Technology Historical Preservation [change is hard]

falling down building

Does your enterprise IT need renovating?

In a recent Washington Post Express article, I read of a conflict in Montgomery County, Maryland in which some individuals are being prevented from removing decaying buildings on their property and building new ones. Local historic preservation groups are claiming that these buildings have historic value, while the property owners say the buildings are falling apart and hold no real value for anyone and should be torn down.

I see similar tension in enterprise IT groups within organizations. There are those that would prefer to preserve a decaying technological infrastructure rather than take the painful (read: expensive) but necessary step of leveling it and replacing it with something that would provide more utility and benefit to the organization. Replacing hard-to-use (and, let’s face it, hated) platforms with those that are open, sharable, searchable, and easy-to-use enables organizations to capture more knowledge long-term and stop the hemorrhage of expertise that is probably happening every day (or with every retirement).

SharePoint in particular seems to have dug its roots in deep. Organizations that started using it years ago continue to maintain the platform despite a near unanimous frustration with it. Finding information, getting access to secured areas (that are often secured for no discernible reason) and creating new content all require multiple clicks and an abundance of patience.

So why not replace these types of installations with more modern information management technologies like a wiki? Because the “IT Historic Preservation Society” that exists within older or larger organizations isn’t just composed of members of the IT department. Individuals from across the organization resist change and hang on to the old systems, even while grumbling the whole time that they hate them.

In my own company, we have both an age-old SharePoint installation as well as a nascent social software suite that includes a wiki, blogs, and other tools. Despite the ease of use of these new options, much of the institutional knowledge is still in our SharePoint portal. Colleagues and I discussed the other day whether SharePoint might be retired in a year or so once the ease of capturing knowledge in the new systems spreads and activity on SharePoint slowly dwindles. Hey, we can hope, can’t we?

Is your organization in need of some enterprise IT/knowledge management rennovation? If so, is your biggest challenge resources (time, money, people) or the change required by your organization’s workforce? Are you part of the IT Historic Preservation Society at your organization or are you building bridges and/or fighting with those who are part of such a group?