Information-Technology-itis (IT-itis)

As I progress deeper into the world of Agile Development and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) I keep hearing periodic voices from the past saying things like:

  • “In order to achieve all your business goals you need to use insert one piece of proprietary software here.”
  • “We can’t do what you want because we are using insert technical goo here.”
  • “We need to do such and such now but the tech team won’t be able to look at such and such until next year.”
  • “Because your software doesn’t do what you want, you need to rebuild it from scratch using our technology.”

When I hear these words I cringe a little because somewhere in the last 10 years it was me who was dishing them out; and, I’m cringing because if you’re hearing these words it means that IT is driving your business instead of your business driving IT. I’m starting to call this IT-itis.

There are other signs of IT-itis: complaints that IT / development moves too slow but people are saying this is the way it is or we’re dealing with techs; lack of a common business goal; people saying things like it can’t technically be done or we need to rebuild it; and, the idolization / mystification / obscuring of all things IT.

The common theme in all of these is people are trying to match their business goals / needs to a piece of software when it should be the other way around because it’s the business model that attracts business and makes the money — not the tool used to deliver it.

Things that can be considered instead include:

  • Rather than attempt to fit your business into one piece of software, model software after your business.
  • Outsource non-crucial tasks. Outsource is such a dirty word in the IT industry, but if you have a good understanding of what you want to achieve, then outsourcing can be an effective way of make life easier and get things done faster.
  • Unless you have a tiny site, rebuilding is no longer economically viable. Instead start looking into plug and play applications, SOA and building services that let mismatched applications talk to one another. It’s completely possible to evolve your software into what you want rather than tearing it down and building it up again.
  • Don’t listen to people when they say, “it can’t be done because of technical goo.” Technology is just technology and there’s always a way of making technologies talk to each other.

Every now and then I hear the little IT-itis voice pop up and pull back only to realize that there are so many people out there who implicitly trust technology / software / geeks to help them reach their business goals. However, in the end, software is simply a tool used to help businesses and geeks are merely the ones who build that software. It’s the business analysts / domain experts / managers who should determine and own the business path.

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