Then You Get the Power

cubicle.jpgI guess the Office 2.0 Conference made this relevant last week, but I noticed several articles that kicked IT in the teeth for holding back the inevitable advance of new web into the enterprise, i.e. Web 2.0 transforming into Enterprise 2.0.

Chris Anderson of “the long tail” fame and Computer World each had pieces on how IT is slowing the spread of new web goodness, or more specifically, the policies of IT.

The funny thing about blaming IT for stunting 2.0 growth is that the people in IT are probably among the most voracious consumers of new web technologies. In my experience, most IT people are hardcore geeks because they love it, and oh by the way, it also happens to pay the rent. Who better to spearhead the safe acceptance of new web inside the walls of the enterprise?

However, the policies of IT come from on high, IT has to err on the side of security, everyone’s too busy doing other things, etc. This is why myopic bans are common. It’s just so easy. Plus, it must feel nice to exercise that power.

Our experience with Connect and IdeaFactory has given me a first-hand education in who, or rather what, is to blame for holding back new web. It’s not IT or any other policy enforcing organization. It’s office politics, which means it’s power.

Although IT is often the culprit to blame for myopic bans on 2.0 technologies, our IT has been very helpful and has embraced what we are doing. For example, we were not initially in compliance with authentication security measures for internal applications. Rather than shut Connect down before it got started, the global security team offered to help bring us into compliance.

Our experience with other internal policy-enforcing organizations has been similar, including Legal and HR. These teams have not all been excited about what we’re doing, but they have been at least supportive enough to help us understand what it takes to succeed. My assertion will be tested this week though, since on Friday, we got a cease and desist type notice from branding about our logos. Let’s hope we can work with them as successfully as we’ve worked the other teams.

The strongest force acting against us internally has been other teams within the company. When we put up a flag in April that we were working on Web 2.0 stuff, teams came out of the woodwork to tell us they too were working on Web 2.0. Web 2.0 is one of those hot topics, which is why I found yesterday’s Dilbert so funny.

Most of these other teams wanted to know how what we were doing and how we could work together. We probably met a dozen or so teams in the first month after we started AppsLab. Then we released the IdeaFactory and Connect, and things got interesting.

One team has actively tried to shut us down for political reasons, i.e. the perception that Connect overlaps an area they own. This is an extreme case, but it’s not uncommon to hear that this or that team already has this responsibility or this or that product is the same or similar. Translation, you better have the political clout to take on xyz product team.

Office politics bore me, and the perception of power based on direct reports or products is laughable to me. At the end of the day, we all go home (figuratively speaking); do you think the guy working the register at the grocery store cares how many people work for you? Please say no.

From the beginning,we’ve followed the “asking for permission is always harder than asking for forgiveness” model. So, had we obtained all the approvals and shaken all the right hands before launching Connect and IdeaFactory, where do you think we’d be right now?

Back at our old jobs.



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