Lately I've been running around telling a mythical story about a made up Research Program and their quest to install a coconut telegraph. Not a word of it is true, of course. It's just a parable about responsibility centered management and what I think the impact will be on how information technology standards are driven at ASU.
Seems IT and Geodesign have been having a donnybrook. IT wants Geodesign to use a particular phone switch, but Geodesign has its heart set on deploying a coconut telegraph as its primary communications platform instead. (Major Parrotheads over there in Geodesign you know). Dispute rages on for some weeks, finally ends up in front of the university president. Having the better of the rational argument (despite the Professor's native ingenuity, the throughput and fidelity of the coconut telegraph wasn't even good enough to get Gilligan off the island) , IT fully expects Geodesign to be compelled to comply.
Shock is therefore the prevailing emotion at IT Central then, when the prexy fails to countermand the headstrong Geodesign and instead allows the clearly backward telegrammophone to be installed.
Asked about this seemingly irrational decision, the pres tries to make it clear. Says he, "It's all about excuses you see. If I tell Geodesign that they cannot have their telegraph, I am in the wrong position on payday, and everyone knows that."
From the surprise on the face of IT, the President can see that his decision is still unclear.
"You see," says the prexy, "every year the head of GeoDesign comes to visit me with a briefcase full of money. I open it, and count it. If she's $10M light, we both know what that means. There's no argument. But if I veto that telegraph, then when she comes in light, all we'll be talking about is coconuts. "I'd have brought it all, but you wouldn't let me do what I knew I needed to do."".
"So you see, if push comes to shove in RCM, the responsibility center has to win, so it can be held accountable later."
"What position does that put us in?", IT complains.
Says the pres, "I'm looking to you to see that push never comes to shove."
"Now hold on a second Sannier. Are you trying to say that the institution has no rules anymore? RCM or no RCM, ASU is still one institution. If we can't enforce any tech standards, we'll simply balkanize. What about all the things we hold in common -- the web, the network, information security? If those are compromised by one unit, they are destroyed for all of us. In the world you're describing, the center will not hold."
Which is true and false. Its certainly true that we hold things in common; things which if compromised by one make all of us pay a price. To preserve and progress, we do need standards. I'm just trying to point out that, as my Aunt Carrie used to say, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I don't think driving standards by fiat is working so well. So I believe we are moving into an era when selling will be a more important force than telling for driving standards.
Take the portal as an example. Driving the portal by making a central technical decision and sticking with it has not succeeded in creating a unified portal vision for ASU, despite widespread agreement among all the stakeholders I've talked to that a unified portal is highly desirable. A unified portal will only come about when a coalition of central IT and distributed units comes together to drive a consistent portal vision that meets the needs of that coalition. When that happens, that effort will become the de facto standard for ASU, and the benefits for the remaining units to place their content within the common portal will outweigh the benefits of maintaining it in an isolated way.
But that approach takes selling. A champion has to create a shared vision among key stakeholders, listen to their requirements and forge an effective coalition of interested and able players to accomplish a compelling first product. Then that product must be "sold" to the next tier of content owners, and modified to bring them in if necessary.
Selling, not telling. Putting forward a vision, then building an effective coalition based on the articulated needs of the members. Driving a continual selling effort throughout the implementation process to keep stakeholders in the boat. Finish up with a little marketing when the first revision is ready, and you can pull in the remaining players.
In the responsibility centered world we are increasingly working in, standards will be driven more by cajoling than coercion. At least that's how I see it.