Last week I was in a workshop with a number of new consultants starting with our practice, a good number of them fresh out of college. The enthusiasm and energy of these new entrants into the workforce were quite infectious, and it reminded me that beyond the attainment of success against all the day-to-day challenges of delivering complex solutions there is something else that attracts us to this line of work. Perhaps it is a greater sense of fulfillment, perhaps it is just the satisfaction that comes with enabling new or renewed processes contributing to the value proposition at hand. There was one other thing that struck me. This group of individuals took to the notion of process primacy and grasped the basics of Enterprise SOA so much more easily than some seasoned professionals I have had to work with in the past. This phenomenon is not something unusual but it was really interesting to see it unfolding right before my eyes.
We used an innovative (what else?) non-technology hands-on exercise to illustrate key points and it hit home quite well. Also, this group clearly identified with the “iPhone phenomenon” so much more clearly that to them it was perhaps somewhat surprising that we needed to discuss it! They are living the ongoing revolution in the technology world and perhaps wonder what the fuss is all about! Perhaps it was a surprise to them that the real world, from an enterprise standpoint, was still in the process of making the transition to a more people-centric technology model and there were still miles to go. They probably wondered, “Okay, it might be too much to expect the business world to work like Second Life or have Facebook-like applications, but is the real world really that different?” I am confident that many organizations are experiencing this; new entrants into the workforce anywhere will tend to belong to this emerging group that expects technology to bend to its needs.
As businesses cater to these changes around them, and as IT reinvents itself (see my March 16, 2008 post, “Café Innovation – SOA and the new role of IT“), we will find the enterprise experience to be more people-centric than it has ever been. These new entrants into the workforce will provide the accelerator effect in making this happen. Understanding that a process can be accomplished in different creative ways, and making this happen, will come naturally to them, for they do it in their personal lives without even thinking about it. The challenge lies elsewhere.
Individuals who have grown up with mainframes or even PCs have a very different way of relating to technology in the enterprise. As they would look upon any other significant change, they ask a number of questions about morphing to a people-centric approach. They question, “Why do we need this?,” or, “Why is this important?” It often becomes an exercise in futility to justify the need to morph before your competition does. Does this mean that these individuals are obstacles in the path of progress? No, that would be a hasty and erroneous conclusion to draw. They are cautious because that is how they have been conditioned to behave when faced with change. It is this conditioning that needs to be impacted.
The mindset that has for decades been trained to look at IT-based processing of day-to-day transactions and routine information needs will now have to accept that the role of IT must change. The traditional IT folks will need to grasp what the dominance of people-centric technology will mean to the future of the enterprise. Starting with key leadership initiatives within the enterprise, significant change management initiatives will have to be put in place. This should not be taken lightly. It is important that the incoming workforce mesh well with the established and seasoned professionals. So the mindset, in this context, that the newcomers bring with them will need to be established for their senior colleagues by helping them to reshape their existing mindset. Organizational harmony, and ultimately the success of the enterprise could depend on how well this is addressed, for this will be important in driving to achieve primacy for business processes and eventually success with SOA.
Does your organization recognize that the world is changing around them? Does your leadership have a clear approach to promote the right mindset? What are some of the steps your enterprise is taking to address this?