Friday, January 16, 2009

The Information Technology Genie

A quick question, how is Information Technology like the proverbial genie in bottle? I don't know if you're familiar with the story, here's how it goes:

A man finds a genie's bottle, opens it, and in a cloud of smoke, out comes a genie. The genie states "Your wish is my command, what would you like me to do for you?". The man immediately responds with "Make me a million dollars!".

Can you guess comes next?

Well, in the story, there is a large poof of smoke, and where the man was previously standing, a lifeless pile of money has now appeared. The genie as literally transformed the man from a living breathing human into a pile of money.

Now for the Philosophical part: Did the Genie do the right thing? Obviously he did what the man said to do, but is that likely what the man really wanted?

Probably not.

When a business client starts asking for things, many organizations begin scrambling around doing EXACTLY what they heard was desired... "Build me a new (fill in the blank) solution!" Poof! An important difference from story is: instead of a pile of money appearing, usually a pile of money disappears.

The lesson.

Business Clients: Be careful about what you ask for from your technology organizations. They can be a very powerful force and do wondrous magic. However, you need to make sure you carefully what you really desire otherwise you may end up with strange and unintended results.

IT Professionals: Be careful about implementing business requirements too literally. You need to do careful analysis about the source of the requirement, ask questions, and challenge things that seem like they might have unintended side effects. It is part of your job to protect the business from itself in these situations, not simply literally execute what you believe you have been told to do.

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