Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Please let IT continue playing with the toys...

Not picking on Sam, its just the place where I picked up a follow-up to something that the folks at MWD had blogged about around IT/Biz alignment, all three make good points about not having IT enslaved to business cycles and providing innovation to the organisation. The problem is that neither of them admit the reality that most IT departments have not delivered any such benefits to their companies.

The plantative plea of IT not to be "wedded" to these slow business cycles isn't to actually deliver innovation its to be left alone to play with its toys. Richard Veryard spectacularly misses this point and appears to be blind to successive generations of IT, the big EAI waste of money, the ERP customisation that failed spectacularly, the 80% of the money spent on just keeping the lights on with the current systems. His plea to the "layered" and "separated" architecture is in many cases exactly what has caused the current mess.

It shouldn't be wedded to business cycles, but it must be focused on delivering what it's customer (the business) wants and in delivering value to that customer in the manner which that customer wants. This means delivering IT that looks like the business and not like a series of feudal technology serfdoms.

I'm with Sam in that considering IT as a service organisation is a good idea, it needs to think on its feet and it needs to be responsive to its customer. Like any good service company it also needs competition, otherwise it just becomes a monopoly supplier and that just isn't healthy. But I do disagree that every organisation should be looking at the "value add" and the full cycle. For many IT organisations they should look to deliver what the business actually wants first, then start considering what else they can do.

Before organisations start prattling on about IT strategy and "value add" you have to pass the entrance example. This is simple ... did you deliver what they wanted, when they wanted and in the way they wanted? Is your IT estate in a condition that means it changes in the way the business wants? Are you spending a decent proportion of the IT budget on new things rather than old things? And most importantly does the IT estate actually make sense to the business?

When you can answer those questions correctly then its time to consider IT as an equal partner able to deliver innovation and change. Until then any claim to be kept separate just sounds like my kids asking for ice-cream when they haven't finished dinner.

Pretending that IT isn't broken doesn't help move us forwards, and I'll stick by my statement that there is no such thing as IT strategy.

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Richard Veryard said...

Steve, I'm certainly not blind to the "successive generations of IT, the big EAI waste of money, the ERP customisation that failed spectacularly". In fact I'd argue that many of these projects - especially ERP customization - were justified in terms of some ill-conceived ideas of business IT alignment.

I stand by my statement that there is a problem in the relationship between business and IT, and you appear to agree with this. I also stand by my statement that the word "alignment" does not conjure up the right solution.

I am very happy to go along with you when you use words like "focus" and "delivery" and "value". I think these words are much more helpful than the meaningless or misleading word "alignment", and I observe that you can make your point perfectly well without using this word.

Steve Jones said...

Obviously I agree that there is an issue between the business and IT, and on the basis that the customer is always right the issue has to be mainly with the IT department. Too often it turns into the "people's republic of IT" and becomes disjointed and focused on technology over delivery.

I'm in favour of alignment as a term as it implies a desire towards common goals. I'm even more in favour of having the business drive IT.

It should only be allowed to have independence when it has demonstrated it can be trusted. The continuing high failure rates of projects indicate that the time isn't now.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff Steve.

Agree entirely - like it or not, IT's role in life is to help the business do what it needs to do. There's plenty of opportunity to innovate, use new tech in smart ways etc but that's not what IT considers innovation unfortunately.

IT considers innovation as being better IDE's, bigger more complex frameworks etc. All in the name of faster release cycles except that I'd bet they spend so much time upgrading etc that they slow down their release cycles.

And, when enterprises are hiring cookie cutter, cheap IT staff, what are the chances they'll get any real innovation anyway?

In respect of the alignment issue - well I think it maybe boils down to:

(1) IT should start figuring out how to really innovate and deliver real value

(2) Business should be a little more mindful of the limitations of IT projects, schedules and requirements are only so flexible!

My black and white, overly simplistic, myopic two cents,


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