Monday, February 11, 2013
The IT Orphanage
It had been a long search, far and wide, across the oceans; many able men and women working as teams traversed the globe in her quest. A few options were shortlisted but discarded very quickly when some deficiency was uncovered with deeper analysis. The rigour redoubled, the pursuit unwavering, the promise of reward for the long-term kept them going. Their leader encouraged the team though the journey especially when they appeared to falter and give-up.
Almost a year into the expedition, the quest finally came to an end with what appeared to be a perfect and made to order ending. The leadership team got together to discuss the outflow; she was expensive and required high maintenance. No one had the courage thus far to take such a risk. However the promise of the future convinced everyone that it would be worth the investment. So they all agreed to part with the precious gold coins and get her on board. High risk, high return said the treasurer.
She was welcomed with a lot of fanfare, the headman chose a name from the many suggested and the message spread across on the new unique acquisition. Everyone contributed to setting the expectations that rose in unison as if in a crescendo; everyone watched the future with euphoric anticipation. Smiths and specialists from all over the world got together to define outcomes that she would enable. Progress was slow and soon people started paying lesser attention focusing on their daily chores.
Life continued as usual with occasional reviews that highlighted challenges to understand and adapt to her whims. The workmen toiled day and night for many moons encouraged by their leader who did not give up belief. Two winters later the team broke off into a joyous dance; everything worked as designed, all the links delivered, the input validated, the outcome was as expected. Rushing to the leadership team they demonstrated the end result, chests puffed with obvious pride.
Celebration was called, everyone wanted to be associated with success; anecdotes of arduous journey spread with friendly banter. After almost 18 months since the start day, the project had gone live and was churning out results that were unfamiliar territory but delivered business outcomes the leader had believed possible. The competitive advantage gained using the new technology was evident and accolades poured in locally and globally for the unique pioneering solution.
Too good to last, some of the naysayers found reason to challenge and doubt the results; conventional wisdom did not support the new solution; thus they were able to sow seeds of doubt which spread quickly through the enterprise. The initial success was passed off as stroke of luck and not sustainable. With no supporters, almost everyone went back to their old way and deserted the solution as a bad dream and mistake. The solution thus joined the IT orphanage.
Applications and solutions that the IT team developed bur no one really used; solutions that were bought by users only to be discarded with no one to support them; applications and reports that are always urgent for development but rarely complete UAT; and if they do, hardly anyone wants to use them, they all finally find their place in the IT orphanage. These have no owner, no user, and no parent to support them. Once relegated they rarely if ever find a benefactor who is willing to support them.
Every organization has a (un)labelled orphanage that sometimes gets very crowded especially if the CIO and the IT team is unable to assert themselves or if they collectively work to create solutions that are disconnected from business reality. The CIO needs to highlight such instances transparently and openly to either change team behaviour or improve chances of success; and/or change business engagement and ownership that rarely if at all any need to be assigned to the orphanage.
P.S. Within a year the project was revived by the CIO and has stayed a success now for over 2 years; that is a story for another time.