Software Quality

October 12, 2017

Self-Sufficiency endangers Governance

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Allen @ 8:24 pm

I’ve spent years of my life building IT systems that promote self-sufficiency among our customers. But only now have I realized the undesirable, unintended consequence of this.

Early generation IT automated manual processes so users did not have to do things by hand. The ROI was great, as labor was slow and unreliable, and automation was fast and consistent.

Later generations of IT built upon that and offered automated solutions that were configurable within a foreseeable range, freeing users from IT for certain kinds of change. This self-sufficiency empowered the users to experiment, learn, and re-target their strategies to be more effective.  Imagine generation 1 websites: built by programmers. Imagine generation 2 websites: built by business users on a CMS (Content Management System) platform that is purpose-built to allow business users to make changes on their own without reliance on highly trained IT staff.

The gain is great – business users can experiment quickly and often to learn. That trial and error feedback loop is what enables learning.  So users can adapt more quickly and hopefully better meet the needs of their customers. The lead time between “business user recognizes need and pain point” to “resolved problem” is MUCH shorter when the business user can make the needed change themselves.

To understand the risk with this self-sufficiency, think about the days when IT was in the loop:  The independence of IT and the difficulty in doing work, increased the chance that all stakeholders were brought to the table, and proper review and approval occurred.

But once you give business users tools so powerful and easy to use that they don’t need IT expertise, then not only do you free the users from IT constraints, but you also lose the governance role that IT played.  This is not an insurmountable problem. But it must be called out clearly. And any solution that reduces dependencies on others and increases self-sufficiency needs to fully understand the actual role played by those dependencies. Only then can you devise an alternative control procedure to ensure proper approvals occur and project change control occurs.


  1. I once had a boss who said that putting Microsoft Access on everyone’s desktop was like giving everyone a nuclear weapon. Maybe a CMS can be giving people enough rope if you’re not careful.

    Comment by Uriah Blatherwick (@paladinu) — October 12, 2017 @ 8:56 pm

  2. yes. these tools are both empowering and dangerous at the same time. I am a big fan of empowering users, but with great power comes great responsibility. And training becomes important. I suppose this tension is as old as our species.

    Comment by David Allen — October 13, 2017 @ 6:46 am

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