The Siren Call of Innovation

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Like mermaids luring sailors to their doom with their hypnotic melodies, the promise of innovation has caused many an IT professional to crash upon the rocks of a failed project.

"But IT is supposed to be innovative!" is what some of you are saying.

Wrong. Dead wrong.

Entrepreneurs should be innovative. Research and development teams should be innovative. Artists should be innovative.

IT is supposed to empower organizations.

Now an innovation may be needed in order to empower your organization. Necessity is the mother of invention, but too often I have heard bad IT policies and decisions explained with the justification "We need to be innovative."


What you need to do is understand your customers’ needs. You need to understand your organization’s processes. You need to correlate those needs and processes to technologies that already exist and that are able to solve your problems.

Then you need to implement those technologies using proven practices.

I know, I know: That is not cool or sexy! That is not going to make headlines like Google, Facebook, or Shiny New Company’s innovations do. So what? Google, Facebook, and Shiny New Company are not innovating IT for the sake of innovating IT. Those organizations are trying to develop new products.

But unless your company makes products for the IT industry your job is not to innovate IT! Your job is to empower your company (or your clients’ companies) so that the people who are in charge of your company’s product line can innovate as needed! If your organization makes widgets no one cares if the IT department is "innovative" but none of those innovations actually improved the widget making process.

They just want widgets. They want the widgets to be of higher quality. They want the widgets to be made faster. They want the widgets to be cheaper to produce. Thy want an innovative widget design and manufacturing process.

And a stable and reliable IT staff that empowers, and never impedes upon, the widget making process.

Bonus Thought: If your IT team’s "innovation" is a solution that you purchased from someone else, well then you are just a consumer and you are not truly innovative at all. Like the person who believes that the latest fashion will make him or her popular you have confused style for substance. That is the funny thing about innovation – you can buy someone else’s innovations but that does not make you yourself innovative.

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