Managing change within an organization has never been easy. Most corporations are akin to a luxury cruise ship: they don’t turn around easily, and when they are forced to, much time and patience are required.
It used to be that the ship never really needed to alter its course much at all. A successful company made its widgets, sold them, and kept steaming toward the port of profit.
Today’s corporation is faced with many more obstacles — and opportunities — that force change upon them. Among the obstacles is a more nimble set of competitors, thanks in part to technologies that have opened up new ways of conducting business and outmaneuvering rivals. Among the opportunities are the very same technologies that offer corporations the chance to steam out ahead of the fleet.
The management of these technologies presents the IT department with a paradox. Deploying them, educating users about them, and ensuring they are running effectively creates more overhead for IT staffers, putting one more responsibility on their already overflowing plates. But such technologies also present the IT department as a whole with an opportunity to move further into the waters that are the overall business. Increasingly, the types of software offerings that are enabling more change to take place are those that can also play a role in influencing the core strategies adopted at the executive level.
Take collaboration platforms, for example. Today, it is easier than ever to get various arms of a company interacting with one another, thanks to many of the Web 2.0-type applications that foster an increased transfer of ideas. Where in the past a meeting would have to be set up so that involved parties could bandy about their suggestions for company-wide change initiatives, today such banter can take place within the confines of an interactive interface. In effect, the technology does not merely allow for more proposals for change to be presented; it encourages them, simply because it’s so darn convenient and accessible.
One inherent danger that such software presents, however, is the increasing amount of time and effort that contributors end up expending on the collaboration process. In many cases, the time required to keep up with all the extra communication can severely eat into the time a person needs to carry out their core tasks. With technologies such as these being so closely linked to the acts of change within an organization, it naturally follows that those who know the most about their deployment and use — the IT department — will attain a more prominent voice in the setting of corporate strategies. With the art of change management becoming so closely tied to technology, IT can’t help but assume a bigger role in the act of setting strategy within their outfits.
This trend is yet another example of the IT department’s rise to a more strategic role. They are simultaneously helping to chart their firms’ courses and enabling the ship to move more easily. The times, they certainly are a-changin’.