"If you board the wrong train, it's no use running along the corridor in the other direction," said famed World War II German resistance fighter Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We in IT boarded the wrong train a long time ago. It's the "standard model" of information technology organizations -- the familiar litany that says CIOs should run IT as a business, meeting the requirements of its internal customers. This refrain has been endorsed by our holy trinity, too: analyst firms, most consultancies, and ITIL.
They call the standard model "best practice." When they're in a different mood, they also call desktop lockdown a best practice, leaving you to figure out how it is that you tell your customers what they can and can't do.
So we've had to run along the corridor, trying to make sense of it all. But you can't make sense of nonsense.
I admit this conclusion is not a growing consensus. It isn't even an emerging trend. It's more a guerilla movement, promoted covertly by some renegade CIOs and supported by a few consultants and commentators who have rejected the conventional wisdom and industry punditry in favor of what their experience tells them works in real organizations.
Bassam Fawaz, CIO of a large global logistics company, is one of the renegades. According to Fawaz, "The IT conventional wisdom that is generously dispensed by many IT think-tanks and opinion makers is largely theoretical and offers little or no practical value."
Businesses are starting to shake off the recession and think about the future instead of simply making it to next week. It's the perfect time to board the right train -- the one headed to the promised land, where IT is a strategic partner to the rest of the business, not a subservient order taker content to process work requests while accepting the blame for everything that goes wrong.
Want to board the right train?
Your ticket to the promised land begins with this: No one inside your company is your customer.
Thinking that they are is the core fallacy of the standard model, and it has caused no end of trouble.
Take the common complaint voiced by (among others) Dirk Huggett, an IT business analyst for the North Dakota Information Technology Department: "You are always too expensive. One classic example is PCs," he says. "Executives get flyers from different vendors for $299 laptops and get upset when the ones they buy cost them $800. It is tough to explain why the cheaper PC won't run their mission-critical application.
"Or try to explain your file and print server hosting rates. It doesn't matter that part of that rate is full backup and off-site storage. Or as part of a clustered environment you have built-in redundancy and that ensuring the server is updated and secured appropriately is part of that cost. Their friend Joe hosts these things on the side, and it is much cheaper."