Theories and practices of management often spring from the opportunities created by new technologies. Interchangeable parts spurred ideas about structuring assembly lines and logistics. The complex calculations of the field known as Operations Research were enabled by mainframe computing. Client-server technology begat enterprise resource planning systems, and the consequent system-wide visibility that was required for what we call business process management (BPM).
That makes it imperative to start thinking about how management will be changed by the most impactful information technology of our time: cloud computing. What does it allow us to do differently, and how will that change the way we do things in the future?
History suggests that the main way information technology changes management is through changes in how information is gathered: the large-scale analysis of Operations Research reflected painstaking data collection around a few metrics, which were transferred to punch cards. BPM reflected the interactions of different stakeholders, from product creation through supply chain to final assembly.
How organizations are changing
With cloud, information travels rapidly in both directions, across computing systems that, with attributes like virtualization, scaling up or down to handle bigger workloads, or automated security patching across thousands of machines, are far more flexible. This will likely mean a more flexible work structure as well, in the interest of products and services that ideally can be adjusted to anticipate customer needs. Key to the new system are rapid data collection and analysis, followed by over the air changes to product software.
Likely outcomes of the move to cloud include changing how products are designed; closer collaboration between the corporate IT department and other business units, including sales, finance and forecasting; and more customer interaction, even to a point of jointly developing products with their consumers. In particular, new ways of writing and deploying software will encourage new types of faster-acting organizational designs. And the best way to anticipate how these changes will occur is to hear from companies already aggressively implementing them.