Many Pies

Many Pies

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What would an IT entrepreneur look like in a mission organisation?

A few years ago I was at the conference for IT people in Wycliffe worldwide. There was someone there who had written a really neat program that enabled you to produce a dictionary. (Stop me if you've heard this, but I can't find it elsewhere on my blog.) Someone else stood up and was conflicted by what he'd seen. Whilst tools that do one thing well are great in themselves, there's also a need for getting a group of people together to develop a series of integrated tools. I'm guessing the guy who stood up was somehow involved in, or had a stake in, the team developing integrated tools. I'm all for the consensus and teamwork approach, even though it's painful and slow. However if it's too painful or slow people just get on and develop their own system, like this entrepreneurial person.

I've just been in a meeting planning an IT event next year, and we touched on IT entrepreneurs. It got me thinking about what would a good IT entrepreneur look like in a Wycliffe context?

I can tell you what we don't want:
  • We don't want people to come in and set up servers or systems and not leave any documentation behind.
  • We don't want people to come in with loads of ideas, and not listen to why we think they won't work, and who give up and go away.
That's not to say that you can't have people who come and do good stuff. I hear good things about the people behind Lightsys.

Here's what an IT entrepreneur might look like:
  • They spot a need across several organisations.
  • They develop a prototype system that meets the need and open it up to the users.
  • The users get on board and nag their management to make this system an official part of the organisations strategy.
  • Crucially, they make sure the system is sustainable and now that people are sold onto it, that it continues to adapt to meet their needs.
Just thinking out loud. 

Update: Tom Lucas has posted a thoughtful reply on Google+.
Update 2: This post got picked up on my company blog: IT entrepreneurs in a mission organisation
Update 3: Tom has written a blog post on the subject himself.

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