Thursday, January 16, 2014

The People's Democratic Republic of IT

IT is a communist state in many organisations, one that believes in rigid adherence to inflexible approaches despite clear indications that they inhibit growth and a central approach to planning that Mao and Stalin would have thought is taking things a little too far. This really doesn't make sense in the capitalistic world of business and the counter-revolution is well under way. Its


I don't think the word 'Enterprise' is really worth anything in terms of something being a single standard Enterprise approach.  Whether that is Enterprise Resource Planning, Enterprise Data Warehouse, Enterprise Service Bus or Enterprise Architecture you either end up with multiple solutions or a central solution that isn't used to the level it was envisaged so you get lots of solutions on the side.

Part of this is because in the capitalistic world of business it appears that communist style central planning has been, and remains, the normal approach.  This People's Democratic Republic of IT approach has two key parts to it
  1. IT knows best and will give everyone 'each according to their needs' and decide what those needs are.
  2. Cultish following of other communist plans, independent of whether the users want them.

The world of integration is a great example of the latter.  Do you know how much the business cares about whether you integrate two systems using REST, SOAP,sockets or flying monkeysZERO.  Hell probably even less than zero in that they have an active disinterest in it.  Yet in IT we don't take this as a guidance of 'its not important, lets commoditise the fuck out of it'.  Nope we continue to 'innovate' where it really doesn't matter and we do so because a whole heap of hype tells us to... business hype?  Of course not, its hype from people who think they've discovered the universal hammer that turns everything into a nail.

On the former its the realm of 'Enterprise Architecture' and EDWs that really underline just how much IT often resembles the politburo.  Here groups of worthy individuals set about on the business equivalent of the Cultural Revolution or Stalin's grand plan for agriculture.  They just know that if everyone would just work in the same way then everything would be so much better.  So off they trot pushing a single solution and historically this was pushed all the way through to production and the business went:
"Well its not what I wanted but its a bit less shit than what I've got"
So IT created grand strategic plans (and I've said before there is no such thing as IT strategy) often in areas that the business really didn't care and off the business went and started using DropBox, salesforce.com and Amazon.

In effect the Shadow IT efforts of the business are analogous to the black market economies that often thrived in communist countries in the 80s.  Getting on doing what they need to do and being a lot more efficient than the state in doing it.  What we are seeing today is that as budget shift more and more towards the business the shadow IT market is getting bigger and bigger and the central planning has suddenly hit an issue.
The business understands technology
 Maybe not in the depth that IT does, but what the business understands is a bit more valuable
They understand how to focus on outcomes that add value, not technology hype.
So now as the Enterprise Architect says "you cannot do that, it is against our policy" the business says "stuff that for a game of soldiers, your policy doesn't work for us.".  The business is having its Berlin Wall moment, and while the IT communist state, the People's Democratic Republic of IT (because communist states love claiming they are democratic) might hold on for a while the reality is that the world is beginning to come crashing down.

Its time for IT to embrace capitalism, embrace value over technology and outcomes over acronyms.

6 comments:

reamon said...

Playing a bit of devil's advocate:

Is it possible that IT acts the way it does because that is effectively what the corporation wants/needs it do? To help control costs? To try to get some synergy?

What is your view on the behaviors outside of idea that are equally egregious?

Steve Jones said...

I think that could be part of the history, Finance isn't exactly the most helpful place either in most businesses... however

The centralised planning approach of IT has been more to make IT's job easier than the business' job easier. That is the problem.

Centralisation that helps is a good thing, central planning that is designed just to make the planning job easier is not.

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Tim Halbur said...

Agree with you... "Enterprise" is IT's Waterloo moment/phrase. There are very few cases where the scope of the project really cares about the entire company, so why should they be punished by the lowest common denominator across the company.

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