Return of the OMLB prepare for the Rescuing Angel

The power struggle rumbles on.

Am I hitting an unlucky patch, or is there an epidemic out there. Two projects in succession that I have been involved with at two large organisations have suffered the same problems. It goes something like this.

The organisation has a large IT department and like all large IT departments it has a fairly rigid set of processes and constraints. These were put in place some years ago by a rescuing angel who untangled the glutinous mess they had created and explained that now things are running again, to keep things running they need a few rules and processes.

Bit by bit over a few years, two things happened simultaneously;
1. The IT department began to abuse the rules a bit in order to wield their newly discovered power and slowly, but surely the tail began to wag the dog.

2. Certain people in the business, the ones most responsible for creating the mess, became increasingly irate at not being able to buy toys at will and play with them without having to explain themselves. A career based on the “One eyed man in the land of the blind” (OMLB) strategy had suddenly found itself on rocky ground and they disliked having to discuss these things with people that understood the manual and could ask awkward questions.

The upshot of all this was that IT shot itself in the foot once again. Their rulebook waving and power broking created the perfect opportunity for the OMLB to retake the high ground.

Now you have the situation whereby the OMLB has a new title like Business Project Manager or Business Change Manager and instead of representing the needs and responsibilities of the business in IT projects, he rules every IT project totally.
He has banned business analysts, they are too technical and he doesn’t understand their UML and work flows so he has a junior creating squiggles on Powerpoint slides. He has alienated the IT project manager and he has a supplier who is his trusted adviser and uses the OMLB as a blunt instrument to batter IT into providing them everything they need.

Testing, Change control, detailed requirements and all the other tools that help reduce the risks are viewed by the OMLB as IT placing barriers in his path and he has regular ranting sessions in the canteen with others of his calling where they bemoan the constant battle with IT.

The IT project manager manages nothing, in fact in many cases the recruitment is done very deliberately to hire somebody with no formal or other IT training, he just attends meetings with a gant chart and ticks off what is completed and he has a full set of Prince 2 documentation that often bears little relationship to the project and will never be read by anybody. He is kept well out of things other than to warn him of when he must be ready to run the application. When things go wrong of course that ‘s where the IT project manager comes in, it will be his fault.

Just to make this muddle even more confusing and hopeless, the IT Project manager reports to a matrix manager in charge of Project managers, who knows and cares nothing about any projects.
There is a PMO and they have a planner who actually manages the gants and updates a master program plan. He knows nothing about IT projects, just gants. There’s a Matrix manager for Business analysis too, but he also keeps well below the parapet.
Success for each of these so called managers is a green light or a tick in a box in a map of a journey that has no known beginning, middle, end or real purpose, It just has a map.

It has a few guide books, but they are not reliable and nobody is interested in whether this system is really beneficial, whether it will do what it promises, whether it is the best way to deliver on requirements, if there are any.

In the background, behind all of this activity, there is a huge IT department struggling to support last years white elephant and the one from the previous years. There are several projects afoot, with new names and budgets of course, adding on the requirements that were missed out on previously implemented systems and fixing the ones that didn’t work. Doing it this way hides the abject failures and overruns

Duplication of systems and data stores is epidemic and burning money in vast amounts. The inside of the IT department is once again a bulging spaghetti bowl and the day for wringing hands, IT directors resigning, OMLBs retiring and the return of the rescuing angel is becoming ever closer.

When is the IT profession going to start behaving professionally? When is it going to start engaging senior managers in business language and becoming a trusted adviser instead of an enemy?


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