With a little conscious deliberation, the next book I decided to read after The Phoenix Project was Get Out of I.T. While You Can. I guess the first clue about this book should have been that there is no description of the book on amazon, only bite size snippets of praise(aka name drops). It’s a very quick read at about ~100 pages of actual content. The first half of the book is fairly decent, but quickly devolves into strategies for advancing your career instead of advancing your organization. The message that I most deeply associated with from The Phoenix Project, that of taking an Outside-In approach to IT, is supposed to be the central theme of this book.
It’s a concept that IT has struggled with, IMHO. Often people with a background in IT rely on their technological skills, their intelligence, their ability to understand a facet of our digital world that many struggle with. When at a social engagement and asked what they do the response is typically “I’m in IT.”
Unfortunately that answer is wrong. It’s holding both the individual and the organization back. The person who says “I’m in IT.” doesn’t identify with their org, they identify with technology. Now don’t get me wrong I can’t think of anyone I’ve interacted with in this field who doesn’t like to geek out on some widget, BUT if their primary priority isn’t the success and growth of their organization, then they are missing opportunities.
My friend Scot Barker (@sbarker) is someone whom I’ve gone to on multiple occasions for advice and guidance. As providence should have it he recently relayed his experiences about exercising this concept in a very eloquent fashion. He relays the story of how engineers at at a company he worked for “.. spent 2-3 months, on-site at the customer, learning nothing about engineering or how the products were built. Nope, they learned how to do the job the customer does every day.” Through this experience “They always had customer input on what was needed and how a certain feature needed to work” and therefore hit what should be the #1 priority of the organization: solve the problems of our customers and make their lives better.
Now this is not an easy task for many classical IT folks. Disruption is the industry term dujour these days, and it applies not just to software or industries, but also to IT. Those who can accept that IT needs to evolve past a traditional rack and stack, keep the lights on mentality will find themselves furthering themselves and their organizations. Taking an Outside-In approach is a critical foundational element to being successful on this journey. Only by knowing where your Organization has been, where it is going and what it’s aspirations are, can you be most valuable.
As I mentioned before it’s not an easy path to walk, but once you’re on it I think you’ll find it to be rewarding. I know I have. If you have thoughts or stories to relay on this topic, I’d love to hear from you.