Business or Technology Drivers?

Governance & Assurance

September 16, 2014

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or in this case, should the business requirement drive technology or is it the other way around? It’s a theme that directly or indirectly comes up and one that people can get pretty passionate about. I have a view which I’ll share but part of the intent behind this blog is to get engagement from others, either agreement, disagreement or general feedback is encouraged.

To my thinking, and based on what I believe a good ICT solution should look like, the business need should drive technology. That’s not to say that it always happens, but it is the way I believe it should be done. Technology can certainly drive how business is done, but almost never what the business does. This is a fundamental concept and one that should always be kept in mind.

If we take the example of a railway for instance, is its core business moving people from A to B, or is it to operate trains? I’d suggest it’s to run trains, if it was to move people then they would operate more than just trains. If technology drove the railway business, wouldn’t they have also invested in buses and planes?

Looking at a government example, the core business of the ATO is to collect revenue for the Commonwealth. The ATO is a big user of IT, and technology certainly makes a big difference on how the ATO does business, eTax is one example. But does the Federal Government determine tax law based on technology capabilities?

While this is all very interesting, does it really matter or change anything? It does if you’re the one designing ICT solutions or providing advice around how IT services are delivered. At the end of the day businesses own and operate technology to perform business functions, not the other way around. To effectively deliver technology to the business, it’s important to understand what the business does and how it measures itself. If you understand these important things, then you can start to determine how technology can better enable the business and add value.

So how does it work in your organisation, does ICT talk to business or vice a versa? How do your technology partners interact with you, are they interested in what you’re trying to achieve or do you get the feeling it’s more about what you can do for them?

Andrew McLintock
Chief Technology Officer