Strategy – Less is More

Perfect!

Here’s another view on much the same subject as my previous post.

It seems the fine people at TechRepublic share a similar view to me

The best IT strategy is no IT strategy


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I Meant Strategy, Not “Strategy”

My first post here was all about whether you have an IT Strategy?. One of my clients read this, and it lead to a conversation, a precis of which went something like this.

Him: “Shouldn’t I have a large document detailing my IT strategy?”

Me: “Do you really want one. You have my report on how we can meet your objectives.”

Him: “I know, but I would have thought that a strategy document would contain all of the proposals, costs, technical bits and so on and so forth that one might associate with an IT strategy.”

Me: “When I said strategy, I didn’t mean “strategy“. These are much like religious texts in my opinion. I find they tend to lead to dogmatic thinking. And dogmatic thinking, typically means the subtlety and nuance of reality gets lost. The important thing with all IT strategy is that it aligns with your business goals, and that’s what the my report relays. It talks specifically about what you’re looking to achieve and outlines ways in which your IT can help realise this.”

Him: “Riiiight…sooooo…I don’t need a detailed strategy document then.”

Me: “If you want to pay me to write one, I can”

Him: “Noooo…I think your report will do just fine”

Foreign Language

And that’s the point isn’t it?

Is a pinpoint strategy worth the cost of writing it?

Strategy (and that’s the last time I’m ever going to use that word…hopefully) in IT is something that all too often is taken far too seriously. IT directors and managers spend weeks or even months writing heaps of technical stuff in a document, only for it to be met with blank faces.

The problem is that senior IT people often get caught up in the world of technology and once they do this, they might as well be speaking in tongues.

Sadly, Google Translate doesn’t have an option for Gibberish to English.

Prag not Dog

What’s really required then is a little pragmatism. Rather than slavishly adhering to the whims of technology, we can make our IT lives so much simpler by making sure we’re targetting the needs of the business.

Why?

Two reasons

Firstly, the business will already have a strategy and surely we don’t need two.

And secondly, BECAUSE THE BUSINESS PAYS THE BILLS!

So if your IT looks after the business’ needs, the business will look after the needs of IT.

What a beautiful symbiosis.


Today’s Top Takeaway

Keep it simple. IT is a means to an end, not the end itself.


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The Business of Being in Business

I shared a bottle of red, or two, with a couple of old IT friends recently. We all started our IT careers at roughly the same time nearly 30 years ago. As we’re prone to do from time to time, we reminisced about how it used to be, remembered old colleagues, and told funny IT stories about mad users like Karen, a Fellow of the Insurance Institute, who used to store her back up disks in a ring binder by putting holes in them with a hole punch.

We found out because she complained that she could never access the files on the disk once she’d put them on there.

It’s funny if you’ve ever done IT support.

Same, Same But Different?

At one point, the conversation turned to the enormous level of complexity of modern software applications, and how they are so different from those of yesteryear. But the more we talked about the differences, the more we realised how similar they actually are.

In fact, we concluded that in all our near 100 years in the industry, we’d only ever really had software that did 3 things.

  1. Data is read from or written to a storage device.
  2. Data is manipulated in programs.
  3. Data is presented to the user on a screen or an alternative medium e.g. a piece of paper.

With 60 years of IT reduced to an atomic level we opened a bottle of scotch.

Any further insights we may have had have been permanently erased courtesy of a Mr McCallan.

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

“The more things change, the more they stay the same”.

Ain’t that the case?!

With all the advances of modern technology and particularly computers and their increased mobility, we could be forgiven for losing sight of this “rule of three”. After all, the relationship between it and let’s say Instagram or Facebook or a.n.other running on the phone in your pocket isn’t immediately obvious. However, I can assure you that it’s a perfect fit and that leaves me with a question.

Why haven’t the fundamentals of computing changed?

The obvious answer is of course that the underlying purpose that it serves hasn’t changed.

Money In, Money Out

OK, so the above somewhat simplifies the very complex subject of corporate accounting, but ultimately, we can trace everything back a few hundred years to the origins of double entry book keeping and a good old fashioned general ledger.

Similarly, we might look at how a customer interacts with a vendor. Today we have online shopping and the prospect of drones filling the skies to deliver pizzas, but 100 years ago or so, if you wanted to buy something, you’d have spoken to the appropriate retailer or service provider in person.

The means by which we place an order and the delivery mechanisms may have changed, but the nature of the relationship is exactly as it has been for many, many years.

Fashion

Today, businesses are confronted by a dizzying array of software and hardware options. Every year, new trends emerge and the latest and greatest inventions in the world of IT are touted as this year’s silver bullet/cure all/panacea.

But, whether it’s IBM, Microsoft, Google or a host of other players big and small, they are all in the business of being in business, and they want to sell you something, for precisely the same reasons that you want to sell whatever product or service you offer.

They want to maximise the value of their business for their shareholders.

They’ve gotta sell something

But this doesn’t mean you have to buy the latest and greatest. IT systems are part of your corporate infrastructure. They are there, amongst other reasons, to enable your strategic business goals, support your daily operations and provide flexibility and fluidity in times of change.

Your decision making therefore, when it comes to information technology, should be driven by your business, and not the ever changing offerings of those who sell technology for a living.

And a good job it is too. There sheer volume of offerings today is enough to turn an old IT guy to drink.

I wonder if there’s any of that scotch left.


Today’s Top Takeaway

An old tool used well is more valuable than a new one used poorly, so don’t rush to by the latest and greatest.


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