Saturday, February 1, 2003

P3: The power of productivity cubed


By Jeff Chilton

"For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill."
-- Sun Tzu (ancient Chinese military leader, circa 500 BC)

Because of our enterprise focus, our consultancy practice covers a very broad spectrum of diverse elements. To help categorize our assessments and logically break up the work of looking at an entire organization, we routinely subdivide an IT enterprise into three distinct areas: applications, infrastructure, and systems management.

Within each of those unique areas, we further compartmentalize things into the three "P"s: people, processes, and products. This simple 3x3 grid provides the foundation for the ETG (my company, Echo Technology Group) Enterprise Maturity Model (shown in Figure A), which is the basis for virtually all of our IT Enterprise Maturity Assessments and related services.


The ETG Enterprise IT Maturity Model has its foundation in the three "P"s. (click for larger image)

People first, then processes, then products

We present the three "P"s in the sequence that we do for a very important reason: it has been our experience that there is a definite hierarchy in the importance of these three basic elements. Many vendors will start out their relationship with a prospective client by attempting to sell them a product, extolling its virtues as the latest "silver bullet" to resolve all the prospect's IT-related suffering. It's our belief that this is precisely the wrong end of the hierarchy from which to begin. From our perspective, if you solve your people issues first, then deal with your processes, only then should you consider investing in new products. Any other approach simply separates you from your money and does little to actually resolve your organization's struggles.

When we talk about people issues, we're not just talking about the quality of the individuals within the organization. While this is definitely an issue to consider, there are a number of what we classify as "people" issues that have little do with specific individuals and more to do with things like organizational structure, culture, reward systems, leadership, education, and training. These things all have a tremendous impact on the productivity of an organization and can override any potential benefits of a new product or procedure.

At its very core, information technology is a human endeavor, and like all human endeavors, it involves a number of complex human factors that all need to be considered. Organizations that focus on and resolve these issues before implementing new procedures or purchasing the latest product are the ones that ultimately succeed.