Much hand-wringing, and for far too long, about the future of the beleaguered CIO, torn like a pair of Levi's between the two mules of of Keeping The Lights On and enabling - or worse, driving - well ... here insert whatever digital transformation catchphrase that takes your fancy.
Enterprise IT of course has its many faults and failings. But the game of CIO-bashing has to stop now.
The problem that dare not speak its name, the underlying denial in the C-suite that is too often unfairly - explicitly or implicitly - laid at the CIO's door, is that few large enterprises (I'm sorely tempted to say none here) have a clear and confident picture of their required business architecture.
This is interesting, because exactly as we've seen with digital transformation, where business and IT bring highly diverse perspectives to bear, enterprise architecture and IT architecture are each profoundly different at every level. They may ideally overlap of course, but are essentially from different planets.
However they should reflect, enable and speak to each other. And this brings us to the nub of the problem.
For decades, IT had the relative - and often thankless - luxury of supporting and responding to the needs of a slow-changing enterprise that, more or less, knew clearly what it was, what it was here to do, and therefore both strategically and structurally had been able to connect the technology investment with its needs. Until the consumerisation of tech, along with the closely associated arrival of what is, perhaps unfortunately, known as the "SMAC stack", those needs revolved around classic business support functions: record keeping and so on.
For the "keep the lights on" (at all costs and by the way do not EVER f%^k this up ...) folks, to be flatly presented with the challenge of "driving the transformation of the enterprise for the digital future" is a very nasty shock. Not least because real budgets are often not allocated for the shiny stuff, but more importantly because, in isolation, enterprise IT cannot, in any seriousness, be asked to reframe the direction, strategy and, above all from their POV, resulting architecture of the business, in order to convert it into a plausible technical solution set.
The emergence of so-called "shadow IT", where LOB's, for example, define, brief and invest in their own segment of a naturally then-fragmented IT architecture, is not best represented as merely an understandable and commercially-led reaction to the inability of the CIO's team to acknowledge, support and meet their changing needs.
It goes deeper. Shadow IT - alongside this surely-now-out-of-date CIO-bashing - is a potent and tangible symptom of the chronic reticence of leadership (including, where they are still allowed into the war room, CIOs) to take on the direct and urgent challenge of redefining how the enterprise must - strategically as well as operationally - be shaped in order to remain relevant and with a chance of future growth.
This is not THAT difficult a task in itself, surely. So why the delay? Why the denial?
Under these ostensibly common sense challenges, lurks a Pandora's Box of far more disruptive implications that throw into sharp, uncomfortable relief huge questions about the raison d'etre of the entire business, the areas of competition it might feasibly address, its ability to thus continue to satisfy customers, grow shareholder value, and so on. Not to mention the competence of the leadership team itself. A very hot spot, then.
There is a psychological "There Be Dragons" issue facing leadership that cannot be over-dramatised. It's a life or death thing, in many sectors and for many global brand leaders.
Without seeking to end with a fatuous plug, I have directly addressed these issues - with no claim to providing all the answers, but with a confident one to have asked many of the right sort of Big Questions, in my recent short book: "The Liquid Enterprise".
Its goal is simply to point out why the knee-jerk responses of e.g. Digital Transformation, Customer Experience and Innovation programmes, while serving useful immediate purposes of efficiency and cost-saving, in themselves tend to deepen the very denial that pushes back the far larger, existential issues of enterprise purpose, shape and architecture, into the reassuring but still-dangerous background.
The way the enterprise does strategy, and the way its architecture is evolved, hold the combined key to enabling the notorious and increasingly toxic gap between IT and business to be reduced to a point of meaningful alignment.
Anything less? We are, as I like to say, fiddling when we should be burning Rome.