Your next task on the apprentice…

I want to turn on Donald Trump next Sunday night and see him task the teams with the successful creation and marketing of SOA within an enterprise. Okay, so it can’t be done within the day or two that they normally have, and outside of some Dilbert-esque quotes, it probably wouldn’t make for good TV. What it would do, however, is allow IT to see what their culture needs to be like in the future.

There’s a discussion just getting started in the Yahoo SOA group that raises some questions about the importance of marketing in SOA. A frequent complaint in the boardroom on “The Apprentice” is that the marketing strategy didn’t cut it and as a result, the person responsible for marketing on that task is fired. IT isn’t made up of bunch of people with MBA’s from Harvard, Wharton, or even Trump University. I have two degrees from the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois. During my stay there, I was not required to take any marketing courses, although the Computer Science department did require students in their undergraduate engineering program to take 4 courses outside of the department (independent of other electives) to which CS could be applied. The most popular area was business, with my choice, psychology, being second. The typical techie does not have formal training in marketing or other aspects of running a business, so it’s no surprise that we have a hard time with it.

We need to bring some business savvy into the IT department. I’m not talking about an understanding of the business being supported by IT (although that’s important too), I’m talking an understanding of how to succeed in business. Marketing, sales, product development, research, etc. A service provider needs to think of themselves as a vendor. They need to have a customer centric focus, with an understanding of the market trends (i.e. the business goals), customer needs, product lifecycles, resource availability, etc. to be successful. IT cannot simply be order takers in the process, because technology usage within an enterprise is not a commodity. The business side can’t simply go to IT Depot at the nearest shopping zone and pick up what they need. There are elements of technology that can be, and this will continue to fuel SaaS and other managed services, but here and now, the need for the IT department still exists. It’s time to change the IT culture, and get the development teams thinking about Service Management and a more business-like approach to their efforts.

Update: While the whole idea of bringing MBAs in was somewhat in jest, this is exactly what IBM did. Joe McKendrick’s eBizQ SOA in Action blog brought it to my attention, here’s a link to the original eBizQ story.

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