When an elephant should forget what he learned—and learn something new

Have you heard the one about the elephant?

A guy walks by the circus where an elephant is tethered by a flimsy cord. He asks the elephant’s trainer, “How can you keep him tied up with that? He could snap that twine and walk away.” The trainer explains that the elephant has been tied by the same rope since he was a baby when he didn’t have the strength to break it. At an early age, the elephant discovered he couldn’t get away, so by the time he was older and stronger, he no longer tried. He’d learned to accept his limitations.

That’s the way some businesses are about technology. They learned a long time ago that they want technology to work without understanding how to make it reliable. Email is a good example. You don’t want anything to compromise email 24/7, right? But if all of the things necessary to keep your email technology running—generators, remote data centers, triple disk redundancy and more—are not in place, you’re already compromising it.

No doubt you hired the top candidate to manage your IT needs, someone who works hard at keeping technology running, who keeps busy delivering what you’ve asked for. In fact, she may be stuck in “the business of busy-ness,”—filling her time with the needs around producing a day’s work and unwittingly restraining your business growth. When you’re only looking at the daily maintenance of technology, your business is at risk.

But how do you know what else needs to be done when you don’t even know the questions to ask? Just as an organization has people with specialized expertise looking at business needs associated with operations and finance, they need an expert who is responsible for identifying technology needs.

Think of the accounting procedures addressed in month-end closing. Does your technology have a similar reporting cycle? Why not start holding technology to that same high standard? Start by asking who really manages IT? What business updates are required? What are the current issues? What’s new? What problems occurred? How many incidents were intercepted? What advances in technology should be a part of your future? A growing and dynamic business needs all of this information and data available and analyzed so you can understand the big picture and make informed decisions that support your overall strategy.

Accept the limitations that come from not understanding technology, and like the elephant, you will be unnecessarily hobbled. Forget that. Call in a technology expert who can help you ask the right questions and provide the link between business strategy and IT.

 

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