The Language of IT

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James Keating IIIby James Keating III, Business Technology Architect, Evolving Solutions,

I recently had another eye opening moment with language and how vernacular for one group can and often is different to another group.  This can pose a huge challenge in the fast changing world of IT.  I have always been aware of this dilemma and for much of my career I have endeavored to use this awareness to help me be better at the job I am doing.  Primarily in my past this has been manifested in the fact that while I am a technical person by nature and have spent decades in the IT space as an administrator and technical manager, I always have come at the IT problem from a business perspective.  I was more likely in college to attend an Economics presentation than one on how to program in Pascal (yes they did teach Pascal when I was in college).  I had a few small businesses that I owned and managed during my early days and many of them were technical in nature, ranging from using computers to perform color separations for screen printing, to digital music and video production.  Granted they were completely in the dark ages by today’s standard as most of what I was selling can now be done on an iPhone (we are talking iPhone 3 not the latest and greatest even).  But what I learned there, I applied to working in IT and became a technical to business translator of sorts.  This is because the business often thinks in terms of risk, risk mitigation, investments and opportunity costs, while IT is firmly planted in megabits per second, disk and CPU performance and overall application performance.  This gap in perspective becomes easier to see the further down the IT stack one goes.  As a former data center manager, I found it the most difficult to get non-technical business folks to understand risks at the data center level than I did as a storage manager.  This was because the data center always looks tidy, was filled with chilled air and rows and rows of uniform looking racks.  It just didn’t look like it had much risk on the surface.

I believe the emergence of cloud computing has amplified this problem of business and IT not speaking the same language.  I will demonstrate this by the fact that if I were to take 10 people (5 business types and 5 technical types) and asked them for what they believe the cloud could do for the company they worked for and what it really meant as a concept, I would get at least 10 different definitions  and you would not always be able to tell which perspective was from a technical person and which was from a business person.  This is because much of the IT landscape has become charged with buzzwords that evoke emotional responses that are not always based upon confirmed fact, but often times hearsay and conjecture.  My point is if we as stewards of IT are going to be successful in leading the IT operations into the future using all of the available tools and advances, we are going to need to be able to work from a known good set of facts.  In the past when I found myself in situations like this I would level-set and look at what the desired results are before I would even allow myself to think technically.  Basically don’t even attempt to solve the problem until the goals, issues and requirements are all out on the table.

In today’s fast changing IT world, it is time more than ever to work on defining the desired outcomes before working to solve or build anything.  Since nobody can be an expert in everything, it is also more critical than ever, in my opinion, to use partners to help define goals, requirements and then work with the best minds to define, architect and build that next level of IT that all businesses want to see happen now that they have been hearing about the great abilities and promise that cloud computing holds.   To that end, I have been working the last 3 years to create a solid process to enable what I have been talking about in terms of IT design based upon goals and outcomes rather than created around features and feature sets of various software or cloud services.  I call these Cloud Potential Studies and Evolving Solutions offers them.  If you would like to learn more about Cloud Potential Studies and how they could help create a more cohesive IT strategy feel free to contact Evolving Solutions.

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James Keating III is a Business Technology Architect for Evolving Solutions. James is a technology leader in the IT community and brings a combination of excellent technical skills and business acumen which allows him to guide customers in developing IT solutions to meet business requirements.