2.1. An American Success Story
In a book like this, it can be tempting to focus solely on what's wrong with the technology industry. After all, there are lots of tools we can use to make IT more effective. So why not point out all the holes that need to be filled? Any serious observer would agree that there are lots of things wrong with how we structure, manage, and execute IT in this country. Plenty. But in my view, that's looking at bent nails. It's handy, but it doesn't tell you much that's helpful.
A better viewthe more informative viewis to focus on what the industry does right, to remember that American IT is a story of unparalleled success. In the span of only 30 years or so, it has achieved a level of saturation and sophistication no other industry in history can match. In fact, the main reason we are able to spot so many issues with IT is because of its runaway success. It's taken off in all directions. Look at these 2005 numbers:
And if a picture is worth a thousand statistics, Figure 2-1 is a great picture for you.
Figure 2-1. Technology is an unparalleled American success story. Not only are cell phones, email, and laptops de facto ways of life, IBM scientists have been able to harness the attractive properties of atoms to line them up in an impressive, albeit tiny, billboard.
Figure 2-1 is not a promotion for International Business Machines. It's a picture of the result IBM scientists got when they trained a bunch of atoms to line up in a row. And not only were they able to get them to line up, they were able to build a camera sensitive enough to take a picture of it. So any way you look at it, the success story is there.
The idea behind process improvement then is to capitalize on that success, to institutionalize as much if it as we can.
In the previous section, I mentioned that a good first step in making the case for process is to remember that you are the process. Here's what I mean by that. Most IT professionals know what they are doing. They follow a general routine when they work. They have a process, even if it's a personal process.
The real issue then, the Big Issue, is not about personal competence; the talent pool in American IT is pretty competent. The issue is more about coordination, consistency, synchronicity, and predictability within and across groups. An organization is not an individual. So for an organization to operate efficiently, it helps for the groups that make up the organization to work along similar lines, to approach the issues of business in a consistent way. When the organization can do this regularly and predictably, it can synchronize its energies in a focused way. Not only that, it can now begin to observe the way it works so that it can improve the way it works.