CIO 003 The Challenge of I.T. Created by James on 6/13/2013 3:09:11 PM
Computers are dumb. They operate by adding 0's and 1's and use 0's and 1's to switch. Computers do exactly what they are told, right or wrong, and therefore create an extremely unforgiving environment for human error.
Only human beings create or destroy value and only human beings determine whether value has been created or destroyed. A gun is "good" when viewed from the perspective of those who view the person at which the gun is being pointed as "bad" and vice versa. The creation of value is an abstract and complex concept determined by human "gut" response to intangible factors -- music, art, diamond rings and pornography all have no material value to human life yet are regarded as highly valuable as evidenced by the profitability of the associated industries.
Yet information technology investments are expected to deliver "return on investment" (ROI) in hard terms while the business requires complex positive knowledge, experience and psychological responses from workers, staff, executives and customers in order to be perceived to deliver value by the people who ultimately pay for the investment.
Additionally, computer software is abstract and effectively invisible to users and executives alike. Much of the experience of a computerised system is gained symptomatically through users and viewers who may only see a small number of screens or reports of a system. Yet a comprehensive integrated enterprise resource planning system may comprise hundreds of screens and reports which few human beings have the cognitive span to comprehend let alone the ability to manage and use the system effectively in a fully integrated fashion.
When a building or factory is designed and built it is accompanied by detailed drawings developed and executed by hundreds and even thousands of specialists in hundreds of individually qualified and certified occupations and professions. Complex computer software is frequently implemented by small teams reliant on the genius of one or two individuals for success and frequently associated with failure. 70% of all I.T. investments fail totally.
When a business takes occupation of a new building or factory the physical appearance of the infrastructure is clearly visible and corporate workers, staff, executives and customers can clearly see what has been delivered, information systems are different.
When implementing an E.R.P. system business people find themselves cast as architects, engineers and operators of the business solution. A management system requires managers and executives to do things differently at a level that is generally grossly underestimated. This dichotomy of the business being its own "prime contractor" and seeking to change itself is far more harshly experienced in the context of business information systems than in any other area of general business.
The process of design, development, implementation and operation is a complex mosaic of human endeavour accompanied by technology which is unforgiving of human error.
This paradox is the essence of the challenge of I.T., in fact, the essence of I.T. success is psychology NOT technology.
Information technology is now a mature industry in terms of the technical components of hardware and software. It is an industry in its infancy, still close to the "bleeding edge" insofar as the human element is concerned. The challenge for the next ten years is to learn how to profitably and effectively utilize information technology in support of business strategic objectives to create sustainable competitive benefit measured in terms of productivity gains, growth, profit margin and other metrics which are visibly attributable to the value created by the use of information technology.
To achieve this end the I.T. industry must transform itself and business executives must take custody, a proprietary sense of personal ownership, of the economic and business outcome of every I.T. investment.
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