The Business-Technology Weave

Apr 17 2010   12:33PM GMT


David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott

It’s been said that understanding what things are like… is a large step toward understanding what things are.



Let’s take a break from the topic of False Solutions… I’d like to return to it and wrap up a few more concepts and tips, but we’ll do that a little later.


Today, let’s talk about responsibilities and where they lie.  In many business-technology endeavors there blooms a confusion as to who should do what.  This is especially true when going down a new and unfamiliar path.  Business frequently thinks that anything involving a technical support structure means that most of the responsibility and activity belongs in the IT department.  IT frequently thinks that Business should be responsible for some things that in fact are better reserved for IT’s exercise and judgment.  We know there is a mutual dependency, but when are lines appropriate and where do we draw them?  What answers does the Weave yield? 


Let’s look at a couple examples that will highlight some areas, then discuss a simple way to illuminate any area for solution.  You will then be able to employ this model to answer your own questions in cases where you’re proceeding onto unfamiliar ground, and unsure as to where to place specific activity and responsibility.  You can also look at your existing placements of effort, and in many cases make better assignments in cases where certain efforts have been poorly positioned. 


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, and 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. 


As 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 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. 


What is wrong here?  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 the “system,” the recipient must do some configuring and setup of that system.  After all, it is the recipient who best understands the business requirement of that system (the labeling, categorization, content for the drawers, etc. that is necessary).


Now, we know that no one would ask the supply clerk above to do filing – or configuring – yet IT finds itself in that very position as it delivers its “filing cabinets”.


Next:  Determining the “Why” for Who Does What…


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