Monday, May 27, 2013
The Business & Technology Balance
The fact that IT is about business and that IT executives should be adept in business matters has been written and talked about a gazillion times by everyone who even remotely has anything to do with IT on this planet. It has been a discussion, debate, viewpoint, opinion, experience, coaching, mentoring, part of courseware and curriculum, published by IT media, books dedicated to, researched, pushed down the CIO and IT throats, for as long as I can remember; with my weak memory indexing that would be a decade plus.
Neither CIOs nor IT disagree with this postulation, they are however fed up of repeated ranting of this party line. It is not that IT folks do not practice this every day when they are in midst of their business teams or with others. I have observed that leaving aside a handful, every IT team member has a good view of the business even if it is narrow view of the function s/he supports. As you move up the ladder the articulation gets better and the view broader; some good CIOs could give a discourse about the industry too.
It is fashionable for most vendors to start discussions with the rhetoric what are your top 3 business priorities and then barely listen to the response. Every consultant or research report continues to talk about alignment and enabling the business. The message has remained the same; the words have changed to include the latest fad or trend – cloud, big data, mobility, security, and social media – as if these are critical components of business rather than technology.
I don’t know why but a recent post by a consultant got my goat and I went into my once in a decade murderous moods wanting to challenge this underling to a duel. What did he know about the CIO and his/her role when he has never been one ? He only had advice on what a CIO should be doing to stay relevant, and that included the usual stuff that is the norm now. After a brief attacking response, I tempered down to reach the stage we reach when we see a lot of dogs barking; we ignore them.
Ruminating over the state of affairs I wondered about the fact that one of the core competencies of IT is that they understand technology and are able to apply it to influence business outcomes. If IT did not understand technology, its pros and cons, the application of technology solutions would be like a game of roulette; you win some, you lose some. And if IT abdicated this responsibility, who would validate the efficacy of the solution and that it is being used to its optimal capacity or value or benefit ?
The technology team needs to engage the vendors and solution providers on equal terms getting into deep dives on every technology component as well as the integrated solution to understand how it will deliver to promise as well as coexist with the current technology framework and architecture. Things don’t work by chance when information follows with the material or process to generate goods and revenue. They have to be made to work with each other by design and that requires technology skills.
The diversity of technologies, hardware, software, applications, networking, storage, cloud, dashboards, analytics, reports and reporting tools, mobile devices, data management, security, and what have you, each requires extensive effort to understand how they impact each other and then manage them effectively. I have yet to sight a person who had expertise in all of them; a team can collectively represent a potent unbeatable combination which when married with business will always succeed.
It is a fallacy to expect the IT team to give away their foundation of technology and embrace business skills only. To me it would be like choosing either work or life. Life gives birth to work and work enables a life. Similarly technology innovation opens new opportunities for business and new opportunities give rise to new solutions. I believe that a balance has to be found such that the two sides of the coin give different views to whoever is looking at it without compromising each other.
Technology needs business as much as business needs technology today.