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Have You Hugged Someone From an LOB Lately?

"I love humanity, it's people I can't stand!"

When that line appeared in the comic strip Peanuts in the late '50s/early '60s, who knew that it'd fit so well with the relationship IT has had with end users and line of businesses (LOBs) in the 21st century? Any relationship that remains static for multiple decades is likely to end badly, so it's time for this particular love-hate relationship to evolve to the next plateau.

Plenty of forcing-functions are driving just such a change, and they're familiar to No Jitter readers and Enterprise Connect attendees: mobility, cloud, the consumerization of IT... add your favorites to the list.

But the key drivers impacting the dynamics of this relationship aren't technological; they're not grounded in hardware or software, and they don't rely on the availability of venture funding.

Take a look the non-IT folks working at your company, agency or organization. How many of them are first-timers when it comes to working with computing and communications tools?

If you're like most organizations, you've got three or four generations of co-workers: older colleagues, who began their careers in the pre-computing era but who have had laptops and modern desktop phones for multiple decades; mid-career people, who have essentially always been dependent on networked devices; and young people who, although just taking their first steps on the career ladder, have never lived, let alone worked, in a non-networked/non-computing-centric environment.

If it's true that "demography is destiny," then it follows that the relationship between IT and end users/LOBs will have to change. The people in IT may indeed be more proficient at getting communications and collaboration systems to work better than the folks in the LOBs, but that's because they get paid to be. And within just about every LOB, you'll find characters who everyone goes to for help on making apps work, getting a connection to work better and even to trouble-shoot problems on networks or devices.

IT retains unique visibility and access privileges into what's going on within the enterprise network, but it's no longer the sole source of wisdom about all the apps, vendors and systems that the LOBs might need.

I can hear some of you groaning about now. And yes, plenty of end users are pretty thoughtless when it comes to computing and communications. When I was in Canada recently, where there have been almost as many high-profile network hacks and break-ins as we've had here in the U.S., I heard about a study conducted to assess security in some government agencies. A survey firm called the agencies, identifying themselves to the called party as "Rick, from IT" and asking for network log-on info; roughly 70% of those called gave up their password immediately and without asking any questions.

So, I get it, but a change in this relationship doesn't mean the end of IT. Not even a little bit. Just about every corporate initiative has IT either at its core or as a key enabler. Enterprises are becoming more dependent on IT, not less.

And that's really the point. The growth in organizational dependency on IT means that responsibility for IT needs to be shared. The LOBs can't move at the pace required, if everything has to run through centralized IT. And your enterprise can't leverage what new hires have to offer if those new recruits are going to be treated as if they've never before seen an iPhone or laptop.

Relationships are complicated, and the IT-LOB relationship is no exception. Pursuing a more decentralized strategy needs to be done carefully for the sake of security and the bottom line. Many features and capabilities make more sense to acquire centrally; not everything should be decided on a department-by-department basis.

But clearly, a change is gonna come. We're hearing that the number of CIOs who are reassessing how power--and budget--are shared with LOBs, while still small, is growing. If this conversation hasn't already started at your workplace, it's probably a good time to ask some of your LOB colleagues out to lunch.