Have you ever experienced business people express their need in the shape of the tool they want to upgrade with a new feature or integration? Perhaps they have also specified where the needed data can be sourced from. These dedicated people believe they are helping the “IT people” to deliver faster by being concrete and specific.
This is not a scenario limited to small companies as some might think. We often see this culture of reducing IT Professional to “fixers” in large companies as well. And sorry to break any illusions, but the result is rarely a cost effective, compliant and flexible ecosystem of applications.
How did this happen? One reason is likely to be found in our exhausted and outsourced IT provider organisations who know too little about the business they support. It takes business knowledge and confidence to step up and act as a strategic partner. And we can only challenge what is needed if we understand why it is needed. Otherwise requirements will continue to be stated in a way that assumes a specific solution. Business people are naturally not trained in architecture concepts like separation of concerns, encapsulation and the value of authoritative sources. They are attracted to the tools they know how to use. As Abraham Maslow popularly phrased it, “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.
What we have experienced is that focusing on the purpose tend to dissolve conflicts about favourite tools and vendors. It becomes easier to have a shared ideation and discuss e.g. early value creation that might not have been imagined by the one representing the need. Another effect of focusing on purpose is that it allows for easier discussion on how long-lived, mission critical and business differentiating this solution will be. This is fundamental to making sustainable decisions on whether to reuse, expand, build, partner up, or buy a solution – and how to do it.
The point is that you cannot make the right choices in what technology and material to use for the solution, if you do not know enough about the problem and why it is worth solving. And when you seek to understand your business “outside in”, you will build trust, and you might very well find yourself in a better position to exercise your IT professionalism.
What is your experience with business providing a shopping list without discussing the actual purpose for the list?