Business Problems and IT

One of the most important things that IT can do for an organization is solve the business problems that the organization is facing.  These problems may or may not be technology related, they normally are, but they all share one thing in common:  they are causing the organization pain.

This is not unique to Private Sector or Public Sector companies, every organization experiences pain and it is our job to fix that pain.  We are the doctors for the organizations pain.  (My parents always wanted me to be a doctor.)

In many cases the doctor analogy is very fitting as there are many steps that we have in common with doctors:

  • listen to the symptoms that the user is describing;
  • ask questions based on those symptoms to find the real problem;
  • go through potential solutions, taking into account patient history, and come up with the solution that is most appropriate to the patient.

We’re all supposed to do that, but sometimes I think that doctors have this worked out much better than IT.  For instance, doctors have generalists, let’s call them family doctors, who know enough about a lot so as to narrow down the root cause based on the symptoms.  In many respects we have lost the generalist in IT as I think we have too many specialists.  We have too many people that know a lot about a narrow range of topics so that sometimes they are unable to think of a solution outside of what they know.

Back in the old days (yes, it’s another one of those posts) when there wasn’t as much variety in the technology it was easier to become a generalist that covered the entire range of technologies.  Ah, the Golden Age of IT.  With today’s technology, however, there is such a variety that I think we are at the stage where a generalist is not necessarily welcome at an organization due to the complexity of the technology.  The idea is that you need to be an expert in your field in order to contribute to the organization.

Are we doing ourselves a disservice?  Are we concentrating so much on experts that we are unnecessarily limiting our options?  Am I off my rocker?  Do we need generalists or do we just get a bunch of experts?  I don’t believe that there is a solution that will work every time.  My personal opinion is that I think we need to be flexible enough to look at both approaches.  After all, when the doctor narrows down the problem to an area, but can’t solve it, they do bring in the specialists to fix the problem.  So maybe we need some generalists and combine them with some specialists.