Casper’s second law of enterprise is:
If the very first thing you would do after turning off all the computers is to turn them back on again, you are an IT organization.
If you walked into a school and turned off all the computers, there is a very good chance (depending on the school of course) that the school could continue to function without turning the computers back on. Teachers could teach, students could learn, and the computers could remain idle. A school is not an IT organization.
If you walked into an bank and turned off all the computers, I guarantee that no business could be done until those computers were turned back on. Because banks deal largely with intangible representations of money that are defined entirely as business logic inside a piece of software. Without that software, and the computers running it, that money ceases to exist (or at the very least can't be assigned to anyone). A bank is an example of an IT organization.
So why is this important? Every company has things they can’t function without, and it seems obvious that in this day and age computers are just one of those things. But identifying an IT organization is less about the risk associated with a lightning strike that takes out all the computers, and more about the risk of letting Old Economy Steve dictate the IT policy of an organization with a customer base literally killing themselves for the best Instragram account.
This is an age in which everyone, from one man startups to billion dollar enterprises, is defined by the ease by which they expose their services to customers through a 4 inch touch screen. IT organizations (and their competition) are extremely well placed to deliver this electronic experience.
Who wants to pick up the phone and and contact a call center when they could complete the transaction with a few swipes? Who wants to visit a store when you can compare, customise, pay for and deliver a product from the comfort of their own home? Who wants to fill out and physically post a form when it can be done in half the time online?
Increasingly, the answer is no one.
So what is the cost to an organization that doesn’t understand it is an IT organization?
If you ask your IT organization “can we please get our work emails on our phones?,” the answer should be an enthusiastic “Yes, of course, because if we can’t deliver a commodity IT service like email to our own employees’ mobiles, what hope do we have of providing our custom business processes to our customers’ mobiles?” Or if you ask “Can we please have access to Facebook at work,” the answer should also be an enthusiastic “Yes, because it is more important to us that our employees are intimately familiar with a form of communication that our customers take for granted than it is to control the browsing habits of a few disengaged employees.”
If the answer to these kinds of questions in any IT organization is “No, that’s not how we do things,” you need to sound the alarm. No, really, get a megaphone, head to the top floor offices and start the kind of one person riot that will put you on the 5 o’clock news. Because to those who have never been dumped via a Facebook relationship status change, or have have never once pinned their sense of self worth on the number of likes that cute photo of their dog got, “that’s not how we do things” can seem like a sensible response.
In reality, this response is anything but sensible.
Identifying IT organizations is the first step in cultivating a mindset that will result in the kind of electronic customer experience that people are already taking for granted. Remember, it is not a question of whether the service you provide will be delivered as part of a slick mobile app or seamless web experience. It’s only a question of whether it will be you or your competition delivering it.