Defining Modern IT: The 21st Century CIO

Workplace anthropologist Thornton May has explored the evolving patterns in business today, especially as it pertains to language used. He has discovered that the word “modern” is used heavily across all disciplines—except IT. In an article for Forbes, May dives into why IT shuns the modern, and how the CIO can modernize it.

Yesterday’s Jam

Millenials entering into IT today are finding it to be like “a computer science museum.” A lot of businesses are seemingly comfortable with outdated IT as long as it is functional. May however wanted to build a consensus among CIOs and senior IT executives about what a truly “modern” IT outfit would look like. Interestingly, it was difficult to reach an agreement to that end, but opinions were very clear on what did not make for modern IT. For instance, there is this:

In the 1980s a mentor of mine created a caricature of the CIO persona named Garzog. Garzog had a stick – a baseball bat with a spike in the end. My mentor assured clients that Garzog actually represented the mindset of many CIOs he was interviewing at the time. The technology adoption issue of the day in the 80s was PCs.  Garzog would patrol the corridors of the workplace shouting, “You bring me the damn user that’s got a PC. I will crush their skull.” This aggressively non-user centric, “My Way or the Highway” approach to technology adoption is now unanimously considered non-modern IT behavior.

May finds that another non-modern IT behavior is simply hidden away in saying “No.” He gives an example of his friend Dan Lohrmann, who was the Chief Information Security Officer for the State of Michigan for 13 years, back when the school was contemplating placing Wi Fi in their conference rooms. Lorhmann collected all the research and decided Wi Fi was dangerous and should not be implemented. When he said as much to the CIO, Teri Takai, she told him that Dow, Ford, and Chrysler all used Wi Fi, and if he wanted to keep his job, he would go learn what those businesses had learned.

Thus, modern IT is all about saying yes. It is about looking at the pit ahead of you and building a bridge instead of turning back. You can read May’s full article here:

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