Next-gen IT starts with you

No matter what your job is within IT, it's up to you to either move the organization forward, or scuttle it

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Collaboration? Incrementalism could happen without it, but not very well, because in most cases IT isn't the best judge of what should be the next piece to build. Iteration can't happen without it either, because collaboration is how feedback loops happen. It's a matter of frequent, informal, conversational contact between developers and users.

As far as the choice of methodology goes, agile is next-gen and waterfall is, unless you're very careful, last-gen. The reason: Agile is built around collaboration, while waterfall builds a wall around IT, with carefully constructed and controlled ports through which requirements pass in one direction and finished products pass in the other.

Ready for the punch line? As a developer, if you embrace agile and enjoy its collaborative style, while at the same time the users on your projects trust you and enjoy working with you, you've moved things forward. If they don't trust you and don't consider you, again, a peer with whom they collaborate informally whenever either of you need to reach out, you're doing your part to scuttle the program.

Built-into-the-job example No. 3: Business analysis

Business analysts are the heart and soul of the next-gen-IT evolution. When they work with business managers and users to figure things out, there are three possible ways the conversation can go.

The first is the traditional business analyst conversation, which starts essentially with the question, "What do you want the system to do?" The usual unspoken reaction is, "How should I know? You're supposed to be the expert in IT!" Not a promising start.

The second is the proper next-gen business analyst opening conversational gambit, but without the proper next-gen business/IT relationship: "Let's work together to figure out how your operation can run better." The unspoken reaction follows: "Who do you think you are? I've spent decades fine-tuning things here, and you think you can just to waltz in and find a dozen streamlining opportunities I've missed? Fat chance!"

The third is the same as the second, only starting with a positive interpersonal relationship between the business analyst and business manager. With that in the mix, the two can collaborate. Often, they can figure out solid improvements; sometimes those improvements require changes and enhancements to the IT the business relies on; when they do, the business manager trusts IT to get the job done.

You know what comes next: If you are a business analyst, enjoy learning about how things work throughout the business, enjoy working with business managers and users to figure out better ways for them to get their work done, and have collaborated to figure out what the new IT needs, you trust your developer colleagues to figure out the details via agile-driven collaboration. Only then have you moved things forward.

But if you think your job is to "gather requirements" from business managers and users, translating them into language developers can understand because "they can't talk to users," you've scuttled the program, too.

These aren't the only three IT roles that can scuttle the program or move it forward. They're important, yes, but everyone in IT has opportunities.

Want a good starting point, no matter where you sit in IT? Lose the dumb-user stories. Sure, they're fun. What's equally sure is that the "dumb" users eventually hear you and your colleagues telling them -- not a big trust builder.

Trust me. Dumb-user stories are an outstanding way to scuttle the program.

This story, "Next-gen IT starts with you," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bob Lewis' Advice Line blog on InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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