What Would Einstein Do?

albert-einstein-401484_640“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” —Albert Einstein

I was reminded of this quote recently when I was at an event where a group of CIOs were discussing current challenges. The cloud, security, and increasing demands to do more with less consistently floated to the top of the conversation. Instead of being energized with new ideas and momentum after these conversations, I sometimes found myself scratching my head. Without continually stepping back, challenging tradition and focusing on the larger business goal, we can stay trapped in traditional solutions.

Here are three such conversations that showed organizations stuck in outmoded practices.

Example #1: Security questionnaires from customers are becoming more frequent and detailed, and often include questions not grounded in in the reality of today’s environment. For example, one organization had two-factor authentication in place, thereby not requiring passwords. The questionnaire asked, “Do you have complex passwords – yes or no? The answer is “no,” which implies that there is insufficient security, but two-factor is actually better than complex passwords. In this case, traditional compliance requests keep us from moving forward to better solutions.

Example #2: Many organizations have been moving email to the cloud, decreasing retention periods but increasing mailbox sizes. Perhaps less quantity of email to manage, but email is still the defacto (now shorter term) document management and collaboration system. Perhaps the longer term view is to move towards newer ways of working together that don’t require email (see Un-Unified Communication). Over time, this would increase productivity and organically better secure data.

Example #3: One discussion thread suggested that the only workloads that make economic sense to move to the cloud are those where there is highly variable demand (seasonality), because renting capacity to support a steady workload would be more expensive. However, this premise neglects to consider that hard or direct cost is just one component of the overall price tag. New thinkers might ask, “Could I use this investment for something with a higher return or use resources to manage services/applications with greater value?” After all, most organizations choose to rent office space instead of buying – how is renting cloud space any different (see How to Wring More Value from the Cloud)?

In the end, I see the need to challenge our traditional thinking, step out of the box, and ask the big-picture question – what are we really trying to accomplish and why? Speed, flexibility, scalability, better value, and access to applications are only possible with different thinking. It’s not easy—and I have bruises and failures to prove it—but the direction is clear.

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