Using Buzz to Take Advantage of Bureaucrats

Carson Holmes made an interesting post <a href=”http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/agilemodeling/message/8986″ target=”_blank”>Big Consultants Use “Lean” Buzz to Take Advantage of Bureaucrats</a>

My response:

And you can bet that when Big Company and Big Consulting Inc fills out an industry survey about the success of the projects there, it will be all rosy.

Too often I have seen execs roll out large deployments of enterprise-wide systems &mdash; largely I think to get it on their resumes &mdash; with little true ability to actually measure the pre- and post-outcomes. This is just seemingly normal for large, bureaucratic organizations &mdash; even if they are ostensibly capitalist/free-market driven.

I think the problem is that very few organizations (I know of none, but there must be some) truly knows if the IT budget is delivering business value <i>as good as it could be</i> in such large organizations. For example, do you think CIOs from two companies can discuss the output of their IT staff on an absolute basis? Someone from the outside might be able to discern that one organization appears to do twice as much work as the other, with fewer people. But even that is more of a gut feel than a measurement of a consistent unit of measure.

If the output of development were easy to see and measure (e.g., painting walls or laying carpet), it would be easy to examine return on investment. Eventually, competitors that do a better job of efficiently leveraging technology for business advantage will win out in the free marketplace. But it could take years or decades to reveal bad decisions (think Y2K) — by this time the responsible individuals are long gone, or have been promoted up the chain.

(Even in the small, many times an individual developer may not be around long enough to learn the consequences of some decisions/code they made two years ago &mdash; hence not being able to learn and grow from that experience. Instead, more often than not, they see and learn from other people’s mistakes. Yet they are unable to understand the original thought processes that went into that decision, because the author is long gone.)

Until our industry is able to resolve the conundrum of how to compare expenditure versus return on IT, it will be easy for Big Consultants Inc to do Selling By Buzzword, and easy for IT execs to do Management By Magazine.

It gets worse in large bureaucracies, like the government, where there are no market forces to expunge wasteful practices.

We are indeed a nascent industry.

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