A good buddy of mine forwarded me this article from eWeek by Deborah Perelman. The following quote from the article summarizes the content: “In the simplest terms: too many IT workplaces have become Dilbert-ized—micromanaged, bureaucratic and stifled creatively. It's become an environment where busy work is praised and morale is low.” The article talks about IT as a commodity with trends in outsourcing. Flextronics CEO, Michael Marks, goes one step further in this Businessweek Online article Design is a Commodity. He recommends outsourcing the engineering process for electronics.
How did we get here? In my opinion, IT has done this to itself through the years due to the following reasons:
1) Not working closely with the business
2) Inability to successfully manage projects
Let’s talk about the first point. In the 60’s and 70’s, the business was dependent on IT for information. There were no high powered PCs and the Internet was not for commercial use. Most of what IT worked on in the public sector was business enabling applications. During the 80’s and 90’s, huge advancements in processor speed, memory, and disk technology enabled personal computers to do the work of the massive mainframes from the previous decades. Then the internet came of age which changed the way people and businesses interact with one another. These two important technology advancements changed business for the better but not without consequences. The days of IT being in control with centralized and reliable systems gave way to the complex, distributed, and multi platform environments that we live in today. This in turn, directed a lot of IT’s attention towards infrastructure projects. In today’s world, a large portion of IT budgets go into projects and services that keep the lights on for the company (email, voice & telecommunications, security, compliance, etc.) and do not contribute to additional revenue. In addition, software vendors started delivering shrink wrapped solutions (ERP, CRM, Financial applications, etc.) that was not feasible for companies to build internally. I believe these factors have all contributed to the fact that many IT shops have become disconnected and/or out of touch or alignment with the business. IT has become perceived more as a cost center then an enabler. Employees have become known as what Catbert calls “Headcount”.
Point #2. The PMI Institute states that 72% of IT projects they studied were late, over budget, lacking functionality, or never delivered. Of the 28% “successful” projects, 45% were over budget and 68% took longer then planned. These numbers are frightening! Lack of project management best practices have caused many companies to lose faith in IT. Many business units have started buying their own software packages or paying outside vendors to solve their business problems. This is another reason why IT and the business have become unaligned.
When a company views IT as an expense and not as an enabler, the IT shop becomes a poster child for Dilbert cartoons. Companies tend to look for ways to reduce or eliminate expenses. Once you view your employees as “headcount”, the creativity, passion, and drive gets drained right out of you.
So is IT doomed? Many experts believe that in order for companies to stay competitive and survive in the upcoming years, IT needs to focus on business processes. In the article, The How, Why, and Where of Future I.T., Mark Gibb’s states that, “I.T. has to be able to show that it delivers a real return on investment.” To accomplish that, I believe that IT should start embracing:
1) Project management – to improve delivery and communication
2) Portfolio management – to maximize IT investments, align priorities w/business, and control workloads
3) Business process management – to optimize and automate business processes
4) Enterprise architecture – to align technology with corporate goals and strategies
5) Change management - to manage change and impacts on people and processes
6) Agile development – to deliver value early and often
What are your thoughts?