I used to love just IT. I’m a born geek. I like technology. I embrace it without question. I read Wired magazine cover to cover every month. I’d probably eat uranium-enriched cereal for breakfast if some uranium vendor-sponsored study told me it’d make me smarter or cooler or something. I never used to let common sense get in the way of a chance to use some cool new stuff. I mean it’s my job to like technology, right?
Some of the businesses I’ve worked for are like that too. They’ll spend bazillions of dollars on flights of fancy based on studies or dodgy consultant reports which are mostly apocryphal or, at least, wildly inaccurate and unrealistically optimistic. Sounds like a geek’s paradise, right? Well it isn’t. Most often, such projects end in tears, but the organisations involved are big enough and stupid enough just to accept it as part of what they do, and they bumble along into the next expensive disaster. That’s simply not good business. It’s not good for IT either.
It isn’t so with my current employer. It’s a family company, founded, built and still run on good, honest, old-fashioned hard work and values, and they treat IT people and their grandiose schemes with the suspicion they richly deserve.
There is a legendary tale of a senior family member appearing in the IS department one day, some years ago, with a view to having a look at the new server the company had just purchased. This particular server had a ticket value approximating that of a concrete truck and it was made clear, in no uncertain terms, that a concrete truck would have been a better purchase because at least you could walk up to it, kick the tyres and know with an adequate degree of certainty you’d got something for your money.
Now that, folks, is good business. Perhaps the server was a better purchase than the concrete truck but at least the challenge was made and everyone had to think about it. Often investment in IT is made because “we have to in order to keep up” or “we’ve just gotta have it” or some similar lame reason. All too often it’s because the senior decision makers, in a desperate attempt to “be hip and get with it”, will agree to anything IT-related, even if (or maybe especially if) they don’t understand it.
Nowadays, I mostly love business. I have to, because at the end of the day, it’s all about good business. Thinking that way has made me a lot better at what I do. I still love technology as well, but technology for its own sake is no longer cool. Our purpose in IT is to add some real value to the businesses we support. It’s our mission to make IT accessible, understandable and — most of all — useful. If we get challenged occasionally we shouldn’t resent it, we should cherish it.