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*Editor's Note: This is a book excerpt from "The Technology Garden: Cultivating Sustainable IT-Business Alignment," by Jon Collins, Neil Macehiter, Dale Vile and Neil Ward-Dutton and published by Wiley and Sons. Purchase the book here.


When Nicholas Carr posited "IT doesn't matter" in 2003, he was making the point that current technologies are commoditising and therefore available to all. While this might be true, it is dependent on everything working correctly. There is another side to IT however; in many organisations, IT is more a bottleneck than a strategic tool, as layer upon layer of complex legacy has resulted in environments that restrict, rather than enable business activities. This leads to the question - if IT isn't actually helping the business, what exactly is it there for?

While the 'what' of IT may be a commodity, the 'how' of it, specifically how it supports and sustains business activities and functions, absolutely is not. The killer is that business value can only come through the orchestration of whole ecosystems of technologies and service providers. As these become more and more complex, the focus needs to move away from the "what" and towards the "how".

It is this emphasis, towards a sustainable model for technology delivery that considers the whole ecosystem of business and IT, and which works across the value chain incorporating technology suppliers, systems integrators, outsourcing and service provision, that led us to the central themes for our new book. Traditionally, technology funding separates projects from maintenance by an iron curtain: once a project is complete, there is little consideration how to fund necessary enhancements to ensure it delivers the necessary value. The assumption is that, once complete, deployed technologies will need only minor tinkering.

This assumption is fundamentally flawed. There has been much talk in technology circles about considering large scale technology projects is the same way as construction projects - building bridges or cathedrals, for example. While there is plenty to be gained from such parallels, the two paradigms diverge quite fundamentally once the project is complete. Apart from the ongoing checks that all is in order and the occasional coat of paint, a bridge is fixed in time as a monument to its builders, whereas for IT projects, the journey is only just beginning.


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