This may come as a surprise to some of you, given my knowledge of all things selfie and twerking, but I'm no spring chicken. In fact, I hail from an older era of IT. Apparently, it was the epoch when IT was concerned only with mean, selfish things, like business functionality, keeping systems running and secure, and watching our budget.
Those evil days appear to be over according to a recent roundtable discussion between CEOs Phil Libin (Evernote), Aaron Levie (Box), Tom Preston-Werner (GitHub), and Dustin Moskovitz (Asana and co-founder of Facebook). According to these guys, IT isn't about keeping things running anymore -- it's about making users happy.
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The Wired article detailing this soft and fuzzy discussion didn't seem to mention where or why this roundtable took place, but it did state that the moderator was none other than Steven Sinofsky, the man whose high school voted him "Least Likely to Make Anyone Happy Ever, Especially Customers, Software Developers, or Steve Ballmer." Sinoksky is the perfect guy to moderate a discussion on user happiness and productivity, since he's the gentleman largely responsible for Windows Vista, a shining example of techno-joy that didn't at all give Steve Ballmer an ulcer or send him into therapy.
All the CEOs taking part in the roundtable head startups selling business software that "behaves like consumer software." They're saying that users are demanding the right to use not only the hardware they want, like iPhones, iPads, or Xboxes, but also whatever software they want. According to these guys, a business moving more of its workloads into the cloud is a trend that somehow directly correlates to users wanting snazzier, consumer-style business tools. What does that even mean? Angry Birds inventory? Facebook human resources? Twitter payroll?
Whether you get it or not, businesses should pay attention because, the wisdom goes, happier employees are more productive. Forget about all that back-end integration fiddle-faddle or any desktop support problems that might happen when the number of front ends doubles or triples. Users will be happy, and in the end, isn't that what truly matters? There's historical precedent for this, too.
According to moderator Sinofsky, this app revolution is exactly the same as what happened with PCs more than 30 years ago. In Sinofsky's world where the sky is green and the grass is blue, people started bringing their home PCs to work and thus began the PC revolution. That Lotus 1-2-3 killer app thing is an urban myth. For that convultion of cogitation, I think Sinofsky should head to China, Russia, any recent White House cabinet staff, or any place that rewards those who blatantly rewrite history.
Get thee to the cloud, with our without IT
I'm sure our CEO discussion group decided to politely ignore Sinofsky's historical outburst and go on about the benefits of letting users set IT policy. Since the apps that users want all seem to be in the cloud, according to Libin, Levie, Preston-Werner, and Moskovitz (a great name for a personal injury law firm, by the way), there really isn't a need for "traditional" IT anymore -- because every business can move everything into the cloud. Right now. Today. With no need to worry about up-time, compliance, or data security. Just trust all that to Windows Azure and go sailing.