Control Technology Choice, Not Technology Use

I talked a couple days ago with the CIO of a huge global organization. Like a lot of his peers these days, he was pretty interested in Enterprise 2.0, and was digging in on figuring out what it meant for his company and putting a plan together.

For me, the most interesting part of the conversation came as I gave him one of my standard pieces of advice: exercise tight control over technology choice, and as little as possible over technology use. Tight control over technology choice ensures that a big organization doesn’t wind up with hundreds of disjointed deployment efforts and fragmented technology environments. This leads to confusion among people and mutually inaccessible walled gardens of content, neither of which is good.

Minimal control over technology use is a mantra I’ve been chanting into the blogosphere for a while now. The great majority of people know how to behave, want to do their jobs well, and are predisposed to be helpful to their colleagues. If you believe what’s in your mission statement, empower your people (who are, as you say, your most important resource) with the new digital tools without lecturing them too much about how to use them appropriately. When I see 20-page social media policy documents, I always think they could be reduced to one sentence: “We’d really prefer that you not use social media.”

After I’d stopped talking and climbed off my soap box, he let out a rueful laugh and said “Well, so far we’re doing just the opposite.” His company had just finished a lengthy effort to draft its social media policy, which was also lengthy. And they hadn’t yet started to get a handle on all the emergent social software platforms in use throughout the organization.

I think if this company continues down the path of controlling technology use but not technology choice, they’ll be headed in an unproductive direction. Do you agree? Do you agree with my slogan “Control technology choice, not technology use” or do you think it’s misguided? Leave a comment, please, and let us know what you think.