Wednesday, January 3, 2007

There are no IT projects ... mostly

Whenever someone says something I've been thinking or saying for a while, it's clear evidence of how smart they are. (Don't laugh, you think so too.) So when Bob Lewis published the KJR Manifesto - Core Principles, he confirmed his intelligence when he wrote:

There are no IT projects. Projects are about changing and improving the business or what's the point?
The variation that I've been telling people for years is that people don't want software, they want the things they do with the software. So if you're working on an IT project and can't explain the benefits in terms that matter to the business, you probably shouldn't be doing the project. Then in the middle of making this point to someone, I realized it's not always true.

The one case I thought of was a steel manufacturer that I interviewed with. While the factory was computer-controlled, the people who worked on those systems were in Engineering. The non-production computer system -- email, financials, advertising, etc. -- was IT. In that case, IT really was a support function, no more important to the company than telecom.

That doesn't mean it was unimportant. They could no more survive without their back-office system than they could do without phones. But that system really had no bearing on how they ran their business. It was something that was expected to Just Work™, like the electricity or plumbing.

The thing I don't know is if this is the exception that proves the rule, or if it's more common than I thought to find a place where IT really isn't a strategic partner in the business.

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