Technological influence

Are those people with stronger IT skills more influential in setting corporate IT policy?

What I’m getting at is are developers likely to have a significant say in the company’s tech choices?

What I’m really getting at is that the ribbon seems targeted at lower experience users, yet I would say this group do not have significant power or choice within a co. I know some manager level types have limited skills, but the sharp ones will ask a trusted staffer right? More likely is that the devs select an appropriate tool and the users have to fit in. (I reckon – what do you think?)

I can’t see experienced users going for 2007 as it wastes their investment in learning 95-2003 versions (and before actually). And of course it is less flexible than current versions.

I think that companies currently use Excel partly because there is a large talent pool at all levels, but I think it is the work that the devs are doing at the high end that is creating the lock-in. Most novices could easily move to another (any other) spreadsheet, not so the experienced dev, or our oh-so-clever VBA/ADO/COM/etc Excel based applications. I wonder how hard it would be to port a VSTO app to pure .net plus spreadsheetgear (or whatever), probably easier than moving your average Excel/VBA app. (Assuming you are using VSTO to add lots of features). I would have thought Office 2007 would sell better with more dev features rather than a funny fat inflexible toolbar. Do you? (everytime I look at it I’m reminded of ‘The Emperors new clothes’ – It’s just buttons FFS!!)

So back to the question – in general in most orgs do you think that those people who are acknowledged as ‘gurus’ (at least locally) are likely to have a big influence. At least bigger than any nooBs?

Cheers

Simon

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12 Responses to “Technological influence”

  1. Harlan Grove Says:

    In really big companies, if you’re not in the IT department, you have no say in corporate standard software (what everyone gets). Some (me for one) can make successful cases for certain software in addition to the standard stuff, but that’s just for those individuals’ use.

    In really small companies, I suspect if there’s anyone who’s techically inclined, they already make most of the what-to-buy decisions but maybe not the when-to-buy decisions.

    That leaves middle size companies. I have no idea.

  2. Rob Bruce Says:

    In my experience of big mega corps and medium-sized organisations (any company big enough to have a dedicated IT department, I suppose) the critical factor is tech support. What gets installed is what is easiest and cheapest to support with fewest software/software and software/hardware niggles. Since the established skill base in terms of support is pretty overwhelmingly Windows/Exchange/Office/IE these days, that particular pattern gets a head start, in spite of the security and virus issues that come as standard with an MS setup.

    Do developers get a say? Well my experience is that IT departments (particularly those concerned only with infrastructure not involved in in-house development) regard developers as their enemy, creating non-standard and in many cases unsupportable software. For example, in one place that I worked a few years ago, we were told “OK, you can have a SQL Server box, but it’s not going in our racks and we’ll be sniffing your network traffic to ensure that you’re not ‘stealing’ too much of ‘our’ bandwidth”. This was for a new analytical system that had buy-in at the highest board level!

  3. Dennis Wallentin Says:

    Simon,

    Why should developers – “the tech people” – in the first place be involved in the decision process?

    Whenever developers are involved it tend to be more of ‘tech-stuff’ discussions then business orientated needs discussions.

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

  4. tom Says:

    Although a long time user of Office and also a developer of VBA solutions, my “pallet” of features that I use in Excel and particularly in Word/Powerpoint tends to be based on relatively few “personal favorites” that I use again and again.
    In that respect I guess I’m like most Office users (only using 20% but which 20%?). This weekend I did my first project (non-technical, a landscaping plan) using Excel2007,Word2007 and Powerpoint 2007, I was impressed.
    The new ribbon feature prompted me to try out new presentation features in both Powerpoint and Word and I even found a few new tricks in Excel. I think MS’s thinking with the ribbon was exactly that; get users to move beyond their current 20%. Another interesting thing about this project, I did all the note-taking and initial drafts using Google Docs & Spreadsheets!

    Tom

  5. Rob Bruce Says:

    BTW Simon, I just spotted the typo in your heading. Third time I’ve visited today, too.

  6. Will Riley Says:

    Simon,

    Actually, the non-IT techies in my company have quite a big say in software direction. It has been a slow process though over about 7 years to make this happen. I’d say that in the MI area we’re making most of the software decisions in terms of what we regard as important for delivering the MI “layer”. In fact, the core Banking System implementation was delayed for 3 months last year based on our recommendation that we went live with SQL 2005 as opposed to using 2000 and then upgrading later – that decision alone I reckon saved us massive pain!!

    Couple of other interesting things to note from your post….

    We will not be upgrading “wholesale” to Office 2007. We will buy a few copies for sure & use some of the good new/improved features (i.e. SQL Server 2005 integration, charting) to render cool analytics in Excel Services in a MOSS 2007 website & create dashboards etc – now, as there is no need for client to have Office 2007 to access this information, why buy it ??

    The flipside? It will of course cost us 75 MOSS 2007 CALs… but we figures that if we had to buy 75 CALs, MOSS would offer a better return than Office 2007, especially given the integration features with SQL.

  7. Simon Says:

    Thanks Rob – now fixed Doh!
    Interesting comments, it doesn’t sound like it really happens the way I was thinking. But it also sounds quite varied. Will I hadn’t really considered a partial upgrade, the standard desktop is generally sacred in my clients. It does sound like a sensible approach though.
    cheers
    Simon

  8. Will Riley Says:

    Simon,

    Well, we’re a small company (in terms of employees in any case) and we generally run about 3 or 4 “desktops” depending on the needs (usually decided by function) of the users.

    The advent of Excel Services within MOSS will probably pare this down to just 2 desktop setups. Power users & non power users. I don’t think we’ll trust the “non” PUs with 1million rows ets ;)

  9. Don Price Says:

    Simon,

    This is slightly off topic…

    I visit a fair few firms, very large to small and in between.

    The most common moan I hear is that IT depts don’t understand what users need and that users don’t understand why IT depts are there!

    It seems that users have their needs, or what they think they need, but IT depts get in the way and suggest other options or just say No.

    Yet, IT depts control the systems, but often don’t advertise their reasons very well. There is also a bit of “hand’s off it’s mine” when it comes to giving out software.

    This applies equally to the software as to the skills needed to use it. we all know people who are the “expert” in their work area (Word, Access, Excel, whatever), who answer questions up to a point, but don’t want to transfer their knowledge in case it upsets their power base.

    So, it’s back to the good old human factor again! We all need to know who does what and why in an organisiation – easier said than done!

  10. Marcus Says:

    I’d echo Don’s observations.

    IT departments are often too far removed from the business. Frequently they believe they’re there to solve technology problems for the business. Their true purpose is to solve business problems using technology.

    Many corporates have a technology standards framework which, in itself, is a good thing. Part of the problem occurs when gaps exist in the framework, often due to IT’s lack of understanding or empathy of business needs.

    One company I’ve dealt with did not support Access. If the business needed a database, IT used SQL Server but provided no alternative for small scale database solutions. To avoid lengthy development times and costs, many users simply developed their own Access (poorly designed) databases on the sly despite the embargo. Some of these have grown organically to become business critical systems.

    Cheers – Marcus

  11. Harlan Grove Says:

    Somewhat relevant article in ComputerWorld.

    http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9014064&intsrc=hm_list

    As for IT departments, the best one in a company where I’ve worked was headed by someone from within the company’s operating departments rather than rose from within IT. But I may be biased. While I’ve done a lot of programming as part of the various jobs I’ve held, I’ve never worked within an IT department, and I’ve spent too much of my career working around IT road blocks.

    All I’ll say for IT departments generally is that they’re (grudgingly) willing to give non-IT employees electronic access to company data. This is a nice change from the 1980s when the MIS/DP departments would only provide hardcopy mainframe reports.

  12. Simon Says:

    I was taught that IT should be a full and equal member of the board, and never report through another discipline. And I think that is the right approach to maximise the value of IT investments.

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