Next-gen IT starts with you

No matter what your job is within IT, it's up to you to either move the organization forward, or scuttle it

"I'm a help desk analyst, not a manager. What does all this next-generation IT stuff have to do with me?"

I hear this or some other version of, "Don't bother me with all of this big-picture, strategic, contextual stuff. I can't do anything about it," quite often. It would be an entirely valid objection, except that (1) you can do something about it -- for example, scuttling the whole program -- and (2) an important part of next-gen IT is built into most IT jobs.

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First, some reassurance: All the stuff you read that says IT has to be about the business, not about technology, is a tiresome false dichotomy. IT is about the business, by way of technology.

Don't fall for the false dichotomy and assume you have to choose one or the other. If you do, you'll help scuttle the program. Next-gen IT is all about collaboration between IT and everyone else in the business. If you have no interest in the rest of the business, you'll be processing work orders, not collaborating. If you have no technical chops, you won't add anything to the conversation. Either way, you've helped to scuttle the program.

But if you're interested in the business and how IT can be part of its success, you'll move the program forward.

Built-into-the-job example No. 1: The next-gen help desk

You're a help desk analyst? That means you're on the front lines of making next-gen IT happen. The business/IT relationship is the fundamental underpinning of everything needed for establishing collaboration as IT's primary way of working with everyone in the company.

Because the help desk has more day-to-day contact with everyone in the company than any other part of IT, it has a disproportionate impact on the quality of the relationship between IT and the business, right down at the one-on-one level where it has the most cultural influence.

If the folks you help trust you, they'll be far more willing to and interested in collaborating with your colleagues. You've moved things forward. If they don't trust you and don't consider you a peer with whom they collaborate informally whenever either of you need to work together, you've helped scuttled the program.

Built-into-the-job example No. 2: Agile development

The usual phrase is "unless you've been living in a cave," but with agile the proper one is "even if you've been living in a cave, by now you know about agile, and probably use it to put your paintings on the wall."

Agile development is still controversial in some circles. This is unfortunate -- when getting the user interface right is a major driver of overall project complexity, agile is just the ticket. While the name "agile" was a good choice from a marketing perspective, had the folks who chose it wanted something that described it best rather than selling it best, they probably should have called it "collaborative development."

Agile depends on three core team habits: incrementalism, iteration, and collaboration. Incrementalism means building a big system by adding small pieces, one at a time, to an irreducible core. Iteration means not trying to get each piece right the first try, instead homing in on perfection through feedback loops.

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