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The BYO-Epiphany: From Eureka to IT Transformation

May 05, 2015

When the Greek scholar Archimedes experienced history’s most famous epiphany, legend says he shouted “Eureka!”, and then ran through the streets of Syracuse naked. When your IT department has what I call a “BYO-epiphany” – please keep your clothes on – but do be ready to strip off the blinders of an outdated mindset that has kept IT departments from meeting their potential.

A Bring-Your-Own-epiphany occurs when an IT department hits rock bottom trying to deal with Shadow IT, BYOD or BYO-whatever. It doesn’t matter what the alleged ‘problem’ is.

Consumer IT, cloud services and pesky employees aren’t the cause of any IT problem, including these 21st century bogies. No, IT departments cause these problems through their own failure to meet the needs of businesses and users. From the perspective of employees, shadow IT and BYOD are solutions to the IT department’s lack of service.    

A BYO-epiphany is the first step in transforming IT; it is a siren calling for people, processes and technology to change. Here, I’ll illustrate what it means to go from eureka to IT transformation.

Solid States of Mind    

The BYO-epiphany leads to the realization that IT and “the business” are not separate entities. IT is as much a part of the business as sales and marketing, which means IT shares business goals equally. So after the epiphany, the first question IT should ask is, “What does the overall business need to succeed? How do we figure that out?” Usually, part of the solution is to formalize communication between IT and other departments.    

Pre-epiphany, IT department make decisions in isolation. If the marketing department starts using Dropbox to share files, IT blocks the website to ‘solve’ the security problem. If marketing switches to Dropbox mobile, IT ‘solves’ that problem with an MDM solution. Rather than addressing the reason marketing started using Dropbox, IT attempts to address the results.

Post epiphany, IT discovers that it has a responsibility to start a direct conversation with the marketing department before taking any action. It’s rather obvious that marketing needs a way to share files – so IT needs to figure out what capabilities they require. IT can have a meeting with marketing leaders, and then put together a proposal for a file sharing solution. By effectively saying, “Hey, marketing, we’ve got this,” IT wins the power to pick a solution and configuration that provides adequate security.

This process sounds like basic common sense because it is. Many epiphanies do lead to insights that we later take for granted.   

Win Before Going to War

Sun Tzu, the renowned Chinese military strategist, wrote that “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” IT departments are usually the “defeated warriors” because they wait for a BYO-whatever war to arise, and then they join the fray. Part of transforming IT is to develop a department that wins before going to war.  

The key is to anticipate what the business needs before the business realizes it. IT departments have to become as good at research as they are at implementing technologies. An individual or group within IT must be in charge of figuring out what technologies the sales, marketing, accounting and other departments will need to be as productive, agile and effective as possible. By doing this research, and proposing IT solutions like daily specials on a menu, IT can ‘solve’ the problems before these departments ever have them.

Here’s a hypothetical example: after the BYO-epiphany, your IT department now has monthly meetings with marketing (by the way, they love the secure file-sharing solution you implemented). In the first discussion, marketing talks about just how hard it is to track photos, videos, infographics and other digital assets as they travel from cloud storage to their blog, social media and the far reaches of the Internet. They wonder: How many people actually interact with each asset? Which is more or less popular?

So before marketing picks a solution that might be subpar or insecure, your IT research team goes out and lines up the best digital asset management and content platforms that can meet marketing’s need for data without creating a shadow IT situation. As you get into the habit of doing this with each department, BYO-whatever issues begin to disappear.

Epiphany Fever

Fresh off a BYO-epiphany, IT will be raring to take action. There will be a rush of interest in implementing cloud technologies, Agile/SCRUM development processes and tons of solutions that may or may not be the panaceas that they appear to be. This is why IT needs to track change and results over time.

Image via Shutterstock

Let’s take the digital asset management implementation that IT recommended. During the implementation process, IT and marketing will need to jointly decide how to measure the effectiveness of this new solution. Should they track how marketing metrics (social shares, page views, etc.) shift after implementation? Does the product generate usage statistics that reflect user adoption? IT and marketing must agree to a definition of success. Besides instilling accountability, this will give IT the ability to demonstrate its value to business (maybe to make a case for a larger budget).

This notion of accountability is interesting because it means that IT can begin to judge its own effectiveness by the accomplishments of other departments and the collective business. The epiphany ultimately means that the business’s successes – and failures – belong to IT, too. 

It’s time for IT to take off the blinders and recognize that this self-outcast department is, and has always been, one with the business. Have your eureka moment, but seriously – keep the clothing on.

About the Author: Sarah Lahav is CEO, SysAid (News - Alert).

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

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