The rise of the IT “super genius”

The future of the IT organization?

The successful IT professional of 2020 will interact with users more like the Apple Genius Bar consultant does today…

What a quote from Joe Jorczak of Oracle Corporation (posted by Andy Jankowski earlier this Spring)!

One theme of his comments was that user-generated applications would arise from the mishmash of technologies available today, combined with the plethora of distribution channels for distributed, single-purpose apps.

In that scenario, users exploit the “salad bar” metaphor I like to use so much. They take what they want from available enterprise services and leave the rest behind.

Only beyond simply leveraging a Service-Oriented Architecture, Andy is proposing they increasingly build their own apps on those services… and the experienced CIO will now be asking “How should we support these apps?”

From salad bar to genius bar

Now, enterprise architects have envisioned the great IT salad bar (or more likely their own analogy) for ages…

    • before web services
    • before Java
    • before CORBA
    • before DCE

I figure the notion of mix-and-match, integrated systems ought to go back to the dawn of the network itself, if not earlier…

Similarly, we have endured many phases of “user-generated” applications. There were a few vendors of “plain English” programming languages who predicted them when I was in high school back in 1984!

What does it take to be a genius?

So whether it happens this time around or not, my question is what would it take to make IT into the “genius bar” for supporting user-generated applications?

Let me post a few ideas, and then you can add your own so we can chat about them (not in any particular order):

Super Genius

  1. What services we can get from the outside world, especially (but not always) for free, we need to catalog, stay abreast of changes and make available to these “apps”
  2. The services that are special to our organizations MUST become service-oriented… to make use of a given feature, apps don’t want to have the whole ERP system tag along
  3. We must take on a customer service (even a “retail service”) perspective if we are not already working on it, and we have to put in place ways to measure “true” customer satisfaction
  4. We have to think very carefully about how much “control” we really need, while we also build in flexibility and fluidity to support enabling these apps to flourish
  5. We must reset our notions of security and confidentiality to lock down and protect what we must secure, while intentionally and strategically exposing what is really not that proprietary anyway
  6. We have to uproot the idea that we can “manage demand” from our management philosophy – the industry changes, customer expectations change, and demand simply “is”

To be clear, these are not suggestions I think every IT organization must follow… they are ones that I see as necessary if the genius bar is in our future. What else do you think will change if we increasingly see user-generated applications in the future? Can you envision new roles and even new management structures?

About ken
Creative insights, passion and technical adrenaline - strategist, agile coach and marketer, providing a good life for wife of 20 years & 2 awesome teenagers!

3 Responses to The rise of the IT “super genius”

  1. John Tripp says:

    I would assume that in this scenario, the primary role of the IT professional will that of mentor to an ever more technically savvy user base, utilizing an ever more powerful set of tools. Rather than having to be the trusted advisor who delivers the solution, IT departments become the showroom of enterprise IT capabilities, the source of information and training/mentoring on those technologies, and the place to turn when things don’t go as planned.

    If we can really deliver enterprise systems that allow for true ‘lego-like’ assembly, then the users will have the power to build things on the fly, as the business evolves. It would be an exciting time, and IT departments could potentially emerge from the perception of utility provider. However, almost every corporate IT person I know thinks they deliver value from making sure the lights are on, instead of being on the front lines helping the user help themselves.

    I think the picture you’re painting is exceptionally threatening to IT people, especially those who grew up having to deal with technically illiterate users. I think that as the technology and users change, future IT leaders will change as well. I don’t think that the majority of senior IT people I know could operate in a retail environment like the one you describe.

    • ken says:

      Hi John. Those are great observations and comments.

      As I mentioned in the post, I am not sure we will get to the lego-like assembly in the first place, for a variety of reasons. If you want to re-post it separately, we can chase it as another comment thread after this one. My main question was “if” we got to that point, what would we have to do in IT (and in our software teams) to make it happen?

      I, too, wonder if we could really get to the “retail” kind of model suggested by the Genius Bar comment that Andy originally offered up. In my assessment it seems like more of a move than adopting ITIL Service Desk, and many of the trends in the last decade (including SOA and agile) haven’t fully gotten us to Lego-Land yet.

      As for threatening IT people (which we are both), I would rather speculate openly about what it might take than get out-competed and overrun because we don’t ask the tough questions. If even one of our competitors figures out a new model ahead of us, it could hurt our families, and that’s not cool.

      So what else do you think we add to the list of what IT might have to face to support such a situation?


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