Open standards will have a key role in business if IT managers get rid of the techno babble, says Julian Kaine.
Despite the enormous commercial potential of web services, many board members remain indifferent about the technology. So what is going wrong?
The three-, four- and even five-letter acronyms used to describe web services do not help. Web services' biggest advocates have been its own worst enemy by failing to advertise the business benefits in a language the board understands.
Everyone with a vested interest in making web services work needs to make a concerted effort to jettison the jargon. We need to move on from debating the merits of one standard compared to another, such as the war of words between the .net and Java camps.
The IT department also has an important role in convincing the board of the business case for deploying open standards. There are steps that can be taken to release funds for these initiatives.
First, a piecemeal, rather than big bang approach to implementing a web services architecture is essential. IT directors should identify one or two business processes likely to benefit from a relatively minor investment in web services. Once the economic case has been proven for deploying open standards in one department, it will be easier to release funds for subsequent projects.
Another simple, but often overlooked step, is for the IT department to take the time to ask front-line staff which business processes cause them the most pain and why. This will make it far easier to make the business case for a technology investment to the board. After all, it is no good selling a solution to a problem that does not exist.
Finally, IT directors could ban the use of acronyms. Stigmatising techno babble will help change the "us and them" mindset that often derails technology initiatives before they leave the drawing board.
IT professionals need to reinvent themselves as consultants and tailor IT to meet the needs of the business, rather than the other way round. Open standards will play a central role, but the successful IT manager can make this happen without ever needing to talk technology.
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Julian Kaine is CPM solutions director at Cognos UK
This was first published in March 2004