He who binds to himself a joy
Does the wingèd life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.
– William Blake
Computers are for me, a joy. I sometimes tell myself that I need to get out of this industry and into something wholesome like fish farming or tree surgery but then some new technology pops up its head and there I am, in front of a terminal at 2am trying to get something to work. Sometimes it can be hard to let go of old technologies but I remember the above poem and move on to new things.
For the majority of businesses, even those engaged in technology related activities, Information Technology is not core business and most suck at it quite badly; haemorrhaging money and resources into the IT black hole whilst Prince2 and ITIL practitioners run around trying to micro-manage engineers into archaic working practices. Over time “IT department” has, for business leaders at least, become synonymous with “resisting change”.
This situation has led to better organised service providers swooping down into the market and providing the Enterprise with polished applications provided via a web browser. Google are a great example of this; providing traditional desktop applications such as email, word processors and spreadsheets to the enterprise for a nominal fee. Thus people become used to these excellent collaborative tools as the Microsoft Office marketing team looks on in horror.
Unfortunately, its not all rainbows and puppies in cloud land and, as business grow the restrictive nature of using such services can start to be felt. For instance organisations start needing basic database services, a role traditionally filled by Microsoft Access, but are somewhat stuck where to keep these shared resources.
Our imaginary company
Lets imaging a new Berlin startup dedicated to the supply of flexible obscenities. (Typically technology writers use “widgets” as the imaginary product but this is simply too boring and abstract to be of interest. I want my readers to feel this imaginary product). Gummihaft GmbH are using Google documents to manage the majority of their work flows. This is working very well for the most part but Heidi, the purchasing manager is having trouble balancing incoming orders with stock levels and new orders. The company is growing fast so an assistant is hired to help. Michi, perhaps more concerned with his fledgling career as a Minimal Techno DJ, arrives every Monday in a very confused state after a long weekend in the The Berghain. This is when things start to break down. Michi’s Mondays are typically a disaster as the system fails to adequately keep track of what orders have been booked and what has not. A large order for Dildoprince gets booked twice and does not get noticed until the Dildoprince buying manager calls and asks why he has 500 EasyGlide XL and not 250 as clearly stated in the purchase order. As the product is manufactured to order and no returns are possible this cock up results in a significant cash flow crisis and a very terse meeting with the companies Credit Institute who eventually agree to cover the shortfall whilst the remaining EasyGlide XL stock is sold at a reduced rate.
Here comes the IT department
The directors recognise that their business is missing technology expertise and so Helmut, an uncle of one of the Directors, is bought in as a consultant to work out how the company should be using IT. Helmut has recently been made redundant after a long career in the Deutsch Post IT department. 25 years taking care of the technological dinosaurs that graze on the vast monitory resources of Germanys largest mail carrier. Helmut, keen to justify his wage sets about arranging meetings with everyone to gather requirements to solve the companies biggest problem. After 3 months working on the specification for he feels that people are being obstructive and that he cannot properly tie down the specification for the software he has decided to write himself.
After 9 months, Helmut is ready to show the product of the his efforts at his cabin in Eberswalde where he ended up spending most of his time to in order to not be disturbed by the
The ideal development team should be like a slightly overexcited puppy. Running after the ball wherever it is thrown. Of course the stakeholder, in order to get maximum value from the puppy should be very careful where it is throwing that ball.