The Business-Technology Weave

Aug 13 2011   11:06AM GMT

Business and IT, Pt. II: Who does what, why, and when?

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott


The Filing Cabinet Analogy


Your office is cluttered – you have documents all over the place.  The paperless office of the future has not yet arrived, will never arrive, and your hardcopy papers are necessary, important, and accumulating.  You must get them filed for safekeeping, but you also need a system of storage and access:  You require ready reference of the content. 


You call up your supply department and order a filing cabinet.  A few days later, a supply clerk rolls your cabinet in, asking where you would like it. 


In exiting, the clerk wheels his empty dolly toward your door… you say, “Wait!  You’re not finished…”  Bewildered, the clerk asks you what you mean.  You politely gesture to all the stacks of paper on your desk, your table, your office floor.  You tell him that he needs to label the drawers.  He needs to create folders with tabs for various subjects, projects and tasks.  He needs to alphabetize and categorize your paper documentation and file it in the appropriate place in the new cabinet. 


Hmmm… what is wrong here?  Simply this:  You, the recipient of the filing cabinet, expect the supply clerk to do your filing – which is not the supply clerk’s job.  The supply clerk has delivered a system for filing – the recipient must file, or delegate that to relevant department staff.  But realize too:  the cabinet’s recipient must not only use and administer the “system,” – the cabinet, drawers, folders, and setup of information storage – the recipient must do some initial configuring and setup of that system.  After all, it is the recipient who best understands the business requirement of that system (the labeling, categorization, etc. that is necessary).


Now, we know that no one would ask the supply clerk above to do that filing – or configuring – yet IT finds itself in that very position as it delivers its “filing cabinets.”  Often times business systems are delivered, and IT is expected to set up such things as finance codes – and to maintain them.  Why?  Business uses those codes, and should have an intimate knowledge for best codes:  syntax, how many, subcodes, inter-relations… and on and on.


We’ll examine this example in the next days, but it is business’ “filing cabinet” of codes to maintain – not IT’s.  IT can assist with suggestions for entering and structuring the codes as necessary, but IT should not determine the business-mechanics of the codes and their fit and inter-relationship to business.  Further, this is just a sliver of an example:  IT is frequently bled across lines of diminishing returns; maintaining all sorts of business structures, rules and updates – that are squarely within any reasonable person’s definition of business responsibility.


Yet IT is often tasked precisely the wrong way, taking time away from the rush of security challenges, best progressions, and vision to the horizon of accelerating challenges…


Stay tuned…



On this day (August 13th):  In 1907, the first taxicab begins operation in New York City.

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