Recently, Chris Potts threw this nugget out on Twitter:
Instead of ‘demand-managing’ to fit an arbitrary IT budget, challenge whether your strategy needs the value an investment is promising
What a terrific comment and one that really hits home with me. As we look to create “alignment” by showing “traceability” in Enterprise Architecture, the process models and practices that so often show up in frameworks go on and on about “demonstrating that an activity can be traced to a strategy.” However, there is nearly no talk about what happens next… showing that the value produced by an activity is actually necessary to make the strategy come to life!
A number of years ago, I worked at a financial institution. They were a large company, and had a fairly relaxed dress code… except my department. I worked for one of the hundreds of Vice Presidents and his team was required to wear nice suits to work every day. Now, I have nothing wrong with wearing a suit. But this was in South Florida, and wearing a lot of clothing has its drawbacks, especially in the afternoon when the sun was high in the sky.
But I followed the rules and bought suits… many of them. Now, I could have purchased cheap suits, but my manager had a keen eye for fashion and he would not have been happy to let me make presentations to senior executives if I was not well dressed. On the other hand, I could have bought really expensive designer suits for $1,000 or more each. I would have looked good, for sure, but I would not have seen a positive impact on my career.
I went with nice, well tailored suits… that looked good but were not so expensive that I’d be going into debt to buy them. $400 or so for each one. My career was stable and my manager was happy.
If I take that metaphor and apply it to IT planning: we often find ourselves with a project that represents a $1,000 suit. It is expensive, yet delivers moderate value. So if I already have a closet full of $400 suits, do I buy it? No. Now, what if I don’t have a closet full of suits. I need one… but do I need a $1,000 suit? No. I’ll cut the costs down, trimming scope and resources.
In every case, that $1,000 suit was directly traceable to my strategy (“comply with business expectations, and grow my career visibility”), but in both cases, I did not buy it.
Chris Potts’ observation was excellent and well worth understanding. Alignment, alone, will not insure that IT delivers value. It is not just about delivering value. It is about delivering the right level of value, sufficient to bring the strategy to life, without incurring unnecessary costs.
Now… to apply this thinking to business intelligence… hmmm…