Google shouldn’t corner the market as an agent of organization

We all know what Google does. So why don’t more users understand what IT departments are supposed to do?

If nothing else, the search engine firm managed to corner the market on a great mission statement. Rather than describe itself as a business that helps people find what they’re looking for online, Google has said it wants to “organize the world’s information.” There are probably a lot of other companies that wish they’d thought of that one, because it touches on so many areas of data, content and process management.

In a recent article on Harvard Business Publishing’s Discussion Leader Web site, Umair Haque uses Google’s mission statement as the jumping-off point for a more thoughtful exploration of business purpose. He forms this as “A Manifesto For The Next Industrial Revolution,” and suggests that growth is contained the inherent DNA of any organization. How that growth is channelled, though, is another matter.

“What happens when we think of using new DNA to reorganize structurally inefficient industries? A blueprint for the next industrial revolution emerges,” Haque writes. “Here’s what it looks like. Organize the world’s hunger. Organize the world’s energy. Organize the world’s thirst. Organize the world’s health. Organize the world’s freedom. Organize the world’s finance. Organize the world’s education.”

Haque stresses that this is not meant to be an exhaustive list but the beginning of a discussion among business leaders. “If you’re a corporate boardroom, and you’re not refocusing and restructuring to meet these new challenges – here’s the bottom line: the next industrial revolution has your name written all over it,” he says.

IT departments are only one component of a business, of course, but they are routinely characterized as (theoretically) a key enabler of growth. Therefore, technology becomes the tool by which a company would attempt one of Haque’s worldwide efforts at organization. The problem is that many firms, even if they had this kind of ambition, tend to identify it only as they evolve. Then turn to their CIOs and IT managers to figure out the means to make it happen from a resource and in some cases process/workflow perspective. If IT isn’t really prepared to enable the organizing, the company is bound to fail.

Maybe the real first step is for technology professionals to determine their own personal mission statement, based on the model in Haque’s manifesto. Though this could vary by industry, a common one based on the role should be possible. If Google is all about organizing the world’s information, for example, perhaps IT managers should think of themselves as responsible (at least collectively) or organizing the world’s knowledge. Too highfalutin? Maybe, but not if you’re an IT manager who really wants to get closer to the business, to understand it and drive it forward.

Take the opposite approach: There a lot of people for whom “management” is a four-letter word, something difficult to really define unless you’re doing it really badly. But people understand the difference between something that’s organized and disorganized. What if IT managers thought of themselves as IT organizers? It might sound a little too tactical and less strategic. But organization requires strategy, and helping people get quicker access to knowledge is a worthy goal of any individual or company. Technology professionals might want to consider it for a manifesto of their own.

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