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An Offer You Can't Reuse

Godfather I admit it: I have a strange relationship with most IT (information technology) departments. Yes, I started out as a COBOL programmer many years ago, so I understand the mindset. Still, the more I get involved with IT staffs on projects, and especially CIOs (chief information officers), the more I'm left scratching my head.

Let me ask my readers this: who drives the projects within your organization? Is it IT and the CIO, or is it the business side of the house (those departments whose activities generate revenue)?

Often, I see IT departments run like an organized crime family, calling the shots on what gets done and what doesn't. However, what is the business VALUE they provide in the projects they choose to pursue? Often, when requirements are driven by the IT department, you run into a lot more fluff in your projects than necessary. As the MicroFocus blog indicated recently:

Industry analysts estimate that around 80% of all software rewrite costs can be avoided at the requirements stage*, and that the majority of eventual project failures are caused by poor requirements practises. Another major cause for concern is the number of rarely- or never-used features in new software applications – according to some studies, as much as 45% of newly developed features are never used**. Eliminating these problems is therefore a key priority for CIOs operating in straitened economic conditions and having to focus on maximising value from every dollar they spend.

This means that when figuring out the scope of the project, if the requirements are left unchecked, about half of what is implemented is useless. This begs the question of why business departments allow IT to get away with dictating what projects get attention in the organization.

I think the answer lies in a post Oliver Mallassi published a couple of weeks ago. In sharing his own software project horror story, he hints at one of the major misconceptions which many IT departments perpetuate: FEAR.

"Do it our way and nobody gets hurt."

"We're the only ones who really understand how things work."

"Don't you trust us?"

Mallassi quotes one of my favorite authors, Tom DeMarco, in diagnosing the fear. Do people get to say what's on their mind? Are decisions based on power plays rather than common sense? Does the CIO make you kiss his pinky ring when you walk into his office?  (Okay, I threw that last one in myself.)

If business does not start challenging IT departments, they may find themselves with numerous projects which are behind, are over budget, and are laden with features which will never add value to the bottom line.  IT is a service provider and a partner, NOT a driver.


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