The IT game re-defined

Flat budgets, fights over shadow IT and a zero cost assumption are all part of the IT game. But the rule book and the game are both in need of an urgent overhaul.

CIOs and IT leaders are masters of the IT game. Executives play the IT game so long as it was the only game in town and it suits their needs.  If you want to control IT cost, quality, services, enablement and control, then you are playing an IT game that worked for more than 30 years.   But the IT game is not a classic game like Monopoly or Clue.  It cannot pass the test of time.

  • It is time to change the IT game.
  • It is time to define a new game.
  • It is time to define a Technology game.

The current IT game is a stalemate characterised by Flat budgets, fights over shadow IT, concerns over control all based on a zero sum assumption that business wins require IT to lose. Consider the growth of business-initiated technologies, shadow IT, and consumerisation. All represent alternative games to the IT status quo.  Right now those activities and actions indicate demand for a new game.  So perhaps it is up to the CIO to give them exactly that a new game. This post outlines some thoughts on the shape of the technology game and your comments are welcome and necessary to define the future. 

Defining a new technology game 

Defining a game, per Jane McGonigal and others, requires finding new goals, rules, feedback systems and participation. Using this framework we can start to describe the dynamics of the technology game.

Defining a game means establishing a new context, goals, rules, feedback system and participation.  These factors, shown in the graphic below, give shape and support people lending their time, talent, information and inspiration to the game.  Most games have deterministic rules that drive to a simple outcome — getting around the board, doing the best job at playing a role, making good decisions or getting the most.  I believe a realistic “Technology Game” has to do more and therefore we need to look at all of the factors and their relationships.

What is the context for the technology game?

Every game has a subject or metaphor behind it.  The subject of the Technology Game – admittedly it needs a new name – is the incorporation of technology in an enterprise.  This is a little narrow in the sense that technology is also part of a number of other things, but we need a focus the discussion and since the IT game was enterprise centric let’s keep the enterprise at the heart of the technology game – for now.

What are the goals of the technology game? 

Every game has goals that define its purpose or the reason for people want to play.  In a business context, goals revolve around what defines success and the rational for people engaging in the game.  The goals of a technology game, one focused on incorporating technology in an enterprise could be:

  • Using technology to achieve enterprise strategic objectives
  • Using technology to support growth
  • Using technology to transform the customer experience
  • Using technology to create stakeholder and shareholder value

These are all rather pedestrian, but important in the context of an enterprise’s application of technology.   What is important is that these goals are externally focused rather than in the IT game, which is dominated by internal concerns and competition.

If I were to summarise these goals and present a challenge, I would like to suggest that the goal of the future “Technology Game” is

“Raising human ability and creating comprehensive value.”

This goal is broad and difficult to envision exactly how to achieve it.  Human ability refers to a focus on people, their potential, their energy, experience and capacity to contribute and benefit from that contribution.  Human ability is something that has been squeezed out of the IT game, where people are called users and the user experience is governed by getting people to do what the system needs them to do.  As one CIO put it “I am a human, nothing human should be foreign to me” but too often it is.  That must be part of the goals for any future technology game.  Too often it is not part of the IT game.

Human ability and comprehensive value are goals worth pursuing and learning more about, just like Monopoly teaches about managing money or Clue teaches deductive reasoning.  Prior posts discuss the notion of comprehensive value and it’s something that future technologies must enable to build a broadly sustainable and positive society.

What do you think?

This is the first of a series of posts that look to discuss the different aspects of a “Technology Game” that replaces the current “IT Game” played by most enterprises.  That “IT Game” with its focus on cost, quality, services and control is losing its relevance, falling into stalemate in the face of dynamic business demands and digital technology.

It is time for a new game as the current IT game is becoming a little like tic-tack-toe where experienced players realise that the game ends in a stalemate. Let’s define this game together and in the process establish the context, goals, rules, feedback and participation required for success in the coming digital decade.

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