No-Principle Principle

No-Principle Principle

Using Information Technology Principles can make a big difference.

Abridged quote from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

In the fog the captain spotted a light and realized that it was moving closer on a collision course.
He sent a light signal: “I am a captain. Change course 20 degrees to East”
He got an answer shortly:  “I am a Second Seaman. You change course 20 degrees to West”
The captain got upset and sent a new message: “I am a navy destroyer. Change course immediately”
Soon he got a reply: “I am a lighthouse”
The captain of the destroyer changed course

  • Information Technology principles are the lighthouses
  • Projects and other IT investments are the destroyers
  • Project sponsors and cost center managers are the captains

Principles are universal guiding ideas:

  • They are applicable in a broad variety of situations
  • Provide clarity and focus, establish the direction
  • They seldom change, usually during a paradigm shift
    • Paradigm: the way we interpret and react to facts

An example of a great collection of principles is the United States Constitution:

  • Since 1789 the US Constitution has been guiding American society in law and political culture
  • The Constitution was amended only 27 times in 223 years
  • Amendments are done in different ways, but always jointly by the States
  • Paradigm shifts result in Amendments. A few examples:

In IT we are experiencing an accelerating rate of paradigm shift. This is driven by the change of enabling technologies and the change of the way people live, think, and work. This results in the change of principles. For example we are just moving from “in-house” to “off-premises cloud”, from “IT as a service provider” to “IT as a service broker”. CIOs are also trying to change how their customers perceive them and move from “cost center” to “service center” or “partner in innovation and business”.

Here is a tag cloud of Information Technology paradigms. A few years ago this would have been a bulleted list:

Good IT Principles:

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away” – Exupery

  • Created and kept fresh by the IT governance boards
  • Enforceable and enforced
  • Simple
  • Include brief rationale
  • Sticky  (Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath)
  • Customized to match the culture, maturity, and mission
  • NOT policies, procedures, guidelines or Technology Standards

The following example of the California highway system puts principles in context:

  • Stakeholders:    Motorists, California State, California Highway Patrol
  • Governance:      California Transportation Commission
  • Principle:            Efficient use of highways is desirable
  • Assurance:        California Highway Patrol
  • Policy:                Violation of the high occupancy lane rule results in a fine up to $250

The following is an example of IT Principles. The various EA frameworks can provide good starting points:

Finally, here is a captain who did not heed the Lighthouse:

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