Autonomous IT: Can Governance Save the Enterprise?

IT Governance

Autonomous IT is the next normal.

While all of IT’s useful availability for twenty years or so has gradually converged to the status of “product”, the parallel and more powerful movement is that as IT users we know less and less about what “I.T.” is included in what we use.

As users, what we call “IT” is really the capabilities that are based on IT. Less and less as users do we care or control how IT generates capability, as long as we can use the capability ourselves.

IT-based capabilities emerge from an ecology of co-operating systems. Those systems become more and more able to intelligently decide, without our intervention, to interact and in that way synthesize capability, which becomes both opportunities and events.

Granted, the “intelligence” originates from seeds planted by people. While that is not decreasing in relevance, IT interactions now grow a capability to synthesize intelligence that people don’t already have, and thus to decide and/or do things that people don’t already expect. Some of those things are easily discoverable; others, not so much.

As IT becomes more independently animated, we might find an increasing need to negotiate with it, for the purpose of influencing the probability of desirable events and outcomes.

This entirely resets the comprehension of what the Enterprise is. In this reset, it is mandatory to recognize a “root” meaning of the word “enterprise”, which is “to undertake”. In other words, the enterprise is an identified and acknowledged effort.

We generally rely on being able to draw a boundary “around” that effort, to distinguish it from others, and to make it proprietary. But much, and soon most, of what we acquire as IT-based capability is not proprietary. Instead, the main distinction is simply the difference between what is “held within” our grasp and what is not.

Property remains a holding mechanism, but even property is actually useful for a deeper reason. What makes something effectively proprietary is having an authoritative presence as a user or operator of what is “capable”. Today, beyond rights and permissions, little more remains to establish that authority with persistence, and the presence need not be exclusive in order to be effective. Arguably, being aggressively effective with a capability establishes momentum as a binding force, if it avoids throwing or enticing the organization out of balance.

In essence, the constellation of ways that capabilities are held becomes the enterprise. In the next normal, the big question for the enterprise is why and how that constellation is continually regenerated and appropriately constrained within the vast range of options continually produced by autonomous IT.


As IT is now so pervasive, getting IT to co-operate is a multi-dimensional, multi-level pursuit. Understanding where it has impact requires understanding that more than ever before it is likely to have impact on its own terms .

How can that influence be synchronized with the real needs of the organization conducting the enterprise? An extended and evolving walk-through is found here.