Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Big IT Decisions for the Small-Minded

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I am sick and tired of our focusing on the little things. Yes, there’s some training required to upgrade to Office 2007. Vista is a little different from XP – so let’s skip it. SAP’s modules are not as interoperable as we’d like them. Oracle’s database engine is not as friendly as it should be.

We’ll still debating browsers. Still talking about PCs versus Macs. Still arguing about user interfaces. Small stuff, to be sure.

What about the big issues?

What about architectures? Is the Web a bona fide transaction platform? Are we organized effectively? Are we sourcing intelligently?

We need to focus on the big issues to achieve a true business-technology partnership.

First, let’s focus on people – and their skills. We must acknowledge that many of the technology professionals in the trenches do not have the skills necessary to get us well into the 21st century. We need to retool many of these professionals with architectural knowledge and skills, with business intelligence (BI) skills, and skills around mobile communications.

By extension, we also need to focus on how we organize technology for optimal impact.

We need to focus on the Web. It’s emerging as the primary computing and communications platform for small and medium-sized companies (as big enterprises are slow to venture outside of their firewalls). But the Internet will become the backbone of corporate communications and transaction processing as whole new applications architectures emerge. Is the Web the world’s operating system?

We need to focus on the data, information and knowledge that live between the records of customers, products and revenue streams. Deep BI will replace database management of all kinds and at all levels.

Sourcing decisions should occupy a lot of our time. There are all sorts of emerging technology delivery models that should be assessed, especially the “X-as-a-service” models.

We need to focus on the de-tethering of employees, customers, suppliers and partners. Mobility is the essence of efficiency and should be specifically defined for all companies that will demand agility and flexibility (which is every company that expects to survive the early 21st century).

We need to focus on these areas because the world is changing – again – and we need to prepare for the inevitable changes that will shape our business technology investments and determine our corporate success. The changes are profound – again – but this time the stakes are higher than they were, for example, in the late 1990s when everyone was obsessed with eBusiness.

The stakes are higher because companies exist within and among countries, because technology costs are rising (in most companies as a percentage of gross revenue), and because the dependency on technology in most companies is growing, not contracting.

I cannot believe how much we obsess about really trivial things. Religious wars about vendors, applications, interfaces, and searches break out over and over again as the really big issues often get ignored. Why?

Well, there are several reasons. One is political: big issues attract lots of attention and some of that attention is politically dangerous. So we avoid them. Another reason why the big issues get ignored is that they are complex, and complexity is often beyond the reach of many of us.

Stated differently, complexity is hard to parse. So we avoid it. Yet another reason is that too many of us believe that big decisions trigger bigger budgets. The fact is that many of the new technologies and delivery models are cheaper than the old ones.

So there’s no excuse to avoid the big questions and no reason to distract ourselves from these questions with trivia. It’s time to focus on the decisions that matter and not the ones that might be fun, religious or argumentative for their own sake.

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