Coping with Disruptive Technology Trends

Loraine Lawson

Once, for a very brief time, I worked as a temp for the Associated Press. I was young and made a lot of mistakes.


Even tiny mistakes, such as transposing two numbers in the coding before a story, caused great turmoil there. I remember very clearly one editor getting very angry when I said everyone makes mistakes.


"The AP," he told me sternly, "does NOT make mistakes."


Can I quote you?


I think about this exchange frequently and again today, while reading this post by Sandy Kemsley, a business process management consultant. Kemsley writes that many people are uncomfortable with the idea of using an Enterprise 2.0 platform for an Intranet because they don't like the idea of allowing anyone to edit the pages or contribute content.


Boy, do I have bad news for those people.


The gig is up. Information wants to be free, workers have work to do and don't want to wait on bureaucracy to do it, and, yes, Big Brother, mistakes will be made.


Don't expect to write a few memos and get this situation, or Enterprise 2.0, under control. This is a problem that may take generations to solve -- in fact, it may require a new generation of managers, accustomed to working in a world that allows instant publishing and the free flow of information.


As Forrester analyst Bobby Cameron put it in a recent interview on another disruptive technology trend:

My 13-year-old daughter, when she gets into the workforce, is going to be highly disruptive -- not because she wants to be disruptive, she will just walk in the door with technology dripping off of her. That's just where she is. And she's not a programmer type, she's just a kid.

Cameron recently finished a study on another trend that's all about control -- who has it and who's losing it. Forrester calls it business technology. Basically, business users and managers are taking charge of their own technology solutions -- and mostly without IT's knowledge or input.What this means, in some cases, is that they're sending data out the door to SaaS providers without bothering to tell IT or worrying about how this might impact other IT systems or corporate data.


It's all part of the same trend of empowering users that's been going on for some time now. As Cameron explained:

We've been in this explosion of technology away from the command-and-control world and I think we are half-past the tipping point where command and control is realistic, and that's what business technology is about.

You can't control this or stop it, but you can work with it.


First, you have to let go of control. I learned this lesson the hard way when I tried to rebuild the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's Website back in the late 1990s. People had gone crazy with HTML and animated GIFs, and the Cabinet secretary wanted one person to be responsible for fixing it. Lucky me. My boss hired me to redo each and every page and expected every change to filter through me.


Needless to say, six months into the job, only a fraction of the site was redesigned and work was backed up, much to the resentment of division managers. Frankly, I was nothing more than a huge bottleneck.


Maybe this is why I sympathize with people who are "against" Enterprise 2.0 technology, but ultimately think they're need to get over it.


Second, let go of the idea that mistakes are some form of a natural disaster. The truth is, everybody -- even, God forbid I say it out loud, the Associated Press -- makes mistakes. So, expect mistakes. But don't sit back smugly, eagerly waiting for failure. Instead, help avoid them if you can and mitigate them when you can't.


I forget who advised it, but during a recent interview, one expert told me of a company that allowed each division to post its own information to a wiki platform intranet, but then had a board that reviewed the content.


Obviously, the review board pointed out problems -- broken links and such -- but after a while, it became a resource that the internal divisions sought out. They learned that by using the review board as an internal expert, they could avoid rework by doing it right the first time. This strikes me as much more effective than reviewing everything pre-publication or sending out memo after memo on standards.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Dec 21, 2007 11:32 AM Susan Scrupski Susan Scrupski  says:
Excellent post. Right on the money. Had a conversation today with an online blog "editor" along these lines... he agreed with me, and I think he was happier we had the conversation in the end. Part of what makes the 2.0 experience so fresh is its raw "reality." I guess the trust economy is predicated on participation by consumers and creators-- both imperfect, but intellectually honest. There is a difference. Reply
Jan 2, 2008 1:59 PM IT guy IT guy  says:
Brother...Yeah, information wants to be free. If there's no peer review, then I can publish anything. What confidence do I have that the information is accurate? We already see the damage to Wikipedia's credibility happening as we speak.Before you start flaming about "open review" by all readers, I would hasten to point out that the open-source model of support that relies on forum-type of postings is woefully inadequate for business needs, to say nothing of accountability and accuracy of steps taken with the posting.Common sense, folks...the mentality of this article is what's going to make information useless. We'll be drowning in information that is useless, or worse yet, dangerous. Want to bet your business operations or personal finances on the good will of someone else without proper oversight or review? Reply

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