In the past three weblog entries, three management personalities argued for their particular stance on a question alluding to the proper, right and best way to run an IT organization. [Is it possible to run your IT shop (like an aircraft carrier) as such an incredibly structured, high functioning, ready-for-anything organization? Is this the right way to run a technology group?]
Although these three answers voice the most common perspectives, they are all misguided and represent the wrong way to approach running technology. All have taken the too-typical stance of IT shops that are self-focused. None have asked about or gone into any depth about the technology needs and drivers of the businesses that they are supporting.
The needs of the business must govern how IT is run. You are not running IT for its own sake; it must be not just fit for purpose, but dynamic and integrated into the needs of the business. Most businesses don’t want an aircraft carrier, nor do they want a dinghy. They want reliable technology that helps drive their business forward. In some cases, this means investment in cutting edge carrier-grade (no pun intended) infrastructure, while in others, it means letting go of control and maximizing cost savings and user flexibility. Some organizations will want to showcase technology, while others want it to be an invisible function. The risk-reward and investment-benefit balances are different at every company.
While you could outfit all staff with unified communications, smartphones and interactive CRM access, you could also just give everyone a netbook, Skype and a free webmail account. The business drivers and investment will dictate the mode required, and because your operational methodology will be very different in these scenarios, your management approach should be as well.
To summarize, the obvious answer is yes, you can run your IT shop as a ready-for-anything organization (like an aircraft carrier), but the additional question of “should you?” is the crux. It is too easy to decide what technology should do based on principle, but don’t get ahead of yourself. It is not a matter of what you can do, it is a matter of what you should do given the true needs of the business.