IT Strategy—Is a Democracy Merited?

IT decisions—not always popular, and often taken in isolation. What can IT leaders do to make IT strategy more inclusive and—crucially—more successful? It starts with trust, says Walid Hbeika, Chief Technologist, Application Delivery Management at Micro Focus.

Sound familiar?

We’ve all been there. You hear about a new IT decision, a technical directive, or the announcement of a new tool in the stack. And you roll your eyes and shake your head. What are they thinking? If only they knew what I knew. The trouble is that these decisions are taken without the input of those who know what is needed.

Freedom for IT

So, here’s an idea: what if you ran your IT team as a democracy? It would mean that every team member has a vote when making decisions. What empowerment! Involving everyone could lead to creative problem-solving, personal growth, and unique ideas. No more curious management decisions or ill-informed judgments. And no faint whiff of technical bias.

And there’s value in this beyond the obvious. Now, options from the open-source world or from the unique experiences of the team, rather than just the view of the decision-makers, are within reach. There’s a chance to check against vendor lock-in concerns, do a full technical analysis, and adopt a genuinely democratic approach to what should be a team decision.

However, too much freedom can lead to inconsistency and uncontrollable IT spend. How long are we assessing before we decide? What are our criteria? What about our preferred vendor list and the procurement policies? What about security issues, or our regulatory obligations to declare open source or other suppliers? What about the reputation of the vendor?

Suddenly a great idea becomes a significant burden. The potential value of a good decision has been lost with the expense of making it. So, what’s the answer? It’s neither rigidity nor democracy—it needs to be somewhere in between.

Accepting that there is more than one good idea is fair. But so too is accepting that not every idea is a good one. So, let’s consider our software development team democracy becoming a meritocracy.

A merited approach

Why is selecting software tools difficult?

Within an organization, you have different stakeholders with conflicting priorities. Developers tend to think that the choice of tools is key to developing high-quality applications. Architects, on the other hand, focus on the right framework or blueprint, not so much on tools. Finally, owners or sponsors of these applications typically care about neither. They want something reliable, secure, scalable, and aligned with the business. Meanwhile procurement want the best price, period. So who’s in control?

There needs to be a published process by which decisions on future processes and technology are made. Within such a context, all requested input is valid. Every person (or at least those determined as having a say in this decision) gets a say. The good ideas are considered, without needless debate from too many sources of opinion. In other words, it should be a meritocratic process. The choice of tools, solutions, and frameworks can then be taken quickly, inclusively, and with all relevant input considered.

Building trust into the technology planning process

The idea is sound. The practicalities of setting it up are less simple. It takes confidence and preparation. We need trusted voices to make this work. Consulting experts in the field who are also experts in the process of decision-making is ideal.

With 25 years of experience, I’ve learned that, while IT consulting must be customer-centric, it should never lose sight of what technology is all about. If the path for a technological breakthrough looks chaotic through a creative process, it’s still founded in well-established principles and structures. In other words, leaving room for creativity, flexibility, and agility should not come at a high price. Too much freedom will end in an uncontrollable IT spend (in terms of both time and money), while choosing the right tools and putting in place the right engineering processes will benefit all.

None of the rigor, process enforcement, or rules should attack the creative process that pushes technology forward. It’s simply there to control the pace at which an organization should respond to technology innovations. Changing direction with every gust of wind, or going in all directions at once, will never satisfy everyone and cost a fortune.

Organizations need to:

  • Invest the right time to make informed IT decisions
  • Establish an appropriate process of investigation and decision-making based on clear criteria
  • Consult with professionals and trusted advisers that can offer genuine, objective guidance

A trusted adviser

Micro Focus has 45 years of building technology across all leading software platforms to support critical IT use cases. We’ve partnered with the world’s largest technology and infrastructure organizations and are open and agnostic in our approach to technology. This practice helps us avoid technology bias and stay objective about technology options. We know what makes sense and can advise accordingly. Our Advisory Services offer you a guaranteed objective viewpoint to support your meritocratic approach to IT strategy.

Micro Focus Professional Services has years of experience acting as a trusted adviser. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.

This post was first first published on Home | Micro Focus Blog website by Walid Hbeika. You can view it by clicking here