Connectivity has changed the world and business, and government and societal models are forever altered. However, the ‘best practice' techniques with which we've grown up are less helpful to the real world than many had hoped.

Such best-practice techniques are not for the age of mass participation. The techniques we have been brought up with as IT professionals bring artificial simplicity to complex design (for example, BPM), and artificial risk management to complex delivery (for instance, business change management). This is classic ‘control over behaviour' management and it does not work well in our 21st-century socio-economy.

There is an emerging set of ‘systems thinking' techniques that we refer to as ‘Next Practice', which help business and IT leaders understand and tackle complexity. Best practices still have an important place but need to be complemented with these skills.

We've seen more demand for advice around adopting these early next practices. Sometimes the questions are the same as they've always been, such as how to reduce cost, transform an aspect of the business, or bring innovation to IT and the business. But the next practices are helping see these old questions in a new light and helping solve some of the old problems for the first time.

Some of the questions are related to the web wave, such as ‘can you help me on the cloud and software as a service?' The adoption of the cloud will drive a different set of IT process and service behaviours - what do they look like and how is that transformation driven? SaaS is driving more dynamism in adoption of new, or replacement of legacy, business applications, but requires different ways of working and even different emotional responses around risk and compliance.

The question can be explicit. ‘Provide me a new content management system' - except that the ‘Now Practice' of content management is fast evolving to encompass not only new channel technologies but new physical job roles and linkages that just didn't previously exist.

The answer can be explicit too, with a question that has yet to be stated in terms of immediate business need. This is the heart of Next Practice. If you don't know how to articulate the right question when faced with the real world of complexity, the answer will certainly not be a good one.

About the authors

Rob Price is Head of IT leadership at Atos Consulting and Carl Bate is Head of the firm's CIO Advisory practice