As Nick Carr predicted in The Big Switch, some of our most familiar career paths are being rendered obsolete by technology: the IT manager is one who may have little more to do than doodle on post-it notes in the office of the future.
Currently, the IT department is a powerful gatekeeper. When I was doing the research for Monkeys with Typewriters (and increasingly since), the IT department was all too often cited as a major stumbling block when it came to introducing new, social technologies across the workplace. As one senior civil servant bluntly (and grumpily) put it,
“The IT department’s agenda is to fulfil their aims. It's not to support us in our aims. So if you ask can I do this or not, if I take this route it would be a lot of work for them. The best route is no work for them at all so they would choose no. Always choose no.”
But as we know, the walls are coming down. And, once the impact of the digitally-literate generation taken hold, there’s more chance we’ll get the social organisations we strive for. Smart employers will see this change coming, and embrace it:
“To maximise efficiency among tech savvy workers,” says trend forecaster William Higham, “companies will need to adopt new working practices. Restrictions on personal technology use will need to be reassessed. So too will the current practice of relying on traditional IT departments for input on new technology resources, as knowledge is democratised across departments by the experience of personal use.”
Tom Standage, The Economist’s Digital Editor, makes a similar point when talking specifically about social media: “People who are entering the workforce now think that this is how software works. Some managers talk about Facebook and other [social] networks as being time wasters, but in fact the opposite is true. This is the way that software is increasingly going to look, and that will impact on the way companies are run, because when you have a general discussion about things on a Facebook “wall”, you tend to get much less email and much less wasted time.”
So, time to stop restricting your employees in their use of social media, and start seeing it as a training investment.
Photo: Amarand Agasi