One of Mr. Toigo’s readers posted a thoughtful question about why IT isn’t more strategic in their thinking. I started writing this as a comment there, but it got longer and longer and I liked it more and more, so I put it here instead!
I think this lack of strategic thinking is a reaction to the reality of life in IT rather than any deficiency on the part of IT folks. Modern distributed-systems (read UNIX and Windows) IT infrastructure managers are treated like second-class citizens – “here, watch this stuff while I do some real work.” They have little real knowledge of the applications they supposedly support (even IT applications people have little to do with infrastructure folk) and thus are totally unable to appropriately manage systems, especially storage.
Imagine is your rich uncle gave you a garage half full of blank boxes and said “keep this all safe for me, but don’t look inside the boxes, ok?” Then every few days he came by and handed you some more blank boxes, some heavy, some misshapen, but all unknown. After a year or so, you came to him and said “ummm, the garage is full and I don’t know what to do!” His reaction would, of course, be “I told you to manage it!” Then, patronizingly, “very well, I’ll get you another garage…”
Sound like the storage industry? We simply cannot be strategic until we know more about the data we are storing, and that means we have to muscle our way to a seat at the grand business applications table. This is the true challenge of IT in the coming years, not green computing or ILM or any of those other supposedly strategic things we focus on.
But all of these pseudo-strategy we do presents an opportunity. Take on a challenge like ILM with a data classification or tiered storage project. Put your results in front of Management – real business management, not the VP of IT operations or whatever. Show them that you do have the ability to form complex thoughts and ask for their input. You might even get invited to the table…