I’m working on a article for a white paper at the moment, and there is a lot of talk in the rest of the content about technology having become democratized in recent years. I’ve been trying to put my finger on why that term sits uneasily with me, and think I’ve worked it out: democracy implies still having some form of leadership. For me the twin forces of consumerisation and commoditization seem to be leading us to an anarchization of technology.
Anarchy is a term that has become increasingly pejorative – it implies chaos, disorder, lawlessness if not law breaking. However, one meaning (and the one that encapsulates its etymology) is the absence of leaders. In a world where everyone can be the purchase decision maker for technology (software or hardware), central control and technology leadership may well break down. There’s no doubt that this in turn could lead to chaos (although it has to be said that the Internet seems to work quite well); but that chaos, within an organisation, could become crippling.
How do you control anarchy? Well, the first option is to stamp it out – but there are few organisations where that is a realistic possibility any more. Maybe instead the best approach longer term will be to try to shape and influence it, rather than imposing order from above. To that extent, a change in mind set towards IT management away from ownership, control and governance towards risk management and counsel.
Most legal departments within organisations don’t try to take ownership for every legal decision or contract that happens within their company – instead they offer training to those who are likely to be involved in legal matters (whether sales contracting, data protection or whatever else), and then provide counsel and an assessment of risk at times when non-experts in the business need it. Should such training and counsel be what an IT function should offer when technology anarchy seems to be an increasing mode of operation in our current and future world of work?