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Technology and the Right
Posted by: Dale Franks on Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Since getting their behinds handed to them in the last two election cycles, people on the Right have been taking a long hard look at why they've turned into such losers. One of the areas of concern that have popped up as a result of this introspection has been the role of technology in politics. Technology, many are now convinced, is super-terrifically important. "After all," they argue, "just look what Obama did with his web site. We need to do that!"

So now, the politicos are all jumping onto the technology bandwagon. Being good politicos, they are going about it wrong.

There has been a rush of political consultants to learn technology, so they can bill themselves as "technologists" (They aren't). There's been a stampede to get Twitter accounts and Facebook and MySpace profiles. Everyone is throwing around cool-sounding terms like "Web 2.0" and "social networking software".

All of this generates a lot of heat, but, unfortunately, very little light.

Primarily, that is because the people engaging in this discussion, for the most part, don't have any clue about technology. Oh, they know the buzzwords, and they have a grasp of what some current technologies do, and maybe even have some good ideas about how to use tech here and there.

But they don't know technology. What they know, to some greater or lesser degree, is how to use some products of technology. But how to architect it, design applications, or how to implement them...they don't have a clue.

On the other hand, I don't look at technology from a political point of view. I've worked with computers for twenty-seven years, starting programming when I was a high-schooler. I've been a full-time, professional developer, database architect, web designer, and systems analyst for the last 12 years.

So, from that point of view, I offer up the following bits of advice to the politicos.

MANAGEMENT BY MAXIM

Outside the pure tech world, technology is never a driver. Technology is a support function. It can tell you how to do something. But it can't tell you whether you should do something.

The first step in implementing any technology should be the requirements of your business or organization. What problems do you face, and how do you overcome them? What processes should you implement? What information would you like to store or query? What strategies would you like to implement? What objectives support those strategies? What business tactics will allow you to achieve those objective?

Note, please, that none of these questions have anything to do with technology at all. These are all questions about the goals and means of the organization. If you don't know the answers to these questions, technology is useless. To the extent that it helps you, it's a result of luck, and nothing else.

Jon Henke related an interesting and amusing tidbit to me over the phone this morning. He noted that everyone in the politics business was getting Twitter accounts.

Why?

What does getting a Twitter account do for you? How does Twitter achieve your organizational goals? How will you use it to further those goals? What is the desired outcome of using Twitter? It's not enough that all the cool kids have a Twitter account. Its use has to be in service of some organizational objective, or it's just a waste of time, no matter how much fun it might be subjectively.

Business requirements are always the driver for technology, not the reverse.

You must construct the business maxims you desire to implement first. These are derived from the strategic goals and objectives of your organization. From those business maxims, you and your technologist then derive IT maxims that describe the information you need to access, the software and hardware you need, and the human and physical infrastructure to support it. This is known as Management by Maxim.

The nice thing about this is that you don't need a technologist, or even have any deep understanding of technology to oversee this process. You do, however, need to know 1) what the organization's strategy, goals, objectives are; 2) the problems your organization faces; 3) the business processes you'd like to implement; and 4) how to document them clearly.

The job of the technologist is to take that documentation, and design the hardware and software technologies that support your business requirements.

If you aren't implementing technology this way, then you're doing it wrong.

A good primer on management by maxim can be found in Broadbent and Weill's article from the Sloan Management Review, which is available for free online here, in PDF format.

WHERE THE BOYS ARE

The technology boys (and girls), I mean.

Let me be frank.

If someone has spent 20 years as a political consultant, and the last four years as a web designer/programmer on the side, then that person is not a technologist. If you're looking for a technologist somewhere inside the Beltway, then you're looking in the wrong place.

Real technologists work in the field full time. Real technologists have a history of creating IT/IS solutions in fields other than politics or government—and that includes the beltway bandits. Real technologists have probably done very little, if any, work in politics at all. Real technologists work at Yahoo! or Telligent, or at private consultancies in Omaha (and San Diego!). They do nothing but technology, and they do it for all kinds of organizations.

That means that, to find effective tech guys, you are going to have look outside northern Virginia and southern Maryland. You will not know these people personally. They may not, in fact, particularly care about or support your politics. And you should not care.

They don't need to know politics. What they need to learn, they will, because that's what they do. They go into a retail sales or construction business, and they learn as much of the business as they need to learn to provide technology solutions. They are professionals at it.

You don't need activists to create your IT solutions. You need professionals who will implement your business rules, and support your strategic goals with the appropriate technology. You don't need to care what they believe, only that their solutions work to effectively promote your organization's strategy.

Be warned: You will have to pay them real money. They are worth every penny.

CONCLUSION

Technology is massively useful. But only if you harness it to support your goals. Without a strategic vision, you're implementing technology in the dark, without any guarantee that it will ultimately be helpful. Technology is merely a tool to help your organization succeed. If you want to use technology to get you to where you want to go, you need to have a very clear idea of where you want to go in the first place, and to map out the process for getting there. Only then does technology have any real use for you.

Anyone who tries to sell you technology without forcing you to go into details about your strategy, processes, and objectives, isn't someone you want to buy technology from.

[Cross-posted from The Next Right—ed.]
 
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or at private consultancies in Omaha (and San Diego!).
*cough cough*
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
ROLFMAO
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
I see what you did there. :)
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Yeah, I listen to Hugh Hewitt go on about Twitter and quizzing the Young Ones on the importance of technology and I wonder what do they think they’re doing. Tech is not magic fairy powder you sprinkle on political campaigns.

IMO the Obama campaign’s big tech brainwave was disabling credit card verification on donations.
 
Written By: huxley
URL: http://
[quote]Outside the pure tech world, technology is never a driver. Technology is a support function. It can tell you how to do something. But it can’t tell you whether you should do something.[/quote]
I guess depends on the timescale. Looking 6 months out people appear to be in the driver’s seat. Looking over the span of decades or more and that view changes.

You might want to get Connections by James Burke or catch the first television series by the same name if its ever get aired again (season 1 only. season 1 was far better then the later editions).

http://www.amazon.com/Connections-James-Burke/dp/0743299558/ref=pd_sim_d_4

 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
That means that, to find effective tech guys, you are going to have look outside northern Virginia and southern Maryland. You will not know these people personally. They may not, in fact, particularly care about or support your politics. And you should not care.

They don’t need to know politics. What they need to learn, they will, because that’s what they do. They go into a retail sales or construction business, and they learn as much of the business as they need to learn to provide technology solutions. They are professionals at it.
Why? I mean, I’m all for you drumming up business, Dale, but NoVa and MD are chock full of honest-to-goodness, real IT professionals. And, yes, I do know some of them.

Don’t forget that the Tech Corridor is right here where I’m sitting in Tyson’s Corner, stretching down the road all the way to Dulles Airport and out into Loudoun County. It houses such entities as AOL, AT&T, Nextel, BAE Systems, XO Communications, L-3 Communications, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, DynCorp, EDS, Nortel, Northrup Grumman, Oracle, and SAIC, among many others. In 1993, Fortune magazine described the Tech Corridor as home to the "vital electronic pathways that carry more than half of all traffic on the Internet. The region is home to more telecom and satellite companies than any other place on earth."

You can read more about how the tech boom visited NoVa here.
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://qando.net
One of the things I am constantly trying to drive into the heads of the executives where I work (in NoVa, as it happens) is that you cannot have a process automated to work well if you cannot do it effectively and efficiently on paper first.
 
Written By: Jeff Medcalf
URL: http://www.Caerdroia.org/blog
As I suggested to a friend the other day when the topic was Satellite Radio... The issue isn’t the technology. It’s the content, and who it’s connecting with.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
Why? I mean, I’m all for you drumming up business, Dale, but NoVa and MD are chock full of honest-to-goodness, real IT professionals.
Because there are candidates in the 48 other states who don’t really need to go to DC for their tech talent.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
I couldn’t agree more.

You say:
Anyone who tries to sell you technology without forcing you to go into details about your strategy, processes, and objectives, isn’t someone you want to buy technology from.
The recent trend in the GOP is to avoid discussing strategy, processes, and objectives. By focusing on the bells and whistles, they can avoid dealing with the structural problems that have developed; the stress fractures caused by conservative ideology in conflict with what these guys actually do when elected.

Good post.
 
Written By: Ronnie Gipper
URL: http://socalconservative.blogspot.com
Because there are candidates in the 48 other states who don’t really need to go to DC for their tech talent.
I see. The way it was written made me think you were of the opinion that there was no such talent in this area.
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://qando.net

"The first step in implementing any technology should be the requirements of your business or organization.........."


Ay, there’s the rub. Most of those clowns don’t have a clue about their own alleldged field of expertise, much less anything technical. They have a head full of political trivia, and can tell you who won the umpteenth congressional district in any particular year and by how much, but they have no more than a superficial knowledge of anything else. They are going to end up with a building full of nice new machines neatly networked loaded with nice new software and they are still going to lose elections.

This article applies equally well to the idea that putting computers and internet connections in schools will solve all our education problems.

The idea works well for the home improvement industry, too. Just go to Home Depot and buy the right tool(s) and you too can fix the wiring/plumbing/etc. in your house.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Business requirements are always the driver for technology, not the reverse.
Oddly enough, I was making the same point on an Internet radio interview on Monday. We were discussing how software developers deal with a downturn, and one of my answers was to understand their organizations’ business need better, because that lets a technologist add a lot more value by applying technology where it’s really needed.
You might want to get Connections by James Burke...
A terrific book and I recommend it. But I don’t think that invalidates Dale’s point.

Deep understanding of technology sometimes allows connections to be made that lead to totally new innnovation. But those innovations must still satisfy some kind of business need or they don’t go anywhere.

That’s true regardless of time frame. And the current crop of "let’s jump on Twitter" don’t get it at all. They are following what other people are doing, whereas for technology to be a game changer, it must do something that’s never been done before.

I don’t think Obama’s win had much at all to do with technological innovation. He used infrastructure that was already for other things better than Bush, but I think that was just a convenience. He screwed up with that as often as he succeeded with it.

The right’s problem has little to do with technology. It has a lot more to do with principle and clarity.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://qando.net
"The recent trend in the GOP is to avoid discussing strategy, processes,..."

Sadly, it is not recent. I can remember when direct mail fundraising was touted as a winning strategy. Nor is it exclusive to Republicans (they just do it better). Dukakis ran on a platform of competence, not idealogy. Ironic.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Great societies move forward on their élan and on the imagination of their creative minority. Technology might be the product of that, but it is not the source of it.

Great societies decline and disintegrate when their élan dims and their creative minority gives way to a dominant minority, which would mistake technology as the soul of imagination and use it to enforce its will.

Note that over the past forty plus years the Left has attacked all the symbols of the special American élan, including enterprise and wealth production, American exceptionalism, natural rights, transcendent truth, religion and God.

Look at the recent products of the American imagination, the triumph of the therapeutic society, the decontextualization of the present from the past (forgetting), and the constant attacks on family, marriage, free speech (especially in the universities), and beauty.

What the GOP needs is an authentic leadership that can re-articulate basic American values, particularly the honor and responsibility of both the family and the individual, and get people to respond to that and to reject its derogation.

The single greatest obstacle to that is the disintegration of the family and the capture of public institutions — public schools and universities in particular — by the postmodern Left, and the resulting assembly line production of morons.

Despite the relatively late-stage cultural decline there is a nucleus of vigorous intelligence and creativity in America. If that can be re-contextualized with the basic values of liberty and justice and enterprise, then there is hope for a cultural revival.

But the public schools especially are a deadly cancer in this society. Parents should get their kids out of them in droves, and whether they are believers or not, parents should make sure that their kids are thoroughly introduced to the transcendent moral truths of religion.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://newpaltzjournal.com

 
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