If War Is Hell, What is Battlefront: IT?

This is a blog of observation.

For 20 years, I’ve worked at the interface of IT and Business. I’ve performed numerous and sundry roles at large financial institutions and government agencies. Mostly what I do is turn paper into bytes. Then I ensure the work that heretofore depended on paper can still be done without it — all the while designing more efficient business processes and integrating new technologies when and where they make sense. I don’t know if this is an intriguing or boring description of what I do, but I can assure you that in doing it, I’m repeatedly fascinated by the struggle between IT and Business — and the humans trapped between them.

Well, you might be saying, okay, but it can’t be that violent — why the combat metaphor?

You see, most folks will say that IT exists to serve. And I believe it serves more than the average number of masters. Not only does IT serve to make the life of “The User” better (by increasing efficiency, decreasing workload, providing access to information), it’s also expected to serve “The Boss” (by helping to manage said users and to a certain degree control and manipulate them). IT, however, must also serve itself. It must be engineered and  built with an eye toward change and future technologies, toward the overall performance of the system, toward disasters that may never come and ones that surely will. And all the while IT is itself a business, sharing the same pressures of profitability and success as the users, bosses, and other technologies it serves.

So, yeah, IT is a Service Industry. It’s a waiter — but one that after serving your food, reports your meal to your parents, warns you to finish your peas, keeps track of your calorie intake for future analysis, and long after you’ve left the restaurant, this waiter makes sure your meal is “migrated” properly and efficiently into it’s murky future. Which of course sounds a little disgusting, and which is why this blog is not called : “Hi, My Name Is IT, and I’ll Be your Server Today”.

All of this is to say, IT has myriad responsibilities and competing priorities that it’s expected to fulfill. Add to that, many in the field despise the masters — the disparate technologies we’re forced to consider and integrate with, the bosses we must constantly keep informed and empowered, and the users — those damn users! This is the source of conflict, this is the battlefront, the place where I live — where people ask for and expect as-yet-impossible functionality, where the needs of the business stress and strain the limits of human achievement, where smart folks who love to tinker and fiddle with the newest toys are forced to put them down, go back to work, and serve, serve, serve.

I’m writing this blog to share my experience–the view of a single IT Consultant ensconced deep in the machinery of corporate IT–and to provide advice on how the front-lines might be made a little less combative. I’ve seen what works on projects large and small, and I’ve seen what fails — miserably. I’ve been on IT death marches, and I’ve had some notable successes you’ll never hear about. I hope that by sharing what I’ve learned, and fostering discussion around it, I can help some folks who’re involved with how technology “get’s done,” get it done with less conflict — and more peace.



One thought on “If War Is Hell, What is Battlefront: IT?

  1. Wow hope this goes well. Please keep some humor within the content and not just dry and philosophical. Add some daytime funnies, office oops, and crashing evening experiences that IT folks do to resolve stress while trying to introduce IT to business. Still glad I had the opportunity to share an office with you in the distant past. To enhance your blog I will say that in my 25+ career in IT I would consider 60% of all projects to have been moderate to complete failures. The other 40% successes completed their efforts in 8 months or less. Only 1 true success I have seen greater than a year.

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