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The Lanham Factor The (ir)rational thoughts of a (not-so)mad man

In my most recent post, I describe the nature of scalability in terms of design, not platform.  The events that prompted me to make that entry also urge me to follow a different branch with that discussion.  Having served five years and nine months in the United States Navy, I will use that as an example.

The skipper (a.k.a. Captain, a.k.a. Old Man) of a ship is a great and terrible thing.  Ultimately, the skipper is responsible for every action of every sailor on board.  The captain must have a great deal of knowledge about what goes on throughout the ship to make rapid and accurate decisions.  However, the skipper must trust the sailors under him/her to perform at their best with their best knowledge in order to effectively manage the ship.

The CIO of a company is like this as well.  Instead of making decisions about discrete technologies (such as Java vs. .NET), the CIO's job is supposed to be more like the captain of a ship.  He/she is supposed to make decisions based on input from his/her direct reports.  This is an important distinction.  The CIO is NOT supposed to be making down-in-the-weeds technology decisions from on high.  He/she should collaborate with the VPs and Directors to make appropraite decisions.

Too often I know CIOs taking the approach of dictator decision making.  “We're building everything!  Vendors will screw you!”  “We're going open source for everything to cut costs.”  These kinds of “all or none” decisions are bad for morale, set a bad example, and are made with incomplete information.  The strategic nature of the CIO position requires the CIO to work to align technology with the business.  So, how can the CIO effectively make the alignment if they are closed-minded?  CIOs should be open-minded and should trust their direct reports to provide complete, accurate information from which they can make rational decisions.

So how is a CIO to maintain effective alignment without making decisions?  There is one piece of the puzzle missing in this discussion and that is the Strategic Technology Plan.  The STP is aligned with the Strategic Business Plan to help promote effective techno-business alignment for a specific duration (3-5 years).  The STP helps the CIO make decisions by selecting “default” choices.  For example, if you have a staff of 100 and no one on staff knows Java and everyone is experienced with Microsoft products, your default custom solution platform should probably be .NET.  That does NOT mean that every custom solution must be .NET.  It also doesn't require that every COTS solution be .NET.  It just means that, unless you can make a solid, quantitative case for not using the default platform, you should use it.  It's objective, quantitative, and aligned with the business.

Posted on Tuesday, November 22, 2005 5:57 PM SILC - Solution Implementation Life Cycle | Back to top


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