IT departments are having a serious identity crisis and it’s time to do something about it. I’d say it’s an epidemic. What are the symptoms? They’ve been accumulating and changing for a while now. First, there were strained relationships between IT and the business. Then there was a disconnect – people hardly speaking across departmental lines. Now, there seems to be an odd acceptance. It’s sort of a “You do your thing, we’ll do ours, and we’ll all get along fine” situation. But what thing? Who’s thing? Who does what?
This is not completely new. As far back as dBase (an early PC programming language and database management system), and probably earlier, people outside of the formal IT department have had the ability to create their own solutions with just a little bit of initiative and a book or two. Then Microsoft took end user empowerment to a new level with MS Access, sometimes underpinned with a SQLServer database running on a server situated literally under someone’s desk. Things proliferated from there.
Were they production solutions? Well, what does “production” mean? If it means the end user could call the help desk when something went wrong, then, no, they weren’t production. You had to call Carl and Carl might be on vacation or worse. But if “production” means that a problem with the system could lead to a critical business issue, then yes. Some of these systems were used to write checks, manage manufacturing schedules, issue purchase orders – important stuff.
And potential disruptions in operational processes were just the acute risks. There were also deeper strategic issues. For example, how can you have coherent and integrated resources (like data resources) if there is no coordinated approach to development and deployment? You can’t.
This leads us to today. The level of end user empowerment has never been greater. Same with the risks and the issues. In addition to all the previous capabilities, end users can now whip out their credit card, stick it in the cloud, and get something up and running faster than ever. No need for the rogue server in the office anymore.
I often hear data management leaders say something like, “We really need to get control of our data – it needs to be integrated; it needs to be consistent; we need to look and act like one company. That’s what our ‘One <fill in almost any company name> Initiative’ is all about!” And then a few minutes later, “Sure, lots of our departments build their own solutions from top to bottom [and we are clearly ok with this and don’t see the contradiction between this and our stated goals.]”