Minding your own business

Disk defragmentation: Apparently this is the process of taking files apart from the computer to see if everything is in place. No, I haven't been drinking. This was apparently a definition offered by a student in an IT project paper.

It's all too easy to laugh at what we used to call “schoolboy howlers,” of course, but this arose as part of a discussion about the way that teachers mark papers and projects in IT-related subjects. I can't discuss the details, I'm afraid, but it made me very aware that a longstanding problem is – well, still standing...

In the educational world, there seem to be two main ways of looking at IT-related topics:

  • The computer science, bits and bytes, components and architectures, codemonkey view
  • The MBA-prep, business studies, IT-as-a-minor-module view

(I'm not thinking about IT as a general tool for supporting the teaching of other subjects here, of course. That might be a topic for a later rant, though. Something around the fact that computer technology is so ubiquitous that it's now often assumed that there is no need to teach anyone under 60 how to use applications properly. But let's get back to geeks versus suits.)

The business world has long been aware that neither of those world views is uniquely correct. That's why “hybrid managers” (I was one of those myself, once...) are often preferred to IT geeks with no business skills/experience or business graduates who don't speak geek. But I get the distinct impression that there are still teachers whose teaching expertise is totally concentrated in one area or the other.

Of course, this is an issue that goes to the heart of security: There are geek versus board of directors issues there too.

  • The authoritarian, lock-everything-down, gods-and-ants view
  • The IT-as-hewers-and-drawers-of-water, ROI-trumps-security, “don't get in the way of my business process” Weltanschauung.

No one in business – or even outside it, but trying to communicate how it works to young and impressionable minds – knows everything about everything (not even Lord Sugar or Donald Trump). but rigid specialization and compartmentalization are luxuries few can afford, even in the most elitist ivory towers of academia. And in the 21st century, even universities have to understand business processes.

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