Part One: IT Is from Mars, Business Is from Venus
We've moved from a world of scarce IT--where organizations guard their technology--to one of abundance, where technology permeates every part of our daily lives.
But the enterprise IT team is still acting like IT is a scarce, precious resource. They're charged with protecting and controlling its use, reducing risk; while the world of clouds, startups, and innovation focuses on its abundance, maximizing its rewards.
Once, IT was protected. And with good reason: computers cost millions, broke easily, and represented a vast barrier to entry. Companies competed based on their ability to corral capital, infrastructure, and labor--to control the means of production.
[ For more cloud computing analysis, see Top 12 Cloud Trends Of 2012. ]
Today, however, industry after industry is being disrupted by startups that see these once-daunting barriers to entry as crumbling castle walls. The line of business wants to innovate, and central IT is facing an internal revolt: Shadow IT. We can track the rise of shadow IT to three things: the personal computer; data carriers; and software-as-a-service.
When the first home spreadsheet came out, early adopters found ways to use it. But unlike central IT, which could be tightly controlled, clients had little to stop employees from going rogue. Visicalc was the first assault on the walls of central IT; the rise of the Web only made things worse. Despite every attempt to lock down desktops, employees found ways to use their own tools.
A second flank of the assault happened when salespeople, eager for an edge on their quarterly targets, embraced two-way pagers. The Blackberry was a rogue device, but the political capital of its users made it impossible for IT to refuse them outright.
But it was software-as-a-service that really hammered the nails into the coffin of centralization. Not only were SaaS sites pay-as-you-go, but they were trivially easy to deploy and configure. Departments started circumventing IT for everything from CRM to web analytics, performance monitoring, expense management, invoicing, and more.
Every organization has an immune system. Enterprise IT has been particularly well entrenched, because to them, change is bad. Change is the leading cause of outages and downtime, so it is to be avoided.
But to the line of business, change is good. Without change, things stagnate, and competitors get the upper hand. The tension between innovation and operation was almost unbearable. And the rise of cloud computing was the crack that broke open the dam.