Lessons from Brexit for Corporate IT

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Do the following phrases ring any bells?

“We’ve all had enough of experts”

“The bureaucratic centre is over-complicated and inefficient, we don’t get out anywhere near what we pay in”

“We have to struggle day in, day out – those guys are just creating jobs for themselves, I’m not even sure what half of them do, and most of them speak a different language…”

“We’ll be better off if we can run our own affairs, we can spend the money better ourselves”

Some people might be thinking ‘Brexit’. But for those who work in large organisations it can just as easily apply to an IT function. How many CIOs and IT Directors can remember conversations like this?

Bob from Sales calls. “Hi, we’ve got a problem here. We have a new CRM system, we’ve imported all of our customers from the ERP, and we’ve been using it for a while in one part of the business. It’s really great but we need to expand it now, and we want to track emails. The company says it can integrate with our email system but we need you to make it happen. And some of our people have had trouble connecting to it, and when they call the IT service desk they aren’t getting any help. That’s not really good enough, can you sort it out?”

Often the response will go something like this

“You’ve done WHAT? What data are you storing in this system!? Where is it located? Are you following our data retention policies? Who has access to it? How long have you committed for? How are you linking the data to our ERP system, how does each system know if some details change? How many users are you expecting – I’ll need to man up on the desk, we’ll need training etc etc etc”

And Bob hears – ‘You’ve done WHAT? What data are you moan moan moan moan moan moan moan moan whine moan moan’. He sees a person trying to put obstacles in his way, rather like the Daily Mail picture above.

The Brexit situation is similar in many ways. A lot of people are very cross that since we’ve voted to leave the EU that it hasn’t happened already. Many want out immediately. Many want to start the process immediately. But there are lots of obstacles. Firstly, the government has a constitutional puzzle to solve, since it seemed to think that it has the ability to revoke citizens’ rights on a whim. Then there are other unfortunate details, such as 40 years of integration of EU law into British law. There are EU budgets set to 2020 that Britain has committed to. There are trade negotiations, pressure from every globalised corporation that sees the chance of putting pressure on the UK (Nissan, JLR being the early leaders) and skills shortages currently being filled by EU citizens.

When ‘experts’ point these things out, the ardent Brexiteer hears ‘Remainers remoan, remoan, remoan, remoan’.

This was the situation on the day after the Brexit vote. Faisal Islam from Sky News…

CIOs will recognise the symptoms. Having been sold an easy answer, the more complex issue of how it is actually implemented comes back to the ‘experts’ in the end.

I’m ambivalent about the EU, just as I am about corporate IT. Both have inefficiencies, both can seem impenetrable to the wider population. But I’m equally sure that if you want to throw away these things, you need to think it through properly. I don’t think we’ve done that with the EU vote, and it often doesn’t happen when businesses go outside their corporate IT teams to buy software and services.

Whatever happens with the Brexit process, we need to learn a lot of lessons – and if you’re thinking of buying a software product without involving the IT department, maybe you should think of Faisal Islam beforehand 😉

Chris Weston

Working to improve IT outcomes for organisations of all sizes. Talk to me about business engagement, IT strategy, and supporting growth through sustainable recruitment and software development methods. Catch the weekly podcast at http://wb40podcast.com - featuring me, Matt Ballantine and only the finest guest commentators from the world of business IT! Blogging on business and IT at http://chrisweston.tumblr.com

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