TweeksBI Ten: The white collar IT organization

Last week, my colleague Federico and I spent some good time with Forrester’s Analyst John McCarthy. From my perspective, John has a unique way of making you think, “OMG! The future is changing so fast!” John’s brain works at an accelerated rate, processing anecdotes and research data while he energetically delivers the message. We talked about one of his favorite topics: The perfect storm of technology change, and how the rate of change is only going to escalate.

We tried –and I choose my words carefully—to frame the conversation around the five key megatrends we’ve outlined: applications everywhere, the new bi-functional aspect of IT, consumerization of IT, digitization of businesses and the everything-as-a-service phenomenon. 

I think the image to the right epitomizes what we talked about. I took this photo while riding the NYC subway. It’s a billboard announcing 42 new apps geared to simplify the life of mSubway appsore than 8.2
million daily riders of New York’s public transit system.

These 42 apps are the result of the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (MTA) App Quest, a software development challenge that yielded apps for travel planning, locating entrances to subway stations, tracking buses in real-time, in addition to providing entertainment and featuring the artwork that decorates various stations in the subway system, which is plenty.

This was a very smart move by the city of New York, first because the MTA recognized that they have huge amounts of data at their disposal, and that this data can be very valuable for their users. They also acknowledged the pervasiveness of smartphone applications, especially in a city like New York. Furthermore, they knew enough to recognize the advantages of conducting a contest, and basically crowd-source their apps, versus embarking in an effort to developing them by themselves.

The software challenge had $15,000 dollars in prizes. That sum would have probably paid for a few weeks of a good project manager in NY, and that’s it, no programmers. Yet the resulting product was not only bigger in terms of number of applications, but probably much more creative and sophisticated.

You can see all the megatrends come into play in the MTA example:  Applications everywhere, even when you are underground. Technology-savvy consumers avid for contextualized information are pushing every organization, public or private, to ‘up’ its digital ante by not only enhancing the service they provide, but also by exploring new and creative ways to capture and use data. By creating Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that allow developers to access their data, the MTA has turned itself into an Information-as-a-Service provider. And to me, the most shocking, and probably the most overlooked aspect, is the role that MTA’s IT is playing. For this project, they moved from developers, to enablers; from technology owners to information brokers. They adopted a utility mindset and made the information available for others to make use of it, protecting the integrity, but not the availability of data; a real breakthrough innovation.

John McCarthy mentioned that within this new reality, the CIO has to make a fundamental shift from what has been a blue collar to a white collar IT organization, in which architecture, design and services orchestration will be quintessential for keeping up with the velocity of change. The MTA has a white collar IT organization.

TweeksBI=“This week’s Big Inspiration.” Concepts, ideas, trends and things that I find