Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Poor state of IT Strategy

I sat on a panel listening to the IT Strategy Capability pitches yeterday of 5 management consultancies. All have a global presence and whole practices devoted to the sector appropriate to my client. What shocked me was that 3 showed such a great misunderstanding of IT Strategy that I fear for their clients. Another was pretty much what I expected and one was "knock me over" superb.


This was not an issue of cost either. The superb pitch which showed insight, expertise and capability was in the bottom two by hourly rate. The most expensive two showed a singularly black and white, one dimensional view of IT.

Anyway, the old bug bear of mine reared its head. The "we will integrate all functions to create a single system" mentality. Oh please. This is enterprise computing. We thought that a decade a go. When will these people learn that it is about collaboration. Taking technology pockets of excellence and orchestrating them to do do something valuable. Interoperability is the starting point, not the weaving of it together afterwards to make sure it works.

Things to look out for in IT Strategy pitches are:
1. a list of skills like "Oracle, .Net, J2EE". *bangs head against wall*
2. any description of IT strategy which begins, and possibly ends, with "requirements gathering".
3. any patronising 'sage' advice given with a nod and a wink such as "the one thing I would urge you to do is get a prime contractor".
4. hidden agendas. Often these rear their heads in the form of alliances, product plays and an overemphasis on "proprietory vs open source".
5. boilerplate strategy. Let them pitch a methodology or framework but one size does not fit all. See how good they are at tailoring the process on the fly to your circumstances after raising some specific issues. Many will run out of steam.
6. Single faceted, unqualified, stock answers. The answer is not the same for all organisations and often there are many answers. Answering a question with a question is ok if it starts a meaningful debate that the consultant narrows down to a solution set. The "single monolithic system" sceanrio mentioned above falls into this category.

Anyway, it's not all bad. Let's remember that one out of the 5 was phenomenal.

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