Much is made of segmented IT these days, whether in the form of our own CIO Connect Field of Play or Gartner’s bi-modal approach, or just a general agreement that one size doesn’t fit all. That is good progress from the “EDP” days – electronic data processing for those too young to remember it – where a consistent process was all. In those days much of that processing was in batch and the more I think about it, it feels like a very distant world.
But there is one segmentation that I don’t see very much discussion about – especially in corporate circles. And that is between “production line” IT and “creative IT”. We talk of knowledge workers and process workers having different needs but seek to differentiate only in the degree of governance applied to their needs. But in this context I want to use “creative IT” to mean experimentation and creating something new – rather than the use of IT in the artistic world.
I started trying to write this sentence twice, firstly using “information technology”, then using “computers” before deleting the words for their narrowness. This digital “stuff” we use, whatever we call it, however we define it, is the most creative thing mankind has ever come up with. From processing vast amounts of data, through replicating a book or a newspaper; from streaming music and video to creating music and video, and increasingly through IoT managing and monitoring our houses, cars, even children (and in my case parent) we can create the world how we want it to be. Through games we can create other worlds as well. And we communicate without thinking (in both senses of the word, sometimes) from small handheld devices, anachronistically called phones, with anyone in possession of a similar device pretty much anywhere on the planet, or even in orbit around it.
Then at work we govern the creative usage of this stuff for control reasons. Of course we need controls – I have been the Chairman of a regulated Financial Services business, I have sat on Audit and Risk committees – I know we need controls. I ask only that we unleash the creativity in the places where it’s safe to simulate, to imagine and to play. Perhaps it is already happening with digital transformation, but if it isn’t happening in your business, or it is too buttoned-up and insufficiently free-flowing then be afraid. Because in a dorm in India, in a garage in the US, almost anywhere in China, if you believe the hype, someone is reimagining your business without constraint.
And going back right to DEC, thinking of Kodak, and remembering Nokia or Blackberry fondly, we all know where that leads.