Is I.T forgetting the Why? in favour of the What

My last post was a very raw comparison between how Apple approach their ‘IT Store’ and how the typical everyday IT organization should be thinking about their store.

The idea that Apple have nailed the ‘consumerization’ of their devices and services to their customer base is really ringing bells with me in the context of the IT organization as I experience their journeys to a better place through the use of the current wealth of opportunities and choice – Cloud, more cloud, BYOD, social networks, big data, small data and so on.

Of course in my high street analogy I made a claim that without question Apple have mastered the art of being successful. In turn this means they are at the far right of the Maturity curve out there.Their software and engineering lifecycle has such rigour and control that they cannot help produce good, better and best technology. Perhaps they go through blips as all successful organisations do when leading paradigm shifts but they seem to have the knack of being even more successful. Their mantra is simplistically and beautifully built on the fact that they understand Why they do things.

Take a look at this excellent and thought provoking TED video by Simon Stinek which captures why Apple succeeds more than other companies with the same capability to produce great computers and products. Simon totally captures the difference when you approach things with WHY first as opposed to WHAT. A lesson we can all remind ourselves I feel.

Now think about the IT organization in the context of WHY.

Apple  want to inspire their customers to be entertained, fulfilled and happy ( Why ) . They build amazing software and hardware products and offer great services ( How ) and they sell you what you need. ( What ). Apple have become successful because they understand Why they do things. They do this because they do not want to be another computer company. They want to inspire their customers.

The Apple store embraces the Why. From the logo of an Apple, to the clean slick white facade and the welcoming openess of their store you can almost touch the Why. As a result your experience of the How and What is almost rolled into the same experience. Apple knew this of course. Its WHY they do it this way. They are appealing to our limbic nodes and attracting our emotions, feelings and ultimately loyalty.

Great IT organizations are the ones with the ‘shop’ or more accurately the same thinking as Apple.  Or more importantly the Why. They know why the do things the way they do and build great IT services as a result.

These are the ones that understand that their IT service must be something their customers want to buy because they understand why the IT organization does how they do it and what they do.  Their leaders are in tune  with ( and drive ) the business agenda. They understand why their organization is in business and how they make money. They translate success into their IT model and how they deliver service. Decisions like mobile devices, tablets, cloud, BYOD etc are made against a backdrop of Why and are therefore consistent and mature.

On the flip the IT organization that is insulated and disjointed from the business or locked in a Back Office mentality of fixing fires and reacting to incidents are firmly a What How Why. They provide WHAT they think the organization needs, they do it HOW they think fit and they wonder WHY no one is happy and empowered. They firmly believe that their decisions on VDI, cloud, storage, networking, printing etc are correct and it is the ‘fault’ of the business that problems arise and service is not good enough. These are the guys who appear to have all the ingredients that everyone else has but consistently fail to deliver.

It is a sobering thought when considering all the nooks and crannies of technological change facing the IT organization today and in the future.

After all we all know WHAT we do. Run an IT service. Manage budgets. Design solutions. Sell services. Run datacenters. Build clouds. Virtualise servers. Deploy applications. Fix issues. We have job titles that clearly explain what we do – IT Director, Business Analysts, Security Officer, Service Desk Manager.

Some of us know HOW we do it. Processes, structures, value propositions, framwworks ( ITIL. TOGAF) and service catalogues.

Few of us ( in IT organizations ) appear to know WHY.



2 thoughts on “Is I.T forgetting the Why? in favour of the What

  1. thomas says:

    You only have to look at Kodak to see the Why effect in action. They had 15 years to get it right. And failed. Sobering eh?

  2. brummieruss says:

    Its hard asking Why but when you do – its very rewarding.

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