IT versus the in-flight magazine

Why do business execs get excited about the latest trendy tech they read about? Because IT remains silent

We all know the story: An exec takes a flight to visit a customer, picks up the in-flight magazine during takeoff before they're allowed to use their laptop or tablet, and reads an article suggesting a new wave in technology businesses must jump on. You get an email as the plane lands or a visit to your office when the exec is back in town asking about IT's strategy for that must-do technology trend.

Sigh. "Here we go again, thanks to those darned magazine writers!" you exclaim (silently if the exec is in the room).

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But why do your execs rely on unknown writers in throwaway magazines? Maybe it's your fault as an IT pro. If you don't provide technology leadership, such publications are all they have to rely on, especially since business titles such as the Harvard Business Review -- the other sort of periodicals your execs read -- don't get into technology. Business executives aren't going to read InfoWorld, Network World, or any other deep-tech website or magazine.

It's either you or the in-flight magazines. It should be you. But if you're not already doing it -- and most of you are not -- how do you change that reality?

What the absence of technology leadership looks like

Start by understanding what the absence of this technology leadershop looks like. To do that, think back to the mid-1990s. (If you're among those for whom the mid-1990s more closely resemble history than current events, just read on and take my word for it.) Back then, travel agencies were a significant force. Most business travelers relied on them or their in-house equivalents to help plan all but the simplest trips and to arrange the majority of their flight, hotel, and car rental reservations.

These travel agencies had one characteristic in common: None were named Travelocity, Expedia, or Orbitz. And few exist today. Were someone to thoroughly research the history of an entire industry's immense failure , I'm sure they'd nail down quite a few factors that led to its demise. Here's one: Their CIOs and IT leaders were doing exactly what they thought they were supposed to do. They were:

  • Being "business-driven"
  • Taking care of their internal customers
  • Making sure IT didn't even hint at promoting technology for technology's sake

That is, they were making sure they provided no technology leadership of any kind.

It isn't as if travel agencies had no time to get ahead of the trend. They did -- not much, but some. By 1995, it was clear the Web was going to be a very big deal, and Sabre didn't launch Travelocity until 1997.

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