit the ball back to you?) And I see this as a game of Foursome - where partners play each other’s ball in rotation, or even Scramble, where all four players play their ball from the best shot.

These are of course just my ideas. I hope you can use them to move forward, and if you find yourself playing IT, don’t expect to find me on the other side of the net. I will have moved off down the fairway.

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