Wednesday, February 08, 2006

IT and intranet development

I'm on a mailing list called IntranetUX ; I've been involved off and on in intranet development since 1994, so it's as interesting to watch the evolution of expectations and technologies as it is for those of the "public" web. And I've recently begun a consulting contract for a company doing a very interesting intranet based on Flex /Flash with a Java/Oracle back end. So I'm finally writing about intranets as well as other technology issues.

The moderator of the IntranetUX group, Jeremiah Owyang, pointed out this blog entry by Patrick Cormier. Here's my response:

I'd agree that the capabilities he describes for IM (Information Management) are necessary, but disagree that they should be in a separate group. Here's why:

Traditional IT is about stability: robust and secure infrastructure, software licenses, regulatory compliance, sales recorded and checks paid, no foolin', no monkey business, no changes to anything without authorization.New technologies and applications threaten stability -- hence the typically ponderous pace of application development when it's done by IT. Requirements to the micro level before a line of code gets written, document, document, approve, approve.

But most organizations have a Chief
Information Officer, not a Chief Cables/Servers/Ink Cartridges Officer, and at the end of the day the CIO's job is to deliver the information to end users that they need, in a form they can use.

Agile Development -- eXtreme Programming et al. -- is not an irrelevant-to-non-programmers geek buzzphrase/fad du jour; it's about creating competitive advantage for the organization by delivering the new capabilities that end users need accurately, because it depends on direct, iterative contact with those users as part of the development process, and quickly because in the real modern world, a requirements doc written six months ago may well be utterly worthless.

So the CIO who aspires to live up to the title must incorporate IM thinking and people into IT, put those people into the closest possible contact with their clients, and embrace agile methodology in the context of still providing reliable infrastructure.

Two groups with conflicting goals will always compete for resources and control. When IT controls too rigidly, entreprenuerial business units will always try to roll their own solutions; when IM is the client-facing side of IT, there will be far less need for that, and the synergies Patrick suggests will also be possible.


Blogger Jeremiah Owyang said...

welcome to the blogosphere, you grace us with your presence!

8:18 PM  
Blogger Patrick Cormier said...

Alas, the title often does not tmake the man, or woman. Chief Information Officers rarely know anything about records management, Access to Information & Privacy, Library Management, Recorded Information, etc. - all facets of IM but not part of IT.

Even in a large group - National Defence has 2,000 people working in "IM Group", headed by an Assistant Deputy Minister, seniors in that group have recognized that their group really is an IT Group rather than an IM Group.

They still use IT and IM interchangeably, which is unfortunate. It would help if you share with us what you think is the scope and definition of "Information Management". On that basis, it would be easier to progress understanding on that topic...

One recipe rarely fits all organizations. So far, in federal Departments and Agencies that I have surveyed, very rarely (in fact never) have I found the same people fulfilling IT responsibilities and other IM responsibilities (for example Records Management). And I seriously doubt that IT Managers would see the value, or be prepared, to be re-trained on all other facets of IM as we understand them...

Have you seen the opposite to date? I would be very interested in such examples if you have them.

4:32 AM  
Blogger Hassan said...

Patrick, I'm not saying that the exact same individual is going to be replacing ink cartridges and overseeing records management :-) What I am saying is that the CIO should be responsible for hiring the people necessary to span the IM-IT spectrum.

That said, in the large organizations I've worked with, there's never a centralized IM function at all for other than "core business" (manufacturing, accounting, HR) stuff (and that is part of IT).

For better or worse, the information-oriented business units (sales, marketing, engineering) typically wind up ignoring IT and rolling their own solutions.

6:43 AM  
Blogger Jeremiah Owyang said...

Patrick, Hassan

Regardless if your CIO is going to provide IM, the role(s) still needs to exist. Often in modern day IT departments there are System Analysts, Business Analysts or content subject matter experts in either the IT or Business side that can fulfill this role.

Does it matter that this IM role is within IT or within a cross departmental business group?

I would say it does NOT matter. What matters is there is a common group to define the content strategy, information architecture, define a common language, and define requirements for tools that can meet these needs.

8:38 AM  

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