Thursday, February 07, 2008

Business and IT, together again

“Running separate IT and business functions is not going to have a future, because there are companies out there that do it differently, do it faster and deliver business value. And as soon as folks start to learn that, they are going to start questioning their own IT set up.”
− Robert McGill, Standard Life, Edinburgh, Scotland

From Mary Poppendieck's slides here. The point being that this is IT+Business as an extension of the XP "onsite developer" concept.

The most rewarding period of my career was like this: working as part of a mission team, creating software for them, as it was needed to get our job done. Then came the CIO- in the name of killing off "duplicate" efforts they came at us. We had been smart and extracted a product from our work and had been offering it to other divisions in return for help in funding the organization. So was another group. Instead of taking a market based approach and letting the two applications find their niche- they had to merge us.

Oh, and at the same time as you merge the two systems, take these complex desktop applications and turn them into a web application that is 10 times slower and has almost none of the capabilities of the other systems. And use web standards that prevent adding usability features. And do everything with this XML services stuff that seems to be the future. Cue abject failure.

And then it happened again. And again. Soon the CIO is populated by tons of PowerPoint pushers with agendas and favorite technologies. Development talent is promoted into positions where they don't...make things. Budget is growing. No one I work with has seen a user for a long time. Does any of this software ever reach users? All we hear is they hate it and don't want it...So why are we doing it?

I've had the fortune to work on lots of good projects, but I have to say the whole concept of sucking IT out of the business and making it it's own shop that makes things for the business is not as effective as the opposite in 90% of cases I have seen. I do believe in core services of identity management, PKI, etc. But very very thin core services. I believe the CIO should have a budget to fund integrating core technologies and to sponsor the cost of implementing minimal standards across groups. But overall, it's a concept that doesn't make sense for most organizations.

According to Ms. Poppendieck, "You don’t get to be world class by chasing 'best practices'. You get there by inventing them." I don't care who invented it- let's just do it.