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Mandated vs Compelling Shared Services


If you’ve worked in a large enterprise you’ve surely come across the situation where there are more than one implementation of what seems to be the same thing. This sort of duplication really upsets our sensibilities. Our first reaction is to say how wasteful that is and wonder how to get everyone to reuse the same service.

I was reminded of this issue in a recent conversation with a Big n consulting firm. The fellow I was speaking with referred to the strong governance process in my organization as the reason why we should see this sort of redundancy eliminated. To this I replied with a my rant about how strong governance a euphemism for mandating that solution architects use the standard or enterprise technologies in their designs was not the right way to achieve the best outcome for the business. I point out that central planning has proven in a grand to be a failure. Why if this is so for an economy is it not so large enterprises? 

My opinion is surely completely counter to common thinking in Enterprise Architecture. But, I think competition is good. I think the free market and entrepreneurial approach is good. When you see more than one solution to a problem in your enterprise, don’t automatically conclude that is bad. It is easy to see there is some duplication in cost. But, did you stop to notice that the two solutions are not identical. Perhaps one is better than the other. Would the better solution ever have been developed if the strong governance had been in place to prevent such innovation and improvement?

When I was working at Salomon Brothers, it seemed there was a great rivalry going between the London and NY software developers. On the surface, you’d say the brits just would cooperate with the yanks in HQ. But if you looked a little closer, you might notice that the folks in London were actually just doing it better. The perceived duplication of effort was actually just a process of innovation and improvement. On many occasions, these redundant solutions or duplicated efforts were adopted by others as the new defacto standard. That value would never have been realized by the organization had there been strong governance in place.

Strong Governance doesn’t mean mandated standards

I am not against governance. One the contrary. However, like we see in government, there are many models of government – most notably free market and centrally planned. Strong governance does not have to mean centrally planned IT. Why can’t strong governance mean establishing a set of principles and then empowering people to do what they do best.

Since when did we have to be told to use Google?

I think Google is a great example of free market establishment of a standard. Do you have to tell people to only use Google? Certainly not. If a governing body mandated a standard search facility, we’d all still be using Alta Vista (which was good of course). But it would not be continually evolving and improving.

It’s the same inside your enterprise as it is outside. If you really want outstanding solutions that deliver value and drive down costs for your business, you are going to have to release your people from your oppressive regime. At the same time that you release the innate creativity in some, you will also benefit from the laziness of others. The lazies will always try to find the solution they can use with the least work. The creative types of course will be supplying it.

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