Tuesday, April 29, 2014

On the Tail Wagging the Dog

I saw an article in Tech Republic today that rubbed me the wrong way.  I probably should have ignored it, but it comes up so often, I had to capture my thoughts.

The article was entitled "IT self-sabotage: Don't be your own worst enemy".  By itself, that sounds like it may be valuable, but the article took less time to write than it did to read, and rehashed the same nonsense that has become pervasive in corporate America.  Namely, there's no value in enterprise IT, so don't fight consumerization.


I could not disagree more with this mindset.  It's nothing more than salve for the souls of the inadequate.  The difference between a company with a strong IT leader who maintains their principles and doesn't succumb to every trend for which he has no immediate answer and a company willing to flop around like a water hose at full blast going wherever the flow takes it may not be immediately evident from the outside, but it will be startlingly clear to anyone who has been in both types of shops.

Who is supposed to benefit from this article?  Who is the audience?  Certainly no-one in the enterprise space with a management role would be so obtuse as to adopt hardline stances absent any other mitigating factors;  surely no-one is so facile and ill-equipped as to believe for a moment that the role of corporate/enterprise IT is to let the tail continually wag the dog, which is clearly what this article advises.  Rubbish.

IT has a unique perspective in many companies, in that it sees the broadest possible picture.  IT recognizes benefits of standardization and architecture that extend beyond the interests of individual business units, who themselves are often unaware and/or unsympathetic to the fact that those interests can be at conflict with one-another.  Deferring to the needs of the business as a policy means abdicating the important job of managing risk and ensuring that the entire organization runs smoothly and cost-effectively.  It's ridiculous to dismiss that in favor of myopic trends such as 'consumerization', or in the name of being more friendly.  Just because you can do something, it doesn't mean that you should.  Consumerization for example, is a trend borne from a combination of overzealous, unqualified para-technicians masquerading as executives, and the eagerness of the technology sector to profit from them by legitimizing an otherwise (and historically) illegitimate tactic.  The herd mentality on full display in all of it's resplendent glory...all the while, nobody has remembered to ask whether any of this stuff A) solves a real problem, and B) helps us generate more revenue, operate more profitably, and reduce (not simply rename) our risk.

In my experience, if a company runs into an IT department which says "no" too often, it's because the company isn't asking the right questions - meaning that they aren't applying careful, critical thought to the decisions facing them, or even willfully ignoring the obvious, underlying problems which seldom if ever have anything to do with technology.  IT might not (and should not) have all the answers about how to run a business, but they will certainly know when the business is about to dig themselves an enormous hole.  If IT doesn't speak up (and say "no"), they aren't doing their job.

To write up an article with insipid 'suggestions' such as these is of no more value than talking to someone for two minutes in a coffee shop line about their philosophy for enterprise architecture.  There is so much assumed, so much not considered, that it hardly makes sense to waste the time publishing it.