When I was in my last year of University, I had a project management subject. I was studying Electronic Engineering at the time. The teacher had a great deal of experience in projects and he also had a technical background. During one of the lessons, he made a statement that struck all of us in the classroom. He said that, in order to progress in our career, at some point in time we would have to give up technology and move to the business side. I still remember my internal reaction: I did not like it. I think my point of view was shared by many of my classmates by the rumours.
Think about that for a minute. We were spending 5 years of our lives in the University (in Spain, University degrees used to be that long), learning technology, something we all really liked. We all wanted to spend the rest of our lives working in technology. Someone telling us that we would not be able to fulfil our dreamed career was not something we wanted to hear. As it usually happens with comments from experienced people, he was right.
The eternal fight of business vs technology
During all my career I have always sensed a hidden war between these two sides:
- People working on the business side of a company (marketing, finance…) tend to disregard the IT department, considering its member as a bunch of geeks and nerds.
- IT members consider too often others as too stupid to understand the basics of technology.
I am sure you can extend that list to more examples you have seen during your life.
This battle makes people on each side consider themselves superior to people on the other side. I remember a person saying that he had degree in economics and, almost, in telecommunication engineering. He definitely had a degree in economics. But he claimed that, since he had worked for some telcos as a consultant, he could be considered an engineer. This is like saying that, since you know how to treat flu, you are a doctor.
Another topic I have heard sometimes is about training. One person once told me that technically-oriented people could not learn the business side of things, but business-oriented people can easily learn technology. To me, this clearly shows a sense of superiority.
You might be wondering, by now, where do I want to get to. I started working for Adobe as an Analytics consultant. My main role was to be the bridge between marketing and IT. I remember speaking with the web analytics, gathering his requirements, going to the developer’s desk (a few meters away) and telling him what to do. I was, in fact, a translator. For me this was natural, but I later realised that this skill of mine was not common.
Since I started working as a multi-solution architect, projects have become more complex in nature. I am not just doing web analytics or implementing a DMP. Now projects span multiple business teams and multiple Adobe products (AEM, Campaign, Analytics…) The starting point is a sophisticated set of business requirements that require a complex technical solution. On the other hand, there are technical constraints that will limit the business requirements.
Cooperation between business and technology
Whether we like it or not, there is only on possible solution to accomplish sophisticated projects: cooperation. Think about the alternatives:
- Projects driven purely by business people, impossible to implement due to technology constraints.
- Projects driven purely by technical people, which nobody uses because the business does not find it useful.
The projects I tend to work on now are more complex than before, involving various teams and technologies. The only way to successfully finish these projects is by taking everybody into account, from both sides of the fence.
Let’s stop thinking about “us vs them” and start building solutions together, which fulfil the given requirements.