It certainly was an eye-opener for me, having lived through all stages of IT since the 360 mainframe.
A few years ago when Enterprise Architecture became the hot topic, we all agreed, that one of the fundamental problems of this world was to align business and business strategy with IT and IT strategy – but all this is nonsense, according to Chris Potts. 'You shouldn't have an IT Budget' was one of initial remarks. But after 2 days I am convinced he's right and that this new approach leads to complete different and much more meaningful business decisions, investments and methods of managing complex portfolio of projects – including projects heavily relying on IT and technology.
However, Chris' point of view is completely different from Nicholas Carr's 'IT Doesn't Matter' kind of approach trying to persuade business managers to spend less on IT, to follow in stead of leading at the 'bleeding edge'. Chris' point is straight forward: As you cannot do anything business wise without deploying 'some' IT and some technology in it's broadest sense, than there is simply no reason in treating IT 'projects' and IT spending as if it is an animal of it's own. What is even worse is, that this tradition has been thriving on the 'IT specialists' that have kept the WE and THEM paradigm in what Chris Pott calls the second generation II era. Fueled by crisis and downturn, the 2. G people are 'cutting down on IT spending' instead of asking the obvious question: What Value do we get for it? Which are the key business investment areas we should be concentrating on and first at this point maybe wonder of technology could be deployed in these areas in a smarter way than to day.
So it is not about cost, it's about value. (Even accountants are beginning to admit this!) IT in itself creates no value – as if we didn't know it, the sinister implication is that the public sector's (IT) projects being launched these days are all being selected according to the strict EU tendering rules focusing on minimizing cost and securing 'delivery' – meaning fulfillment of a development/deployment contract at a specific point in time at a spefic cost – but where is the value of the project?
Chris' observation not only leads to the clear conclusion that the perceived outcome in terms of value of a project not only should be the guiding principle, but that the whole accounting process around project selection and project management is completely wrong:
Any project – and public sector projects in particular – should be selected according to their contribution to value – maybe cost reduction is one of them, but in that case total operational costs. Also transparency could be a very interesting value of a public project as could citizen participation and take-up of eGovernment projects. So the estimated impact on all essential types of value is absolutely meaningful, but ONLY if the project management is measured on how the value of the project is created AFTER it's fulfillment. We are deploying 2. generation project managers maybe skilled in PRINCE 2 to deliver 4. generation solutions deploying web 2.0 technologies and aiming at involving citizens – but we are not measuring it.
One of the latest scandals in Denmark is the project dealing with electronic bonds and real estate registration. According to CSC's project manager 'The IT project is a success – we have a service level of 99.5% availability and we have had that for months!' - but reality is that now it takes anything from 4 to 8 months to register a sale of a real estate. Again – the tendering rules selected the winner of the development project, but didn't in any way measure, secure or include the total costs of the process, let alone found it necessary to manage that real value was actually achieved.
(See this blog: (In Danish) http://it-bizzen.blogspot.com/2007/11/csc-forsinker-hurtig-tinglysning-it.html )
So Chris Potts lesson is that you need to go to the thirds generation thinking: focus on the value people are getting from projects involving IT and employ BUSINESS experts to ensure this – not nerds, npår technical people – not even 'Enterprise Architects' still stuck in the THEM/US thinking.
But Nirvana only comes if you forget IT completely – drop the idea of a specific IT budget, think in terms of business organization and embed the investment and management issues of IT in the proper context.
In summary: From Chris we learned how to make an overall Corporate strategy in one page – with a clear strategic objective, with max 10 basic principles and/our beliefs and max 10 core tactics.
I can clearly recommend this seminar and the thinking behind it to any 2. generation frustrated IT manager or to any forward thinking CEO. If you happen to be employed by the Public Sector, I have to warn you, though: Your politicians are all 2. G, the rules are from last century and the narrow budget thinking is killing many bright ideas. But if you don't try, we might face 'civil unrest' – when the new generations used to web 2.0 technologies demand a decent way of thinking what value the Government is really bringing to the table!
(See also http://www.aeaassociation.org/ )