by Gary Beach

Large IT Shops Branded “Regressive” and “Poisonous”

Jun 14, 20074 mins
IT Leadership

So said Walter Mossberg, Personal Technology columnist, for The Wall Street Journal in a speech to 250 university presidents. Mr. Mossberg claims IT departments at large firms are “the most regressive and poisonous force in technology today”.

Ok, some might say Walt said that after the Journal’s IT department tried to reel in the most influential personal tech pundit in the country. And on stage Mr. Mossberg did share with the audience a vignette where the IT folk tried unsucccessfully to get this PC guru to make a thin client desktop his workplace computing device

When I first heard of this story earlier today I set out to gather reaction/opinion from CIOs expecting fully to see Mr. Mossberg villified unmercifully by IT execs.

But my assumption was wrong.

What I found was a slight majority of opinion that labeled Mr. Mossberg as a “device junkie living in another world” to be ignored by CIOs. That was no surprise.

What was a surprise was the balanced reception Mr. Mossberg’s comments received on the net.

One frothed up CIO framed the bifocal reaction to the “regressive/poisionous” comments this way: “as much as reading these comments makes my forehead red, if we think Mr. Mossberg is completely off base with this assessment we are kidding ourselves”.

Without putting words into Mr. Mossberg’s mouth, one comment from an exec in the audience who questioned Mr. Mossberg after this speech was put this way: what Mossberg seemed to be saying was this: do I (as a CIO) create an infrastructure that encourages the self-enabled, free-to-download, creative-minded user (GB: like many of the twentysomethings entering your workforce everyday) or do I put my employees behind a locked-down, generic, highly secure envirnoment run by central IT which with comfortable with a single-vendor, single-product approach to tech provisioning?

The voice of reason seemed to thread its way through the posts. Attempting to cool down tech execs with veins popping out of their necks, one wrote,  “I think Mr. Mossberg is way off, but he is not entirely wrong either.”

Many wrote that Mr. Mossberg had no practical sense of the constraints driven world of the CIO.

But I  found the following comment right on the mark. It was the opinion of this exec that Mr. Mossberg seemed to be challenging the

CIO. He wrote, “the point of Mr. Mossberg’s comments appear to have been lost on most IT professionals. The fact that current (regressive) practices are a ‘response’ to budget, market and tech constraints does nothing to diffuse the claim (made by Mr. Mossberg, Mr. Carr and others) that the resulting regressive policies stifle advances in IT and the overall use of technology”.

Sprinkling fairy dust on budget, market and tech constraints ain’t going to help the situation. New thinking might.

While most talked about technology in the posts, one CIO pointed the cause of regression and poison in another direction: having to deal with people.

“All seem to be ignoring the biggest problem”, she writes, “the users. Making IT infrastructure work for the extraordinarly literate users (and hackers fall into that category along with gifted programmers), all the way down to the ‘we need an easy button’ crowd is impossible”.

My favorite post, however, came from one exec, recapping how Mr. Mossberg held up the new Apple, Inc. iPhone in his speech, said “Enjoy your new iPhone Mr. Mossberg. Where did all that music come from anyway? O yeah – a central, finite music library in a specific format, from a specific company that charges you a fee (per download). This is some forward, non-poisonous thinking for you.”

Ah, don’t you love it. Life comes full circle with that post coupling possibly the most innovative tech device (the iPhone) with the glass-house tech model!

So what are your thoughts? Do you feel regressive and poisonous? If so, chill a bit and send along your comments.

Or, as one CIO asked in a post, “is Mossberg the voice of the customer challenge and opportunity that CIOs are afraid of?”

Don’t be afraid to share your piece of mind.