Talk of IT innovation is the last gasp of the IT cowboys
All this crap about IT being innovators who lead the business is the last gasp resistance of a generation of geeks who can't stand the idea that IT is about as exciting and creative as building roads. A few road builders work in wild canyons building on steep cliffs and across great chasms inventing new solutions as they go, but the bulk of them dump gravel, roll asphalt and pour concrete. Get over it.
I'm all for being people-oriented but that does not mean giving the people free rein to reinvent everythign in their own spontaneous creative way. We did that. We're still cleaning up the mess: unmaintainable undocumented code in a multitude of incompatible architectures, built using RAD and Agile and prototyping and other new-age code-words for "no control".
All this folderol about creativity! If that's what you want, join the queue to go work somewhere in Silicon Valley. People read this stuff about IT innovation and some payments system developer in an insurance company in Pittsburg or Brussels or Taipei or Sao Paulo or Adelaide thinks it is time to start inventing. It's not. Apps should be built/assembled to standard, conventional, documented, engineered, robust, repeatable specifications.
Sure your chief enterprise architect is allowed to spend 10% of their time looking at the fringes for exciting opportunities to innovate in the business. Once in a blue moon they come up with something and a small team is put on a skunkworks project to see where it leads. This is an exteremely unusual exception, it is not how to build IT.
Innovation is in the vendors' R&D labs, in enterprise architecture special projects, in occasional very very rare moments in business application development. Innovation is not IT's day job - engineering is. Demanding innovation of IT is like demanding PhDs of your children. Stop asking too much. In fact it is even more unreasonable: innovation arises from IT far less often than PhDs arise from offspring, costs more and takes nearly as long.
The cowboys can't stand this thought. They can't stand that they have to do things the generally accepted way, the predictable way, the maintainable way, the cheap way. They can't stand that they are accountable for what they do, that records are kept, that they must follow a process and get approvals and be measured.
Project portfolio management.
Common off the shelf software.
Production readiness design.
Post implementation warranty period.
Drives them mad. They want to be pioneers, inventors, artists in code. They want to be barefoot free. What they are is childishly petulant, ill-disciplined, and dangerous. We are watching a fundamental shift in IT culture to professionalism, engineering and sobriety. Many of the old school don't like it.
Actually not the old school. There's not much exciting innovation in mainframe COBOL and there were some processes even if there wasn't much standardisation or re-use. It is the nearly-old school of Unix and PC developers and the new school of Web Java and .NET developers who are whingeing the loudest. They've been allowed to chuck their toys around and splash code up the walls for twenty years and now we have to get them in line. This is made harder in New Zealand because we have banned smacking.