Religion vs Evolution
Don’t call the PC Police just yet, it’s not what you think.
I was at an event last evening speaking to a gentleman I had just been introduced to about who we are, what we do, you know, the “Getting To Know You” phase of the conversation. During the course of the conversation I was asked a couple of questions that, the more I thought about it, are part of complimentary discussions. The first was “What do you find is the biggest challenge your clients?” and second was “How do we end up in a place where we have so many disparate systems that don’t really talk to one another?”. We talked and learned from one another throughout the conversation but as we shared stories and experiences it really came down to two seeming anomalous factors, religion and evolution.
So what do I mean by religion and evolution? No I’m not getting into a conversation about faith and Darwin (well not in the sense you’re thinking).
Religion – As it relates to business, everyone has their own beliefs about what’s best for their part of the organization, their own ambitions, and their own goals that sometimes do not align with other departments or organizational units. As a group you have your own way of doing things that you believe is the best way to operate. Your actions and decisions are driven by your beliefs of what is right for your immediate needs and organization. This is normal. This is what you do to take care of your people and advance your path towards your goals right? But what about the company’s larger strategic goals? Does your “religion” actually align with the rest of the “church” (company)?
The IT folks know what’s best for everyone and we can’t allow people too much freedom as they may compromise security, or data, or break their computer and I’ll have to fix it. Sales wants this really cool CRM tool. It has no impact on other departments (or so we think), so we’ll just make our choice among ourselves.
Evolution – As companies grow so do their component parts and along with them the complexity of processes and operations. I’ve said that religion can lead to decisions made in a vacuum. These decisions are the cause of technology evolution. Each department has varying systems at different ages and capability levels. Sometimes we end up with duplicated data which in turn leads to inconsistent data and no real version of the truth. Reports are generated by different group by different systems with different data and on it goes. You get the point. We’ve created this tightly woven mess of technology that seems impossible to untangle and make more effective and efficient.
As this twisted monster grows, unfortunately, so does the resentment and erosion of the relationships that could fix it. People most often start playing the blame game. “They do this every time…” or “They didn’t talk to us when they bought that so it’s not my problem…”. Whatever the situation somehow trust falls apart usually because of expediency and budget allocations. So how do you break that pattern? How do you evolve and start to sing from the same hymnal?
In IT there is a model known as OSI that covers how networks communicate. It has 7 layers, well at least in the books. Most engineers and IT managers have a tough time learning about Layer 8. Unofficially it’s referred to as the Political Layer of the OSI model. The layer where you build relationships with your colleagues and partners in the organization to build trust and foster growth and collaboration. Sounds easy right? Sure it is! That’s why we all have some estranged relative somewhere that said something stupid years ago that you still haven’t forgotten them for.
Too often we don’t realize but as an IT organization we are uniquely positioned to facilitate these relationships and truly enable the business. Nearly every business problem is presented with technical solutions in today’s world. Changing stance from an obstructionist position to facilitating and enabling changes and integration will enable growth, speed, and consistency throughout the environment. Find ways to facilitate technology decisions for your peers and users with their input and integrate with existing systems. Look for ways to add additional or unexpected value to the process and get faster at it each time. The more you do this the more likely your colleagues will be to come to you to work on the next project for input.