Thursday, March 12, 2009

Are Business Users "Dummies?"


In almost every enterprise organization to which I am called for consulting, there is a HUGE rift between the business analysts (who firmly believe that IT is a closed society and that they are keeping everything a secret - AND the Business Analysts want control over their own logic, meaning the rules) and the IT (who are just as firmly convinced that the business analysts are idiots and can not be trusted with writing rules.)  Cooperation seems to be something that only 98-pound weaklings engage in while whining about how the world mistreats them.  Simply put, all of this garbage HAS to stop. 

All of this mistrust is, of course, built on decades of mainframe culture in which "users" were not programmers but pretty much the folks who had to pay the bills for whatever IT decided to do - and IT sure as heck wasn't telling anyone the inner secrets of their domain.  It was all about "empire building" and control.  

And I have seen situations where the business users actually got their grubby little paws on a rule engine (Advisor, JRules, whatever) and were told by the marketeers (ie, sales persons of dubious parentage) that they did not need IT.  And they believed it.

Bottom line:  The company suffers and gets wrapped up into internal "politics" of who gets to do what.  The whole mess is totally disgusting!!  IT needs to let go of the rules of business and let the business folks take control of (and therefore the verification and responsibility for) the business rules.  By doing so this would remove the "impedance mismatch" between the two organizations.   After all, IT has enough on its plate just getting the proper architecture for the rules, setting up the J2EE or EJB part of the project, getting the data straightened out and verified, writing new GUI screens, etc.  

I actually went through the MBA program (a long time ago, admittedly) but even then the business guys knew how to do partial differential equations, abstract algebra, constraint-based programming and they were really, really good at doing spreadsheets and documentation.  FAR better than what IT guys were doing who usually completed introduction to basic calculus and, if pressed, could use the spreadsheet and/or word processor almost as good as their departmental secretary -  meaning, rather poorly.

Before you accuse me of being a business "geek" remember that my degree was in Electrical / Electronic Engineering with a focus on Microwaves and Computers.  Before that I spent 10 years in the trenches as an ET doing long-range radar, S-Band radar, VHS radar, etc. etc.   So, I was trained as a "Dilbert" and grew into the MBA stuff.  

I know both sides of the fence and I know it well and I am saying that both the IT and the Business Departments need to grow up, quit acting like spoiled brats and learn how to share.  Until that happens, neither side wins and both (meaning the company itself) will probably lose considerable resources to their incessant squabbling and whining.  Times are hard and we don't have the luxury to fight among ourselves any longer.

So, like any marriage, IT must learn how to cooperate with the other side.  Even when you don't understand the "why" question answers.  Accept it that the business guys HAVE to think positively and that they really believe that everything will turn out wonderfully well.  And the  business guys must understand the need for structure upon which IT will insist - they have been burned many times by not considering the worst thing that could happen.

Now, go back to work and do something for the company BEFORE you think about your own department or group!!!!


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