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CIOs and the politics of technology

Thornton May | June 7, 2016
A lot of people in IT say things would go much more smoothly if not for politics. Their attitude is misinformed.

Dallas asks his mentees why Apple, and not Sony, came up with the iPod, which was really a logical extension of the Walkman. Besides the Walkman, Sony had the music. So why didn't it become Apple? People would later ask Steve Jobs why he wasn't worried about Sony, since it had all the pieces. Jobs said he knew those pieces were held in different divisions that would never come together and work as one to make life easier for the customer. 

Great CIOs and great politicians create common interest. 

Technology ignorance

A specter that has haunted the practice of technology value creation since the first ENIAC was deployed has been technology ignorance. It is not that the rudiments of technology are unlearnable or that muggles (non-technology executives) are too stupid to learn. The root cause of toxic political infighting is that muggles have historically operated under the assumption that there was little incentive to learn. This thankfully is changing. 

Great CIOs, like great politicians, create the incentive to learn, provide the curriculum to be learned and establish a process for knowledge to be assimilated. Think of FDR's fireside chats. These were teachable moments - a politician helping the populace understand a complex world. 

Decision spaces

The IT decision space in many organisations is undermanaged. Your decision space needs to be rethought and re-architected if:

A) You habitually don't have the information needed to make a decision.

B) You have not mapped the process of how critical decisions are made.

C) You don't periodically (at least annually) discuss how you decide to decide.

In the politics associated with making technology decisions under conditions of uncertainty, an architected decision space lets you specify who votes and where, when and how the votes will be cast and counted. I am not as cynical as Joseph Stalin, who remarked, "The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything." But I am enough of a realist to know that designing the electoral process (the IT decision space) counts for something.

Source: Computerworld


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