As I've been circulating through a number of conversations with banks, financial services technology providers and colleagues in every conceivable sub-branch of the banking family tree these past few weeks, I continue to be both amused and disappointed by
the gap between business expectations and technological realities faced in the money-moving industries.
It seems to me that finding business leaders who understand and appreciate technology, as well as technologists who understand and appreciate the nuances of the particular business they serve is simply getting to be a rarer and rarer occassion each day.
Business leaders have fallen under the spell of instantaneous gratification, microwave popcorn speediness, Twitter-like nonsensical communication and a complete disregard for the little things; like the laws of physics. On the other side of the proverbial
(and what should be non-existent) fence are armies of technologists who spout the latest techno-buzzwords in an attempt to either glamour their business partners into believing anything is possible or to assuage their own personal fears that their jobs are
at risk because they support some "old" technology within their company. The interplay between business and technology, within the corporation, has become a battle between an unattainable demand for unfunded technical innovation and a culture hell-bent on
job protectionism. Both mindsets are counterproductive.
While I chuckle about it outside of earshot, it is sad that I still hear business executives asking why we "just don't buy a SOA server so we can get SOA up and running now!". Or, having to explain for the hundredth time that instantaneous back-ups between
two data centers separated by 680 miles shouldn't be expensive once we figure out how to defeat the constraints of the speed of light. Maybe we install a black hole outside the front door of the data center?
Equally saddening, and often much more troubling, is the continuance of the attitude that I see amongst technologists that "we know what the business needs". It seems, almost daily, that a friend or colleague shares yet another story with me of an entrenched
technology organization "deciding" that they know what their business customer needs (without clarifying) and then building a solution that has no relevance to the business' expectations. I still cringe every time I hear a senior level developer say "we don't
need requirements, we know what we're doing".
Ultimately, the biggest disconnect between business leaders and their in-house technology leaders is the expectation from the business side that their technologists are "innovators". By failing to see their technology organizations as extensions of their
operations function (and by technologists failing to accept that they are fundamentally a part of operations), business leaders ascribe wizardly expectations on their technologists; as if they truly believe that the next iPod, Facebook or Twitter will spontaneously
spring forth from their own company to solve their business problems. Corporate technology departments simply are not hot beds of innovation, by design. There is no room in a corporation, other than a software development or services firm, for technology to
exist simply for the sake of technology.
Business leaders with no time or inclination to decode how technology actually impacts them, and technologists with no time or inclination to learn the nature of the businesses that they serve. How do you slay the unicorn when the system itself supports
the continuation of the mythology?