I grew up and lived most of my life in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. But just prior to relocating to the Midwest for work seven years ago, I lived in Derry, New Hampshire, just down the road from the historic landmark where Robert Frost, the famous American poet who was also a four-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, wrote many of his best poems, including the one shown to the left, The Road Not Taken, which has always remained one of my favorite poems—and also provides the inspiration for this blog post.
Historically, there have been only two “roads” diverged in the corporate world, two well-traveled ways: The Road of Business and The Road of Technology.
Although these two roads have a common starting point near the center of an organization, they will almost always extend away from each other, and in completely opposite directions, leaving most employees to choose which road they wish to travel—often without being sorry that they could not travel both.
I don’t believe that I am taking too much of a poetic license in describing this common calamity as how an organization is “a house divided against itself,” which to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, cannot succeed. I believe that no organization can succeed as half business and half technical. But I also do not believe that any organization must become either all business or all technical.
There is a third option—there is a third road diverged in the corporate world.
Organizations struggle with the business/technical divided house because they believe the corporate world is comprised of technical workers delivering and maintaining the things that enable business workers to do their things.
And of course, there can be an almost Lincoln–Douglas debate about what exactly each of those things are because, in part, it is commonly perceived that they operate independently of one another—whereas the truth is that they are highly interdependent.
However, it’s no debate that organizations suffer from this perception of a deep divide separating the business side of the house, who usually own its data and understand its use in making critical daily business decisions, from the technical side of the house, who usually own and maintain its hardware and software infrastructure, which comprise its enterprise data architecture.
The success of all enterprise information initiatives is highly dependent upon enterprise-wide interdependence—aka collaboration.
Therefore, in order for success to be possible with data quality, data integration, master data management, data warehousing, business intelligence, data governance, etc., your organization needs to travel the third road diverged in the corporate world.
The Road of Collaboration is long and winding, a seemingly strange and unfamiliar road, quite distinct from the well-traveled, long, but straight and narrow, and somewhat easily foreseeable paths of The Road of Business and The Road of Technology.
Your organization must abandon the comforts of the familiar roads and embrace the discomfort of the unfamiliar road, the road that although less traveled by, definitely makes all the difference between whether your entire house will succeed or fail.
But if The Road of Collaboration does not yet exist within your organization, then you can not afford to settle for continuing to travel down whatever path you currently follow. Instead, you must follow the trailblazing advice of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Neither trailblazing, nor taking the road less traveled by, will be an easy journey. And there is no escaping the harsh reality that The Road of Collaboration will always be the path of the greatest resistance.
But which story do you want to be telling—and without a sigh—somewhere ages and ages hence?
Do you want to tell the story about how your organization continued to walk away from each other by traveling separately down The Road of Business and The Road of Technology—leaving The Road of Collaboration as The Road Not Taken?
Or do you want to tell the story about how your organization chose to walk together by traveling The Road of Collaboration?
Three roads diverged in the corporate world, and our organization—
Our organization took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.