Blog: What's in a Name... Or, Should IT Go Back Where It Belongs?

Blog: What's in a Name... Or, Should IT Go Back Where It Belongs?

I'm beginning a new venture today - a blog. It's not that I've never posted anything before, but those sporadic posts were the equivalent of me standing on the bank of the river, tossing a few sticks into the current to see where they'd end up - if they'd get swept into the main flow or snag on the rest of the flotsam cluttering up the stream. I didn't care a whole lot about the fate of the sticks. This has been a completely insufficient way to become part of the many interesting conversations taking place - about stuff I care a lot about -- or to learn how communication itself is changing. So I figure I'd better just go ahead and commit to full-body immersion, even though I'm not exactly sure where I'll end up or what lies beneath.

The Focus of My Blog

The conversations I want to get engaged in have to do with how technology is changing business (and other types of organizations), and what that means for decision-making around and management of IT. I will report on interesting new applications of technology and the people behind them; I'll also, no doubt, engage in more general discussions of what are and aren't effective means of achieving real value from IT.

But I've been getting hung up this morning thinking about names.

Business Technology

Forrester Research has been pushing the idea of a shift from "information technology" to "business technology." They describe business technology as "pervasive technology use that boosts business results." Funny, I thought that was pretty much the path we've been on since IT stopped being MIS. While I agree that technology has become more pervasive, and the value shift from cost savings to top-line growth has certainly been gathering momentum, I don't see why that means we need to change the name.

Note: CIO Magazine changed its tagline two years ago to Business Technology Leadership as an acknowledgment of these shifts and the increasingly central role played by IT -- not as a suggestion that there's anything wrong with the moniker.

Forrester also says that "through capabilities like software-as-a-service, BPO, outsourcing and Web 2.0, business organizations are enabled to make their own way with technology." Presumably without the help of IT or a CIO. That should make the IT folks sit up and take notice!

Forrester's not the only voice singing this song. In a post titled, Is Web 2.0 Business Peoples' Revenge for SOA? FASTForward blogger Joe McKendrick quotes ZDNet's Phil Wainewright as saying about IT professionals: "They've turned SOA into a huge infrastructure project that takes years to come to fruition, and in the meantime, the business people don't get much of a look at what's going on. In a way, Web 2.0 is the business peoples' revenge."

It's not hard to see their point. If businesspeople think they can get what they need by picking up a few widgets, why wouldn't they get impatient with a massive infrastructure project that's going to cost a lot of money and take a lot of time before they get what they want?

Still, the fact that regular Joes like the VP of sales can now go and sign up with doesn't warrant changing what the technology is called. If what we're talking about is still technology to help businesses gather, leverage and exploit information, then it doesn't matter who's doing the spec'ing or the negotiating - it's still information technology.

has some pretty interesting data around technology selection, purchase and management. In a survey of 186 global business executives, 25% said they were either completely responsible (6%) or at least more responsible than IT (19%) for directly negotiating with and/or directly managing solution vendors. And another 23% said they were either completely responsible (7%) or more responsible than IT (16%) for directly selecting vendor-offered solutions. The numbers for sales and marketing technology were even higher. Something different there.

Maybe I'm getting too distracted by the nomenclature. Whatever you call it, Forrester's done some interesting work around what's happening and what it means for technology management. I spoke with Forrester's Bobby Cameron the other day. Cameron's the co-author, with Laurie Orlov, of the May 2007 Forrester report "Business Technology Defined." He's a smart, thoughtful, down-to-earth guy, and he's pretty jazzed about this business technology thing.

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