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IT value isn’t hidden, WE hide it

There is a pretty good article, “How to Tap IT’s Hidden Potential” in the MIT Technology Review. Overall, it doesn’t include anything new to the conversation but try to re-kindle the conversation regarding IT’s place in the organization. Coming from a large organization, it is truly easy to see and almost impossible to see in the agile, start-up world.

It remains the area of the business (typically) where it is all costs, all have-to expenditures, sole focus is to get the key elements in place with the least expense and lowest technology/business risk. And too often not looked at as a potential differentiator against competition nor a way to supplement or work to make the “front-line” technology operations that build products stronger.  The irony of it all is that the value of IT isn’t hidden at all, it is (or the potential) is clearly there.  Organizations choose to hide it with their practices and policies that govern IT at most fundamental of levels.

This whole school of though reminds me of a post I wrote a while back called The Enterprise Outlook is Cloudy.  Not fully on the mark but highly correlated because organizations’ choice to not use the cloud as part of IT strategy is directly tied to the “wall” discussed in the article.  The cloud, while it presents lower costs, it introduces greater risk to that of its “I never got fired for buying” brethren.  But it should be considered in cases a more strategic, moving the business forward option.  It does not, however, match with the way in which IT groups in most cases judge their own success.  This has to change.

The Enterprise Outlook is Cloudy

During Defrag, I found myself in an interesting conversation with Jerry Michalski and Andrew McAfee regarding the future of the enterprise. I posited that eventually “the enterprise firewall will fall.” Let’s just say there wasn’t resounding agreement and not enough time to truly deep dive into the very difficult and multi-faceted topic.

Let me clarify my position: In the future, the “cloud” will emerge to an extent where to the laymen in an organization, it will be challenging if not impossible to understand where the enterprise ends (what is behind the firewall) and the cloud begins (what is beyond the firewall). This does not mean corporate data will be public for all to see, some sort of enterprise information security will remain but it WILL be much more open than it is today. Thus, whether the enterprise information and feature-set is behind the firewall or in front can become a non-issue as the technology permits. Furthermore, I just do not see how IT constituents can stop it short of blocking internet access completely.

What is interesting is those reading this will probably polarize to two camps, “wow, you are out of your mind, IT will never stand for that” OR “wow, you didn’t make much of a leap, that is obvious”. In fact, for the latter camp, I would tend to agree, it is happening already. Jerry Zawodny, of the Yahoo! Developer Network, commented that Term Extraction is the second most popular web service on their network. I’m sure all of the data submitted to the web service by users is readily available consumer information and not protected corporate data of any kind.

Enterprise users are using GMail for email (cloud). Sales people are using SaaS offering for CRM and it is gaining even more traction with the emergence of AppExchange (cloud). Thousands of enterprise users have their profiles and are collaborating on Facebook (cloud). Amazon S3 is there and start-ups being leveraged by enterprise uses are using it (cloud). And sites like Swivel are offering private environments (cloud). This is a short, non-comprehensive list.

Thus, it doesn’t even take a lot of vision to make the leap that this is going to happen with even more and more frequency. And even if the earliest adoption of 2.0 type tools like Socialtext‘s wiki software, Connectbeam‘s enterprise bookmarking solution and Attensa‘s RSS enterprise software is taking place behind the firewall, my sense is that it is still a factor driven by information security concerns, not anti-cloud sentiment.

Ultimately, information and capabilities will exist in the cloud, and most likely there will be more in the cloud than behind the firewall. My sense the nimble organizations will react to this and learn how to make most effective use of the crowd. Only the most sensitive of information will sit behind the firewall in the long term. And of course, it is paramount that the technology providers continue to assure CIOs that information security and software reliability is in their SaaS offerings.

Getting some Enterprise 2.0 Adoption…

I just got my hands on Forrester’s Web 2.0 Social Computing Dresses Up For Business report, sure there will be some good nuggest of information in there. If the rate of mentions of Enterprise 2.0 are positively correlated with the number of times it is coming up for me in conversations, particularly with customers, then I think we can be certain we’ve entered the traction-gaining portion of our program with 2.0 technologies in the Enterprise. Bill Ives mentions the report and discusses the report as well.

While Bill discussed Enterprise 2.0 and how CIO’s need to view and deal with movement, I tend to be a believer that the biggest reason for the push and demand for these technologies is the digital native. ExtremeNano has an article entitled ‘Digital Natives’ Will Drive Web 2.0 into Your Business, that echoes the digital native is driving the movement. Good article that claims four years will be the “cliff” for Enterprise 2.0 where we really see it take hold, I’m betting ‘under’ on it.

For those of you who want a quick primer on Enterprise 2.0, I’m still touting Scott Gavin’s depiction of it which I discuss in recent post (with the video!).

Interesting Enterprise 2.0 Event

Saw mention that there is a very interesting E2.0 event coming up in NYC. Two blogs I read often, Fast Forward and Andrew McAfee, both mentioned that a 24-hour Enterprise 2.0 Rave where topic leaders will getting together with early E2.0 practitioners. It is geared towards practitioners only and not for vendor pitch, even though I believe they will have slots where vendors or players in the space can have a few moments to show themselves. Professor McAfee speaks about it more in depth in his post.

Sounds like a fantastic idea for an event. The Enterprise 2.0 paradigm seems like a game changer but we’ve seen it before. The key again is going to be whether these new technologies such as blogs, wikis and other collaborative engines can ‘cross the chasm’ and get into the hearts and minds of the enterprise mainstream. That is what the entire event seems to be about, how to gain adoption, understand the pain points of roll-out and really isolate on the tough issues to make this work. Getting everyone together to discuss these issues is critical to get collective mind share on how to make these new tools work for organizations, not for the sake of technology but for the benefit of the organizations’ ROI.

[UPDATE: If anyone is interested in attending the event, use “bloggers” as the discount code during the registration process to get a $250 discount.]