Friday, November 19, 2004

Advocate choice, not policy

I was arguing with a coworker today. He was telling me about how he sat on a committee that decides the type of technology architecture that is going to be standardized throughout our company. This really frustrated me.

I never cease to be amazed at how people in the technology field seem to think that it's our job to dictate to the business what they can or can't have. Certainly it's the job of technology to make recommendations and it's definitely the job of technology to provide the best information possible about decisions, but it's not our job to make the decisions.

It strikes me that this would become more apparent to technologists if we operated as a business ourselves and got paid (or not paid) based on our ability to perform. This would, of course, run entirely counter to the current technology administration's purpose for being. My company is not a technology company. It's not our core compentancy, and yet we (the technologists in the company) act as if we're the ones who bring in the money. We don't. We spend the money. If we're doing our job we should be trying to maximize the production while minimizing the cost. But we don't. We try as hard as possible to grow our teams. Because, of course, it's the only way to get a raise: to have more people.

If, on the other hand, we had to compete against other technologists, and if we got paid only for our successful performance, then
  1. we'd have more motivation to actually produce whatever the customer (our users) wanted, and
  2. we'd be happier because, instead of being a cost center, we'd generate revenue for our work.
Of course, the natural consequence of this, is that we're not actually employees of that company anymore. We're employees of our own technology company, and we'd have to face cutthroat competition to succeed. But at least having something to win would have to be better than being seen as nothing more than a drag on the stock price.

Which brings me to my point. If we're not going to become our own company, at least as long as we're in the company we should stop trying to create iron clad policies which instruct the business what they will or won't do. We should be trying to create as many choices as are humanly possible. Certainly, we have to be intelligent about how these choices work and we can't expect the business to know how the technology actually works. But we can expect them to know what they want and we can expect them to intelligently decide which of the offerings we have would work best for them.

I don't know jack.

There are a very few things at which I can call myself an expert. Mostly I know a little bit about a lot. And the little I know is generally just enough to get me in trouble with someone else who knows more.

BUT, that doesn't keep me from pretending I know a lot about anything in particular. My latest infatuation is economics. I've been thoroughly enjoying Arnold Kling and Russ Nelson.

Honestly, I don't really think that (m)any people will read this, but if you do, you've been warned.