Posted by Jack Santos
The term “organic” is making the lexicon rounds, and has come a long way from its health food store beginnings in the 70s. Take organic business growth (versus growth by acquisition).
The most recent manifestation of “organic” came from a column in Forbes, by Dan Woods.
Dan’s approach, and back-handed chastisement of traditional IT, certainly fits trends that we at Burton group talk about.
Specifically the consumerization and democratization of IT. A recent Computerworld report brought the point home: Internet access is now a human right, according to the EU.
So, as information technology continues to become integrated in everyday life, the trend toward “organic IT” will only get worse – or better depending on your POV.
That’s why I often talk about IT integration versus IT alignment.
But the flip side of organic is chaos (both data and process) and unintended consequences. Think invasive species.
The business has ultimate control and responsibility for both data and process, and the organic approach, if not managed, can negatively impact both.
Usually what that means is that the organization looks for someone to mediate the decision-making and organizational/systems decisions…and the only piece of the organization that has the expertise and (ostensibly) the umpire-like lack of line responsibility skin-in-the-game is IT – so IT ends up managing the use of technology, and all that goes along with it -- including governance processes.
Whether governance fully involves the business, or IT just takes on the mantle of responsibility is a tricky balance. The latter often occurs at the urging/delegation/abdication by business units. I would submit that IT needs another set of skills – that of making sure that technology (read data and process) decision-making is business driven.
It’s a biblical “give a fish vs. teach to fish” scenario – but teaching to fish assumes learning acceptance by the target, and some level of skill by the teacher. And these skills are not technical skills – but relationship and influence skills. Not the usual courses taken by a rising C programmer, or a database administrator.
When getting the business to be fully involved in technology decision-making doesn’t work well, it's just a short hop to blaming IT, or for IT to overreact (again as proxy to the business) and set inflexible standards that squelch business innovation.
That’s why architecture (and governance) is so important.
It’s all about collaboration and communication, and neither a soviet-style centralized approach (which, incidentally, has strong similarities to how capitalist companies are managed), nor a total laissez-faire anarchy (which is where organic has strong tendencies) will work.
Which reminds me of a t-shirt…
“Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll sit in the boat drinking beer all day…”
Would that be…organic beer?