Given the uneasy relationships that have been communicated by countless business and IT representatives as we progressed through one of the most secure and bullish periods in modern history and given our current predicament of uncertainty and unease it is not unreasonable to imagine that relationships between the guardians and architects of IT and their business sponsors might reach new levels of difficulty.
Though I am often outspoken in condemnation of foolish attitudes from IT people, I am nevertheless not entirely without sympathy for my roots.
If ever there was a time when businesses need to get the most out of IT and IT people need to prove their commercial worth, then surely that is now.
The following is a funny little story that was popular a decade ago and could well make a comeback in the months ahead.
The IT guy and the balloonist
“A man in a hot air balloon is lost. He sees a man on the ground and reduces height to speak to him.
“Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?”
“You’re in a hot air balloon hovering thirty feet above this field,” comes the reply.
“You must work in Information Technology,” says the balloonist.
“I do,” says the man, “How did you know?”
“Well,” says the balloonist, “Everything you told me is technically correct, but it’s no use to anyone.”
“You must be in business,” says the man.
“I am,” says the balloonist, “How did you know?”
“Well,” says the man, “You don’t know where you are, you don’t know where you’re going, but you expect me to be able to help. You’re in the same position you were before we met, but now it’s my fault.”
We have all been in that field or hovering above it, or even both at different times and I expect we can all sympathise immediately with at least one of these characters. The sobering thought in all of this however, is that the man in the field won’t survive very long unless the balloonist finds his way home and the balloonist stands little chance of surviving without the help of the man in the field.
If there ever was anything to be learned form that story, surely it must be to start appreciating our true predicament as necessary bed mates who can only thrive through mutual success.
IT is guilty of: Being willing to act on precise instructions and refusing to take any responsibility for where the actions might take us. A sort of work to rule.
Business is guilty if: Refusing to consult early and to take firm decisions at the right time. Preferring to drive by the seat of their pants and blame it all on IT if the project doesn’t deliver.
A successful partnership requires an honest exchange of business insight and technology insight to define feasible, low-risk strategies and well handled implementations that solve problems and create value.
Business leaders need to understand the reticence of IT leaders to take seat of the pants approaches to technology as a pragmatic endeavour to avoid high rates of failure and to either accept the responsibility, or take the advice.
IT leaders need to realise that the absolute certainty that attracts them to technology in the first place, is a luxury not available to business leaders. The world turns on its axis in a single day and all that was certain is gone. This is the world in which business must must succeed and therefore it is the world for which technology must cater effectively.
Part one What would you like sir
Joining the dots with a business case