Dishwashers Don't Need Roadmaps

We use the analogy of a dishwasher to help explain technology that we see as belonging under the purview of traditional I.T., as opposed to digital products. Traditional I.T. products, we say, are like dishwashers.

That’s no knock on traditional I.T., of course. Dishwashers are complicated enough underneath the hood that most of us don’t want to mess with the innerworkings. When the time comes to assemble or fix a dishwasher, you clearly want a specialist with skill and experience doing the work.

However, we also all know the basics of what a dishwasher is supposed to do. You have a few options to choose from, you add soap, you hit start. The dishwasher needs no roadmap for future development. For the rest of the dishwasher’s life it will perform the same functions it did on day one.

Generally speaking, the same can be said for traditional I.T. products such as hardware (like printers, laptops, routers), and for most consumer software as well. Sure, hardware may require occasional maintenance and upgrades, and require skilled expertise to get the most out of them. But a router is a router, it does what it does. Similarly, software like Microsoft Excel or Adobe Photoshop surely require training, skill and experience to be used effectively. But that said, they are what they are the moment you buy them.

By contrast, your website isn’t like that. Your database isn’t like that. They start out in one state, and if they have any hope of staying useful and relevant, they have to evolve constantly, from day one until day last. And complicating matters more, the possibilities for that evolution are endless. That’s why you need a roadmap for them, managed by a highly capable, strategic, detailed product manager.

And that’s why your digital products are out of place if they get lumped in with traditional I.T. by an undifferentiated categorization of “digital”. Traditional I.T. is a core backbone function, but it most often falls into Operations, and for good reason. Whereas your digital products are evolving, unique platforms that need to managed strategically to support and keep pace with your evolving needs. They each demand different skillsets to manage and steward, different lifecycles and levels of resources, and different types of access to leadership and strategy. Asking a single department to manage both is a fundamental misalignment, and a sure-fire recipe for underperformance.

The Curriculum