Operational and Strategic Tech: "I Want a Divorce": Page 2

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Yes, a real divorce. Operational and strategic technology should file – I guess with the high priests of corporate governance – for a divorce. The call is not for an annulment (they did actually live together and have lots of children), but for an amicable divorce between two parties that no longer have anything in common. After the divorce is granted they should live in different places, report to different people and be judged for how they achieve a totally different set of accomplishments.

So let’s talk post-divorce.

First, let’s define some terms.

Operational technology includes the computing and communications infrastructure – the devices, networks, storage, applications support, security, back-up and recovery – that keeps the engine running. It’s where the most commoditization has occurred and where best practices, performance metrics and SLAs are well understood.

Strategic technology, on the other hand, is sloppier. The metrics and best practices here are relatively immature. The focus of strategic technology is on business requirements, business processes, analytics, innovation, customers and the applications that differentiate the business in the marketplace. As you can see, one is from deep outer space and one is in close orbit.

Of huge importance are the differences in skills and competencies necessary to optimize each technology. In fact, everything’s different – they don’t even dress alike.

All of that said what should we do with the ex-spouses?

Operational technology should be layered under the COO or CAO. (I am not a fan – even though I’m layering operational technology – of any technology reporting to CFOs – who see the world as just one big luxury spending spree – that they’re wired to stop.) Operational technology is a shared service funded by the enterprise and lines of business taxed to keep the lights on.

Strategic technology should report to the CEO. It should have nothing to do with operational technology. Strategic technology delivers discretionary projects driven by business metrics that should speak directly or indirectly to revenue generation.

So what do you think? Is it time for a divorce? Well, I think so. Each should go where they should be, and the divorce will end forever all the arguments and religious wars about governance, organizational structure, funding and management that have consumed enough time, effort and money over the years to bail out AIG and Citigroup (or not … it’s tough to compete with that level of greed, corruption and incompetence).

A final note about competencies and leadership. Operational technologists are let’s-get-it-done pocket-protecting professionals who cut their teeth on data center operations and server farming.

Strategic technologists are professionals who know more about business processes than they do network latency, digital security or storage area networks.

Operational and strategic technologists are about as different as Obama is from Bush. I cannot for the life of me understand why they didn’t divorce ten years ago.

Steve Andriole is the Thomas G. Labrecque Professor of Business at Villanova University where he conducts applied research in business fl‡ technology convergence. He is also the co-founder of The Acentio Group, a new economy consortium that focuses on optimizing investments in information technology, executive education, Web 2.0, technology audits and pilot applications. He is formerly the Senior Vice President & Chief Technology Officer of Safeguard Scientifics, Inc. and the Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President for Technology Strategy at CIGNA Corporation. His career began at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency where he was the Director of Cybernetics Technology. He can be reached at stephen.andriole@villanova.edu.

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Tags: services, support, virtualization, CRM, voice

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