Posted by James Cusdin
Managing an Intrapreneur; Command & Control or Harness & Leverage?
The simultaneous rise of two global mega-trends, Consumerization of IT and The War for Talent, have had an enormous effect on human society in general and continue to challenge corporate IT and HR departments within the global enterprise. Whether one perceives these trends as a threat or an opportunity one thing is for sure; they are here to stay. So what makes most sense in terms of dealing with these trends within the global enterprise? Strict restrictive policies or empowerment within the boundaries of corporate governance?
An Intrapreneur is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as “A person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation”. On its own this is likely something that every global enterprise is willing to allow and / or stimulate in one way or another. But when put into the context of the aforementioned mega-trends, there is a significant likelihood that the Intrapreneur is either Generation X or Y (and increasingly Z) and therefore is undertaking his or her Intrapreneurial activities supported by possibly unsecure devices with little or no control over the underlying costs of provisioning, the associated risks increase dramatically.
In western economies competition for Generation X, Y and Z talent is increasing (even though the current economic climate has swung the labor market towards the “buyer”). One of the major characteristics of these generations (especially Y and Z) is that they are extremely IT savvy. They are capable of executing multiple tasks simultaneously using the same devices and business and private interests are fully intertwined. This has led to the Consumerization of IT whereby highly productive, highly skilled and well educated individuals who are in high demand bring their preferred IT tools into the enterprise either intentionally or unknowingly (“Stealth IT”). In a recent IDC survey of Intrapreneurs (“Consumers”) and CIO’s 14.8% of Intrapreneurs thought that IT innovations where driven by employees whereas 31.2% of CIO’s thought that this was the case. Assuming that CIO’s know how they have spent their budget this shows a naivety on the part of the Intrapreneur regarding the implications of his / her activity. Rather than maliciously seeking to challenge the establishment it is therefore fair to assume that these Intrapreneurs are following their instinct and using the tools they are most familiar with to deliver a profitable undertaking.
Two juxtaposed options arise. Reduce direct tangible risk by enforcing corporate standard tooling / policies and accept the negative impact this may have on the productivity of your most talented employees or stimulate the unquantifiable productivity gain of this risk-taking talent and accept the tangible risk associated with doing so. What do you do?
Realistically the answer is likely to depend on the current exposure your business has to the risk associated with embracing Intrapreneurship. There is no right or wrong and actually there are not two options, rather a maturity spectrum from Command & Control to Harness & Leverage. The key is to find where in this spectrum your business can gain the greatest competitive advantage without going beyond the boundaries of acceptable risk. There are a number of guiding principles which will help you plot your position on this spectrum:
- Understand the behavior of your Intrapreneurs: This goes beyond statistical analysis and will often involve engaging individuals directly.
- Quantify the risks: This is not limited to the risk of exposure to, for example, security breaches but also the risk of missed opportunities or reduced competitive advantage
- Understand the dynamics of diversity: Just because you “loosen the shackles” for your Intrapreneurs does not mean that this should apply to everyone.
- Think like and Intrapreneur: Use technology to your advantage. In the same way that the Intrapreneur (un)wittingly brings technology into your enterprise, you can access similarly readily available technology to manage these new challenges.
One final consideration; industry analyst are already publishing research about “Super-consumers” and “Ubersumers” who will use the web to reintroduce the pre-industrial revolution concept of “made to measure” consumer products to replace the mass produced. While this research is currently intended as an early warning for CxO’s of consumer product manufacturers, CIO’s should be thinking of how to deal with supporting as many unique devices as he / she has users.