It takes two to tango: Why IT will strike back.


The phrase of ‘power to the people’ and ‘you don’t need to deal with IT’ always sends chills down my spine about the implied ignorance and misconception of how enterprise function. And the stupidity of these startups / companies in believing, that they are oh so clever. I have three word for you: Firewalls. Data Mining. Come to think about it, it could hurt Google Search as well.

So this is a must read especially for any startup who tries to get customers from the enterprise, but also for everybody else: Google Sites the Next Sharepoint? Maybe Not….Why Google Apps Could Lose the Enterprise Market.

Oh heck, for the ones not willing to read through, just this is enough to say no to Google apps in the enterprise for anything:

By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive licence to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.

And because normal users, like little children, more often than not have no clue what they are doing, nor what is good for them, IT has to take this role and make it work. Because while in part it of course is about power structure and control, it is so much more about running a business.

And sadly, the level of knowledge regarding IT even in top management is frightening (which in reality is not about IT but way more about processes, structure and such). If your business runs on ‘high tech’, you need to understand the principles of it and be able work with them, period.

The article has many valid points, but I’ like to pick this one for a comment:

A previous WSJ article also reported Dave Girouard, who runs Google’s enterprise unit, as saying this about what his company is doing: “We’re wrestling over who should have ultimate authority of the technology people use in the workplace. There’s no right or wrong answer so we have to respect everyone’s view.”

Let’s read between the lines of that last statement…Google doesn’t think IT should have the ultimate authority about the tools people use to do their jobs. There’s “power to the people,” (tech populism) and then there’s a total coup-d’etat. Google’s opting for the latter.

Network World agrees: “By killing the admin function, Google is trying to change the culture of software usage – the power structure, if you will. Taken to extremes, such a structure means that no longer will IT be the law enforcement officers of policy.”

Yes, I have worked in such an global IT department and guess what: Most of my jobs incorporated saying no to stupid requests from people who did not know better. Plus saying no to a few people who had a good idea, but it did not fit in the overall strategy. Plus saying no to even fewer people because the enterprise was not there yet. And I did not even work at the level of where the “do you know who I am” came into place.

Given, Google Apps are already far better integrated than anything else, and really suited for some companies of smaller sizes (if they do not care about the TOS), but in regards of enterprise it lacks so much functionality and integration.

Functionality set aside, I think Google is betting on the fact that they are big enough, and trustworthy enough to sneak their ways into the enterprise and then take over while developing. Because if many users do use it in a company, a corporation may say “oh what the heck, let’s just switch, they use it anyhow”.

Which will not happen. Because all IT has to do is print out the above TOS, go to the highest level, show some reports about people accessing Google Services (see data mining, easily done) and get an permission to shut down access at once. In the firewalls. By hard rules. And if necessary to all of google, including search.

It takes two to tango. So far, IT may still be leaning towards google’s “we do no evil.” But you should not underestimate the power IT really has.

On the flipside – and this is where you should read the comments to the article on ReadWriteWeb – all IT I talked to is swamped with one thing which is NOT their job: defining the business strategy in regards to processes. As I add as a comment on another commenter:

“The way I see it, if IT departments were doing their jobs (and some are) there would be no need to be having this discussion.”

For that users would need to be able to grasp, understand and work up the requirements in a way they can be incorporated and so that it functions and is suitable to the business.

In an ideal world, executives and their teams would be able to envision a strategy, structure processes, and then let them be implemented.

As sadly this job usually also falls into the hands of IT but is seldom budgeted to do that as well, they ARE doing their jobs – but we have this discussion because they are doing somebody elses job.

Back in the days there seems to have been somebody responsible for basically ‘organizing processes’. When I started working in 91, there still was the idea of this: somebody from a department would work with a third party to clarify processes and structure, then IT would come on board and deploy this.

Today, IT has the job of everything and that is not how it should be.

  • figuring out what the hell the department wants
  • translate that into structure / processes
  • adapt this to be working with current global strategy
  • get the budget (reminder: budgets are done at least a year before, years before for long term projects …)
  • build up man power if necessary to get things done
  • structure, develop, deploy

This simple list does not include all the runs with all kind of levels throwing a tantrums, the need for education on so many levels.

Being behind, perceived by the users of not doing their jobs, being swamped with other request, IT has no choice but to act like this with hard cuts and rules.

External companies small and big trying to sneak in and bypass IT will piss them off. Which is not necessary, because you CAN work with IT easily. And you should, because they will get you sooner or later.

Because working in IT means developing fine senses for even the smallest remarks of your users, seeing the pattern and connecting the dots.


6 Responses to “It takes two to tango: Why IT will strike back.”

  1. “Because working in IT means developing fine senses for even the smallest remarks of your users, seeing the pattern and connecting the dots.”

    And this is exactly what most people of an IT staff just can’t do.
    I’m currently in an internship with one of the largest internet retailes in the world and work as a kind of interface between users and IT.
    If there wasn’t an interface like this, communication would be much harder.

    IMHO, there needs to be an interpreter from IT talk to the user’language and the other way round.

  2. Andriy Tymchenko says:

    Apart from IT, there will be corporate security – those guys have very simple and explanatory language for business “what and how you will loose as soon as your corporate data gone to 3rd party”. And yes, IT will be more than happy to send circulated email with something like “you are STRICTLY PROHIBITED in any way to use Google Apps at work. period”

    Google Apps may find its way into hearts of sole tradesmen (single & family business) but those pay dearly for their mistakes – they just go busted as soon as someone else figures out from their (now publicly available on search) data. And that John from his own buttershop on corner has no clue how Google Apps works, so… Lets see it “in real life”.

  3. Nicole says:

    Stefan I disagree with you. It is job of IT to a certain level to understand the biz side as much as it is responsibility of the biz side to a certain degree to understand how their IT works. Meaning on a strategic / conceptual level, not the details.

    We do need such interpreters because both sides have problems with it – mind you my own education is exactly that bridge between the both worlds. As a result, the stronger invested partner in this (which is IT) has to be more sensible when in fact the biz side should be trained.

    Take a closer look at probably how few people on the biz side of your internship are capable of understanding basic processes of IT – which is a very dark discovery because biz processes are not structured that different.

    @Andriy: Exactly. Sadly there is no way to build up on common sense and understanding, in many cases being so strict and absolut is the only way to go. Biz and IT should be treating each other like adults. If It can learn to only buy gadgets when they are budgeted and necessary, the biz side should be able to do similar the other way round. ;)

  4. Stefan says:


    Sure, there are people that understand both sides, people that have studied IT & Economics for example.

    But there are still some IT staff that just don’t get how users think.
    Consider the whole usability issue for example.
    If IT would know how users work and think they could get the usability job done beforehand.
    But no – there’s a whole new sector of information architects and UX Engineers…

    Maybe I’m just too narrow-minded my self, but my impression is that lots of ‘pure’ IT staff don’t really think out of the box.
    I’m not as experienced as you are though :-)

  5. Nicole says:

    Stefan, there is no doubt that both sides have absolute morons and clueless people! :) The point I am insisting on is that – taking your example – it is not the job of biz side to understand UX and information architecture to a level that they are comparable with the specialists. But they have to understand the basics and the concepts in order to manage conversation and projects.

    Plus there is a lot of pure IT stuff which for example runs the network infrastructure – usually if you are good at that, chances that you are good at UX are slim. And that is fine. To a certain degree you may prove to have enough out of the box thinking and such to move up ranks.

    And as well as a normal administrative staff member does not need to understand the whole IT infrastructure nor the processes (they shall just do the work someone else has thought out for them) does the normal geek need to understand the biz side.

    On higher ranks though it is mandantory. ;)

  6. Ken Stewart says:

    Nicole, great article… I am working on a multi-part piece for my blog, specifically geared around Microsoft and the enterprise, but as we all know one of the common threads in any of these types of discussions is Google…

    Your style is to the point and revealing – to your namesake ( I think I will become a subscriber and read through some more articles…