It’s Time for CIOs (and McKinsey) to Get a New Playbook

Posted 01/22/2010 - 12:06 by chriswarner

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Jeff Hammond of Forrester recently wrote an article in Information Week about ‘What Developers Think’. It recapped the results of a survey Forrester did with for Dr. Dobb's.

They asked ‘more than 1,000 platform-agnostic, programming-language-independent Dr. Dobb's readers’ a lot of things and then identified seven trends that could have major implications for IT strategy. The summary of the results says it all:

‘Software developers are adopting new technologies or techniques including RIAs, virtualization and Agile development. They're using and contributing to open source projects, and challenging the conventions that underpin the way enterprise software and tools are built and sold. This transition will accelerate as developer tech populism takes hold and drives the adoption of new development approaches related to cloud computing, scale-out architectures that can accommodate change and mobile Web applications.'

Great stuff! As a manager of these folks, your message couldn’t be clearer: you need a different gameplan than the long-term, high-risk approaches you’ve used in the past. Scrum is in, the waterfall model is out. But just when it seems IT is going to shake off the reputation as a group to work ‘around’ and not ‘with’, McKinsey goes and fumbles the ball in ‘Data to Dollars’ (you’ll have to register on their site to read the entire 8-page paper). To me it reads like a ‘How NOT To Guide’ for CIOs.

The intent of this paper is certainly worthy: ‘Chief information officers have a chance to expand their influence as the mediators between business requirements and IT capabilities.’ And, at first glance, I was pretty sure they were going to talk the same talk as Jeff Hammond. Replacing the old top-down, big-bang playbook with one that emphasizes speed and agility. Boy, was I sorely disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a McKinsey-hater. Long-time readers know I’ve quoted their work before. And in this case McKinsey gives good lip-service to getting the ‘right data to the right people.’ But the core of the paper simply describes a complete top-to-bottom rebuild of your information architecture. In other words, McKinsey believes that if what you have sucks, you should go and re-architect the entire thing AGAIN.

In 2 pain-staking pages they describe a model project that is a freakin’ HUGE effort (excuse my hyperbole). It includes, among other things, a new data warehouse, a system-wide data quality effort, new application-to-application integration, interface rebuilds of existing applications and a new highly-structured reporting system. And all of it built by good ole IT for the benefit of the users.

I know of some organizations that might benefit from old-school top-down, big-bang decision-support efforts. But if I were a CIO today, I’d think twice before throwing a Hail Mary pass like that. This isn’t the fast, responsive approach your users want or that your developers are adopting. Today’s IT offense needs to be nimble and quick.

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As I see it now it's a lot

As I see it now it's a lot more difficult to actually be a successful web developer. The stakes are high and they are getting even higher by the year, I guess that's one of the features of the consumerization of IT. I hope this project will meet the expectations.

Posted by kall on Mon, 12/05/2011 - 18:57
That was a really interesting

That was a really interesting article and I totally agree that while we have to come up with newer and faster technologies in today’s fast moving world of computer development, we just cannot forget the old ones which is the foundation on which to build the new ones at least some them!! So, we have to respect the old technology credentials that we have learnt from and based on that come out with innovate ideas to take the industry forward!!

Posted by nIKKI on Wed, 05/25/2011 - 13:19
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