Projects change the business, so know the overall business first.
A never-ending discussion in IT circles is about how much IT staffers need to know about the business that the information systems are supporting. It is high-lighted by every want-ad for an IT job that says previous experience in the employer’s industry is mandatory.
Is detailed industry knowledge and experience absolutely necessary for an IT job? No.
Can an IT staffer be effective with absolutely no knowledge of their employer’s industry? No.
As in many situations like this, the ‘Yes’ answer lies somewhere between the two extremes. Like a pendulum, the level of industry knowledge will vary across this spectrum, based on the specific organization, and by the particular IT role; e.g. Analysts need to know more than Programmers, and it justifiably argued that Testers need to know even more than Analysts.
So, some industry knowledge is required. I suggest from experience, however. that several week’s research on an industry is equivalent to several year’s work experience, as much of a person’s experience is rendered out-of-date by industry changes, or is too specific to the company they worked at. This is truer today than ever, as the ubiquitous Web makes information about almost anything available with a text string and few mouse clicks. (I especially like to look at vendors who offer packages that address any project I am working on, even for in-house development, it's a good way to see what the wider industry has been asking for.)
As a result, IT needs to know something about the industry going into a project, and the willingness to learn more as a project progresses.
Next in Cascade #7 – Knowing too much…