In the November 2002 issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR) there was an article titled “The Six IT Decisions Your IT People Shouldn’t Make”. It was a great article about how Operations management for so many companies have abdicated responsibility for IT decisions to IT executives, thereby resulting in a significant loss in the return on their IT investments. The underlying truth is quite straightforward. That is, Operations management “failed to recognize that adopting systems posed a business – not just a technological- challenge. Consequently, they didn’t take responsibility for the organizational and business process changes the systems required.” The result of this lack of involvement was that the CIO, with a technology perspective exclusively, was constraining the advancement of the company’s business processes, and most likely the return on IT investment and, more importantly, the company’s bottom line.
Shift now to railroads and their nearly total dependence on managing mobile and remote resources. In this environment, the strategic IT environment extends to the “mobile node”, the locomotive platform, by incorporating a strategic wireless data perspective in sync with the IT strategy. And, has been so unfortunately demonstrated in the North American railroad industry, it’s the wireless technicians that are constraining the advancement of business processes by their pursuit of non-strategic wireless networks, most recently in the name of PTC. I refer specifically to the intended deployment of the 220 MHz band in parallel with the 160 MHz band that will be shifting to a digital platform to meet the FCC’s narrow-banding mandate. In line with the HBR article, the railroads’ Operations management have not been involved with the evaluation of how wireless technologies will be deployed. I stress that it is not the technicians’ fault that they have such a free hand, but rather that of the railroads’ upper management that have failed to be involved.
Paraphrasing the key points of the HBR article, below are the 6 decisions that a wireless manager should not make about the deployment of wireless technologies, from both a strategy and execution standpoint.
- How much should we spend on wireless?
- Which business processes should receive our wireless dollars?
- Which wireless capabilities need to be company-wide ( and industry-wide)?
- How good do our wireless services really need to be?
- What security and privacy risks will we accept?
- Whom do we blame if a wireless initiative fails?
Via several following postings to this blog, I will address some of these questions in greater detail.