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Breaking Through a Conservative Culture

Curtis Franklin Jr., Executive Editor | 1/24/2013 | 46 comments

Curtis Franklin Jr.
In some ways, it's all about image. When you think about a business man or woman in the second decade of the 21st century, you might think of a sharply dressed, rather fit individual carrying a smartphone, a tablet device, and a super-slim ultrabook computer. He or she might be biking to a chic cafe where the WiFi is free and the ethically grown and picked coffee is cold-pressed, a single bean at a time. But the reality can be just a little different. For Ryan Stewart, IT Director for insurance broker HM Risk, the reality and the image can seem miles apart.

The ultrabook image for the market as a whole is reinforced by the findings of a new report released by GBI Research, an international market research firm, that ultrabooks (defined by thinner, lighter bodies and with a shorter boot-up time than typical notebooks) will surpass traditional laptops in sales by 2016. In an interview with Enterprise Efficiency, Stewart said that he'll be happy to convince corporate executives to allow employees to work somewhere other than their desks by that time. "We're not too terribly a mobile company because management has a rather antiquated view that if you're not at your desk, you're not working," he said.

According to Stewart, the attitude he sees in his organization is not, in his experience, unusual for the insurance industry. "I think that, in insurance as a whole, the attitudes are conservative. They're very slow to change, and they change when they have to. They'll kick and scream about it." That indicates an attitude toward embracing new technology that stands in stark contrast to the environment described in the GBI report.

Using the growth of smartphones and tablets as a starting point, GBI writes:
These new products are currently being viewed as a substitute in businesses where traditionally desktop PCs and notebooks were used. However, ultrabooks with multiple form factors like detachable keyboards and touchscreens are being launched, mostly in the US region by OEMs... to cater to this changed consumer interest. GBI Research expects that the different form factors for ultrabooks, coupled with their advantages over tablet PCs -- such as Windows 8, physical keyboard, and better hardware specifications -- will facilitate market growth in North America.

Windows 8 won't be driving Stewart's decisions about adopting ultrabooks because it involves a leap too far for his company's client infrastructure. "Currently we're not off of Windows XP in any large numbers. I think we, as a company, will evaluate Windows 8 compatibilities and capacities, and based on what we see we'll likely move to Windows 7," Stewart said. The conservative approach will be hard for him to shake within his company, but he is choosing strategic spots for driving change in his 150-person enterprise.

"We've recently moved to Microsoft Lync, and this technology is blowing them away, but it's nothing they had heard of or sought. I introduced it so that in the event of a snow day we can stay open by shifting desks to homes," he said. "I'm trying to give them the tools they need to get things accomplished."

Working within a conservative culture to provide competitive IT, especially in the face of an industry that's moving at a much more rapid pace, can be a challenge. The leap from desktop computers to ultrabooks, and from Windows XP to Windows 7 or 8, is huge. Stewart's strategy of solving the problems upper management might not even know it has is a classic route to progress.

What other paths are you following in your push to bring your conservative enterprise into the 21st century? We're looking forward to hearing about your strategy.

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TJGUK   Breaking Through a Conservative Culture   3/5/2013 3:30:36 PM
Re: culture shock
Thanks michaelsumastre! It reminds me of Winston Churchill's comment:

"If you're not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you're not a conservative at forty you have no brain."

Randomus   Breaking Through a Conservative Culture   2/28/2013 8:56:44 AM
Re: Vox Pop
To be fair, I don't know if people follow Coby and a lot of the other cheaper tablets on the market – even if they are in the market for a lower cost model.  There are plenty of cheaper models available, but the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab are the ones that have name recognition, which can be just as important for a lot of consumers.
michaelsumastre   Breaking Through a Conservative Culture   2/28/2013 3:03:12 AM
Re: Vox Pop
I guess as a consumer, you basically have a general idea of what you want to hear from a reviewer. Say, if you're looking for a cheap tablet, you'll definitely skip those talk about the iPad and Samsung Galaxy since they tend to be very expensive. On the other hand, you search for Coby or the ASUS. Or if you don't know the brand, perhaps you want to hear more about the price itself and the features. So anything that doesn't seem to answer your need or question, you immediately skip. Of course it's wise for anyone reading reviews to not settle for just one person's opinion. 
Randomus   Breaking Through a Conservative Culture   2/24/2013 5:30:45 AM
Re: Vox Pop
StaceyE:  I'm able to normally tell by the tone of the article and writing style if the author understands the topic being discussed – but it's something that can be done carefully to deceive the casual users, definitely.  The current journalism and blogging world is fun to watch, but can be quite confusing...
StaceyE   Breaking Through a Conservative Culture   2/23/2013 8:40:29 PM
Re: Vox Pop
@ Randomous

I am sure you are correct. But then, there are also the average consumers who think a product is the greatest thing since the invention of sliced bread simply because the games they play on Facebook work well on it. You just never know the level of IT knowledge belonging to the person reviewing the product.
Randomus   Breaking Through a Conservative Culture   2/23/2013 12:03:00 PM
Re: Vox Pop
StaceyE:  To be fair, consumers often are just as jaded – if not more jaded – but can't word things quite the same way as a reviewer. ;)
michaelsumastre   Breaking Through a Conservative Culture   2/20/2013 11:27:09 PM
Re: culture shock
Your comment amuses me right now, TGJUK, because sometimes I feel the exact same thing. I remember when I was in my teens, and all those poppy boy bands were so in demand. I knew their songs by heart. About twenty years later, I totally abhor everything that Justin Bieber (did I get his family name, right?) is doing and singing. No offense to the fans, of course. So I really think it's how I'll be around a decade from now about the IT enterprise, but I'm hoping my attitude wouldn't be too much to handle. 
michaelsumastre   Breaking Through a Conservative Culture   2/19/2013 9:58:23 AM
Re: Vox Pop
@ Susan, another problem with user reviews is you are not really sure if they are authentic. What I mean is that it's possible they hire great writers who know how to spin articles of experts to come up with something believable. That's scary since they project this persona that they really know what they're doing and that they have spent a good amount of time with the device for them to be able to provide a decent review. That's why when it comes to anything IT, I usually start with online magazines and blogs that are considered reputable like Engadget or CNET. Definitely I trust the bloggers in this website. :)
michaelsumastre   Breaking Through a Conservative Culture   2/19/2013 9:54:16 AM
Re: Vox Pop
StacyE, I have to admit I have the tendency to splurge on gadgets not because I want to be among the crowd but because I instantly get very curious. Of course, you can play around with them in their stores or watch some demos, but having them with you 24/7 is a completely different feeling. I may sound so obsessed with them, but I hope I'm not creeping you out. It's a good thing, however, my girlfriend doesn't think the way I do. She's more practical, especially in terms of money, so she often tells me to think things through a hundred times before I decide to buy an item. 
michaelsumastre   Breaking Through a Conservative Culture   2/19/2013 9:50:45 AM
Breaking Through a Conservative Culture
I can totally relate about the conservative culture. I used to work for a startup online marketing company. One would easily think that these people I was dealing with sure knew a lot about mobility and the freedom of flexi-time, but they didn't. I still had to report to work early in the morning, when I'm at my most unproductive state. I really don't blame them, because that's just how offices work in my country. However, I sure do hope they realize that productivity isn't really measured by how long a person stays in his cubicle. 
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