Monday, September 3, 2007

POET - Politics, Operations, Economics, and Technology

One of the best lessons I have learned over the past 7 years as an enterprise architect with Northrop Grumman is the POET acronym. It is the notion of the order of things in the business world: 1) Politics -- getting people what they want, 2) Operations -- making the business run like a well-oiled machine, 3) Economics -- getting the most bang for the buck, 4) Technology -- using machines to make an organization more efficient and accurate. As a technologist, architect, and software engineer, I used to spell this as TOEP, where Technology was #1 followed by Operations, then Economics, then, dead-last, Politics. Following this TOEP priority system working for the government, I set myself and my team up for failure. We were technologists pushing hot technologies in an organization that could care less. We were "techology" in search of a solution.

Putting the POET acronym in order is a good recipe for success. Politics forces you to look at what is driving the business decisions. Operations forces you to focus on efficient well-targeted business processes. Economics forces you to maximize return on investment and lower the total cost of ownership for a system. Technology is dead last. It's a servant. I have been well-served by becoming technology agnostic, meaning, technology services an organization's politics, operations, and economic constraints.

In my experience, this is not trivial, it's monumental. It pervades many work spaces and many fields of battle. It is like holding your friends close and your enemies even closer. Many techologists are in love with their favorite technologies. They could care less about the business world that surrounds them and pays them to build excellent systems. I used to be one of these people. POET is a wake-up call to put first things first, a recipe for success.

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