Why are some IT people so blind?

I once met a financial adviser who offered to help me sort out my finances.  Within five minutes of meeting her, she had told me what I ought to do.  I had not given any information about my financial affairs, my needs, or desires, yet she was proposing a structure for my financial arrangements, based on one single fact, that I was a director/shareholder of a company.  Needless to say, she did not make the sixth minute of the meeting.

This morning I read more coverage of the stupidity blindness of IT people, this time observed by Lorraine Lawson at IT Business Edge.  In her post How You Talk about SOA to the Business, it is clear that IT folk are still keen on pushing SOA to their business counterparts.

This has really gone on long enough.  Do you think business people really care about SOA vs EAI?  Whether you think of SOA as a tool, an infrastructure, a methodology, or a technology, it is invisible to the end user.  What is visible to the end user is whether or not a business problem has been solved.

Let’s draw a comparison with building a house and imagine you are the client.  You employ an architect and a builder, and ask them to design the house to meet your needs.  These needs will include layout, finishes, price, completion date.  They are most unlikely to include the structure of the house.  A good architect will listen to your requirements for speed, cost and flexibility, and consider the environment where the building will sit, and then propose a suitable infrastructure.  I suspect if he showed you the skeleton plans you might yawn and lose interest.  But when it comes to discussing how flexible the layout is, or what quality of finishes, or especially what the price will be, I bet you will sit up and have plenty to say.

So find out what the business problems are before suggesting a solution!  SOA may (or may not) be the right solution but it is a means not an end.  It should not be pushed, any more than an architect should always suggest a wooden frame for a building.

I am not saying business people are technically dumb, and don’t care at all about the technology.  Most good ones will understand the principles of SOA if explained to them.  They might even ask some sensible questions about how SOA can enable business agility and what the restrictions may be.  But fundamentally, they have business issues that they need solving and that should be the prime driver for IT investment.

Architects don’t knock on my door trying to sell me an aluminium framed concept as the best way to build a new house, just because it is the latest, greatest thing that can deliver flexibility of layout.  They seek to understand my needs before finding the best solution.

If we, in the IT world, continue to treat our clients (business people) like this, our reputation will sink even lower than it is now.  Our relationship with the business will worsen again.  More IT outsourcing will occur, more offshoring, more redundancies.

Please start by listening, not by telling, or selling.

3 Responses to “Why are some IT people so blind?”

  1. Ciaran Says:

    A tired old cliche seems appopriate here. “When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

    Even more so when you’re a hammer salesman of course.

  2. Madgreek Says:

    Trackback

    http://blogs.ittoolbox.com/eai/madgreek/archives/selling-soa-a-true-story-18349

  3. Nick Malik Says:

    I couldn’t agree more.

    http://blogs.msdn.com/nickmalik/archive/2007/08/15/soa-is-not-a-disruptive-technology-selling-soa-part-three.aspx

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