Towards a Management Standard
All the while, management standards continued to evolve, some
formal, some simply accepted practice. For example, you can expect a
new CFO in your company to follow generally accepted accounting
standards. And an HR director will no doubt use a set of tools and
practices for compensation and performance reviews common to most
Management processes have been studied and refined for more than a century.
When we think of standards, we usually think of technology. As important as technology standards are, they are not where the real game is today. The action today is in standardizing the management of technology. That is because too often it is still ad hoc, the creation of a beleaguered technology executive, whose maneuverings in the end can't keep up in a fast-moving, ever-changing environment.
The very fact that there are designated technology executives who feel set apart from the nerve center of the organization, always seeking "a seat at the table," is a symptom of our innocence in dealing with technology. We focus on the technology itself, whether servers or ERP systems or email or social networking, see it as a cost of doing business, maybe as a necessary evil, peer over our shoulders at what other companies are buying, and hope, fingers crossed, that a $100 million investment will pay for itself.
We know that technology is there to run the business. This is true of information technology, but it was also true of steam and electricity. And those technologies fundamentally changed the nature of work, the processes by which things were made, opening up new business opportunities for those who deployed them wisely and showing the door to those who didn't catch on that something had changed.
Here's a dirty little secret: it never was about the technology. It always has been and will be about the business. Technology is only as good as the imagination of business leaders who are focused on customers, markets, business models, threats and opportunities, and can make technology do what they need it to do. Anyone can buy technology, but no one can go online and order a customized strategy or mission.
As with the telegraph, steam and electricity, the business technology available today is changing the game, except that the playing field is global and the players are huge, multi-product, multi-division, multinational organizations. These enterprises need tools to make sense of the technology, to rationalize investment decisions so that they are centered in strategy.
They need to know when spending money makes sense and when it doesn't. They need to trust that when they pay huge sums for technology it will actually work as intended. Accountants have had hundreds of years to get their act together regarding standards, learning what works and what doesn't. But the first business use of a computer occurred just over 50 years ago, a relatively short time in which to learn how best to employ it.
Nevertheless, standards for managing business technology have emerged in recent years in academia and applied in the field at major companies. These have become a wheel that does not need to be reinvented. They have been shown to work, and with custom modifications can be made to work anywhere. Thus they can be plugged in and used, and the organization can turn its attention to larger matters.