Unfolding plans 43 – these apparently intractable positions of standardisation and liberty

I find that in my line of work there is a continual tension between the need for control and the desire to enable.  Part of me wants to standardise everything so that we have less technology that is easier to manage and support.  The other part of me doesn’t want this at all.  It wants a much more fluid and flexible service that allows the user absolute freedom to use whichever technology they come across.  It is not a fight of good against evil, right against wrong as neither perspective is good or bad.

The stresses and strains of working in such an environment are telling.  The picture is getting worse as the pace of change in technology increases.  The continual introduction of new devices, the latest applications and the drift towards cloud isn’t helping.  What used to take years changes in months and what used to take weeks to change takes days.  We used to review our ICT Strategy every three years.  We are now reviewing it on an annual basis and how long will it be before this is too infrequent?

I am a visual thinker.  I like to picture the issues that I am grappling with and when I think about this I think of our very own Sun and its continuous internal tensions.  A bit grandiose I know and it is a picture that doesn’t reflect reality.  Our star is a flaming ball of gas held together by its enormous gravitational pull yet it is stopped from collapsing due to the explosive amounts of energy released from the internal fusion which turns hydrogen into helium.  At least that is my understanding.

For billions of years it has been held in a seemingly steady state where every force has an equal and opposite one.  Let’s hope it stays that way for at least a few years more.  One day though one of the forces is going to win.  I’m not an astrophysicist and so I don’t know which way it will swing but either gravity will win out and the sun will collapse or it will explode in an all-consuming fire ball.  If I recall correctly it may go through several changes as the opposing forces gain the upper hand.

This is fine (the visualisation not the apocalyptic end of the world) but it is not going to get the baby a new bonnet.  How do we address these apparently intractable positions of standardisation and liberty?  Somehow our organisation and especially our technical architecture has to be firm but with a large degree of flexibility.

Our latest strategy goes live in a few weeks’ time and we need to start to think about what comes next straight away.  Traditionally I would start to write it and then pass it around for additions and amendments.  This time we need to turn this on its head and do what we always should have done, that is to start with a discussion with our customers and the delivery teams.  In this way we will deliver a service that reflects what is needed and has the buy-in of the people who are going to deliver it.

Hopefully this will maintain the necessary balance and we’ll be able to shine for some time to come.

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