Presidential Politics Inspiring IT Transformation - InformationWeek

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Commentary
11/6/2008
06:21 PM
Michael Singer
Michael Singer
Commentary
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Presidential Politics Inspiring IT Transformation

America voted for change this year in the face of huge risk and uncertainty. And though technology wasn't a major theme of the 2008 presidential race, there are lessons for today's IT leaders that we saw on the political stage.

America voted for change this year in the face of huge risk and uncertainty. And though technology wasn't a major theme of the 2008 presidential race, there are lessons for today's IT leaders that we saw on the political stage.Jake Sorofman, VP of marketing for rPath, which specializes in virtual appliances for cloud computing, sent me a list of lessons he thought IT leaders such as you might want to ponder with this new era.

"Change comes in cycles, which are impossible to predict, but unmistakable when they occur," Sorofman said. "I would argue that we're in a change cycle today -- both in terms of presidential politics and IT leadership. Just as the public voted that the old way was no longer serving us well, the same sort of vote is happening in enterprises today. Yesterday's costly, rigid, and monolithic IT architectures are giving way to a new approach centered on the principles of virtualization, cloud computing, and service orientation of application functionality."

Sorofman adds that reality is that this sort of IT change requires a significant rethinking of approaches to leadership.

His first admission is that IT leaders need to have a "bias for change," which speaks to having the courage to stand on your product and become an agent of change. "In presidential politics as well as IT leadership, the truth is that people typically gravitate to optimism, hope, and positive sentiment -- they want something to believe in," he said.

Along with change should come a willingness to invest in the future, according to Sorofman. This does not mean R&D budgets will increase, but they will need to be focused. Scaling back some projects or making trade-offs will cause some discomfort, but if you plot out your strategy to the company, Sorofman says people will get on board a lot easier.

Despite our tendency to pay lip service to taking a global outlook on IT, Sorofman suggests more flexible thinking when it comes to "say-anything, do-anything pandering and rigid ideology and provincialism.

"Put yourself in the shoes of others and try to internalize their points of view," he said. "Shape the narrative of your IT transformation based on the specific anecdotes you capture. Tell stories that are respectful and inclusive of diverse needs."

One of Barack Obama's great strengths was his use of current IT tools to stay on top of the competition. Sorofman says you don't need to become a Web 2.0 junkie (this reporter disagrees), but you should at least understand what tools are being used.

"You may not be in a position to embrace every new trend that emerges, but you'll almost certainly benefit from understanding the principles of emerging trends and weaving them into the fabric of your vision for transformation," Sorofman said.

Finally, Sorofman suggests that sharing these perspectives with your team helps make you a more effective IT leader. During his gracious concession speech, Sen. John McCain called for us all to come together in support of change.

"This is an important call to action for both politics and IT. This is the opportunity to think differently, act, and believe," Sorofman said.

Add to the conversation and post your comments below.

And if you want to see change in action, follow InformationWeek's Twitter site with links to the full text, updated automatically and continuously. You can also follow me on Twitter at MichaelSinger.

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