By Walter Lindsay, Director of Solution Architecture, Liaison Technologies
“Politics concerns power, and applying an understanding to the management of information technology is not only appropriate, but timely.” (p. xxiii)
“Managing information systems is primarily a matter of politics and only secondarily a matter of technology.” (p. xxv)
“I place governance — information politics — ahead of all other attributes of information management, because if you do not get that right everything else will not make up for this fundamental flaw. Politics is not only a way to exercise authority, it is also an art for achieving corporate consensus.” (p. 10)
Whenever I say the word “politics” in a business conversation I tend to qualify it as “the appropriate use of power, not kissing babies.” I don’t mind kissing babies — we have had four of them in our family — but politically using babies to manipulate people is NOT today’s topic.
Having four fairly young children I know that, without guidance, children play. Even with guidance, children can play within moments. Having managed many teams in multiple settings, I know that without guidance, teams at the office will do something other than what I need them to do.
In working to design technology which empowers individuals to do their individual work (as in allowing offshore developers to succeed, despite time zone and cultural differences), and in allowing information architects and business analysts to guide disconnected teams and activities toward a unified vision, Strassmann’s work has repeatedly come to mind.
For almost nine years I have been “The Phoenix Office” of Contivo, and then of Liaison. That means I have a keen understanding of what it means to work remotely. I feel extremely fortunate compared to many developers and mappers who work remotely with whom I’ve spoken with over the years. Having managed remote teams, some of which worked very well, I also know the frustration of being unable to guide a team to success because of cultural or managerial gaps.
Governing requires the ability to communicate intention, to supply the required information, to track performance, etc. Being able to be governed well has its corresponding responsibilities. As Dr. Mei Hsu, one of my professors, used to say, databases are communications mechanisms. They let people communicate across space and time. Collaborative, culture-creating repositories are databases writ large.
Consensus allows multiple teams to work together, possibly independently, towards common goals. The ability for those in an organization with political responsibility to have confidence that teams are working toward common goals and following common rules can be facilitated with collaborative, culture-creating repositories which support governance.
Naturally, the examples Strassman uses are now dated. We have seen huge technological changes since 1995. We have also seen human sensibilities change, through our adaption to mobile devices and other forms of electronic communication. But human nature hasn’t changed. We each still like being respected, we like to see the work we do result in something meaningful and we still like looking good or being smart or showing we are above such petty concerns by being sufficiently trendily countercultural.
Cloud computing and SOA information architectures allow us to “let go” and still succeed in ways our predecessors could not have imagined. But human nature hasn’t changed. Thus the politics of information management are more important than ever.
I heartily recommend The Politics of Information Management. You can get a copy for as little as 62 cents, plus shipping. If you do get a copy, drop me a line.