Keeping the joint running
The recent IAM Talking podcast, The Problems of Process, In Practice, Dan Keldsen hosts a discussion with Bob Lewis of IT Catalysts, and there are a couple of elements that really connected with me. The podcast was motivated by the topics in Bob Lewis' new book, Keep the Joint Running: A Manifesto for 21st Century Information Technology. And the book itself is based on Bob's long experience and writing on the topic (newsletter and several books).
The interview was very casual and full of lots of joking. But the underlying problems that they were discussing really made sense to me. More specifically, the root causes and alternate ways of looking at things are what made sense.
Some examples. Go have a listen to the 40-minute podcast.
"Aside from not knowing the subject matter, I disagree with everything he says." in talking about Nick Carr and the "IT doesn't matter" series of articles.
"IT is finally learning how to manage projects." About half of all IT projects finish with some degree of success (assume we are talking about internal IT).
All businesses have access to the same everything (people, resources, etc) other than protectable intellectual property. Just because companies have access to the same stuff, doesn't make them all the same. It's all in how you use and combine it to create value and make a difference in the world.
The idea of (internal) "IT as a business" just doesn't make sense. (The same thinking applies to any internal service that is set up with a Profit & Loss statement.) Who pays to do internal IT projects? There are two possibilities. If you have a highly sophisticated system of internal chargebacks, the company pays. And if you don't have such a system, then the company pays. Lewis goes goes through some more of his thinking around the kinds of problems that this creates. In the Theory of Constraints world, the problem of internal charges similarly makes no sense and often drives exactly the wrong kind of behavior.
We take metaphors too far. Metaphors are great to help draw connections from something known to something new. However, once the connection is made people like to harden the connections, making absolutely everything connect. The specific example was around the idea that IT serves internal "customers." While the basic connection that the value is defined by the customer, many businesses have taken this metaphor too far and create things like contracts and payments that have no place in internal businesses.
[Image credit: Thomas Hawk on Flickr]
13 July 2009: Fixed name of the podcast.
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