The Age of IT-Enlightenment

I am wondering why we are still in the Dark Ages of IT. Why can’t we bring the age of IT-enlightenment to businesses? Why it is so difficult to get businesses to improve their information technology infrastructure? I have come to the conclusion (my current thinking … which I may change later!) that it is related to people: people in management, in IT and IT users. And yes, also the people in our governments!

In my position as Chief Architect at ISIS Papyrus Software have said before that I feel like Miguel Cervantes ‘Don Quichote’ who is charging the windmills in a hilarious attempt at stopping the progress of technology. Actually that is not a good comparison. I am not against technology. I am a technology believer and addict. I fight against the misuse of technology and I fight for common sense and compassion in times when growth of revenue and share prices have replaced a human focus.

There are many political comment to this and I have placed them on my writing blog to stick to the IT thinking right here. Please read ‘Visions, Illusions and Lies.

IT is today a political subject inside and outside the corporation. IT people too have become experts in the art of self-congratulation. Whenever I ask for hard-proof that the money spent had any positive side effect I am greeted with shrugs. When I try to discuss opportunities and potential of using modern software beyond hard-coding logic and processes I am too greeted with shrugs. Never ever are IT business cases properly verified, because no one wants to be the one to hold the bucket after a bad decision was made. It is all very human and very understandable.

And here we find another connection between IT and social policy. Like social policy is never implemented to serve the people but about how it will influence the next elections, information technology is not implemented as a productivity tool. It is implemented as a powerful political tool to influence who gets which part of the budget for what and who gets which power assigned. We are at a stage where 2 out of 3 IT projects totally fail and are abandoned (Source: average of Gartner, Standish, KPMG, Robins-Goia reports). I say half fail because of technology complexity and the other half for purely political reasons.

The problems of complexity causes the subject to go up the line to the board; it gets political and comes down somewhere else with decisions that have little to do with the business need or technology, but with corporate politics. Huge corporations are an assembly of feudal departmental fiefdoms that are in constant strife. IT projects have turned into one of the battlefields they fight on. The interesting part is that this has not changed much since the early Ninetees. So maybe it is not technology subject, maybe it is human? I would assume that it is both and the reasons are shifting.

Problem number one are huge multi-national enterprises. Look – they are my customers so I should be nice to them, but then I feel that we can help them to solve some of their problems would they be willing to listen. From what I see and have to deal with in boardrooms and management meetings EVERY DAY, the huge corporate structures that were created by the stock market craze are unmanageable, but no one wants to admit it. Everyone hopes that maybe IT will be able to save them.

Huge enterprises are dramatically inept in everything, except creating marketing illusions by advertising. The fantastic productivity improvements that huge businesses claim to have achieved are a straight lie. They are certainly not being achieved with the help of IT. They are falsified by adding up the lower cost of outsourcing work to cheaper countries, lowering cost by automating jobs away and lower manufacturing cost because of miniaturisation, all of which reduces the quality of service. In truth, large businesses are hopelessly ineffective. This is why they buy smaller, more efficient competitors at an ever faster rate to hide that. Forgive my broad generalization here, it obviously does not apply to everything and everyone.

Problem number two and much less serious is the age of the user population. Also here we are still in the dark ages. The current user population is too old (45 +) to go beyond anything but GREEN SCREEN thinking. Business users do not want to use a mouse and if it must be seemingly simple (see my previous entry). They want JUST ONE WINDOW because their minds can not work with two windows overlapping each other. Therefore the ideas of Web 2.0 are not ten years ahead of their time but they are ahead of their users. These users do not yet exist in the workforce and it will take another 20 years until that happens.

The same is true in the IT community for what we do with Papyrus for example in terms of User-Trained Agent. The BPM and Java proponents first have to go into retirement before the IT world can move on. These people WILL NOT drop their loved concept of flow-charts or hardcoded apps despite the lack of any evidence that they are good for the business! The same is true for large scale outsourcing. They rather indulge in self-congratulation as a proof for an unproven business and IT concept, just like Thomas Sowell describes.

Therefore, I have taken a step back to think, because it makes no sense to batter my head against the weathered remnants of IT’s Stonehenge, the Pyramids or the Wailing Wall. I know there is a way out of the Dark Ages, but it simply has not yet broken through the haze because I am too enamored to moderate the daily skirmishes between vendors, analysts, IT and users.

You go ahead and do your thing … I am stepping aside to think. Time will solve the problem, maybe faster than we all care for.

2 Comments on “The Age of IT-Enlightenment

  1. Pingback: Visions, Illusions and Lies « Max J. Pucher - On Writing

  2. To Outsource or to not to Outsource…
    Outsourcing is a strange phenomenon nowadays… and I really wonder whether it’s really worth investing in it, or it’s just today’s new ‘hip’ direction to follow. Yes, it’s true that with the salary of one US/EU employee you can hire 10 Indians or 15 Vietnamese, but you have to look to the other side too: once you decide to outsource your (let’s say Software development process, because that’s what we’re in :) or Ok, it can be the Support branch too, this is again a popular outsourcing destination) you have just:
    1. lost a bunch of experienced employees who have brought up your company and created the product that made your company famous (because this is the real meaning of outsourcing: sending your work to someone who can make it cheaper),
    2. and for each lost experienced employee you’ve just got 5 freshers, who’ll need training, knowledge transfer, etc…
    Now, just ask, is this process worth for a company? To replace all the accumulated solid knowledge base with a bunch of freshmen (because admit it, most of the experienced programmers in India are already in the US or they are working in India with a contract which binds them to their current company for the rest of their life) not only puts extra effort on the “old” employees who will need to train the newcomer Indians but generally on the whole company too, to set up a new base, a fresh infrastructure from 0 in a different country, etc… and now, of course, there’s the human factor. The “old” and experienced employees will start fearing the loss of their current job position, which might lead to two solutions again … One is they’ll start looking for a new job. This is a major loss for the company since losing experienced employees (before time) is always putting the company in a difficult position. The other possibility is that they’ll keep crucial knowledge for them, so that there’ll be a need for their knowledge even long after the Indian/Vietnamese/Chinese center is working and supposedly handling all the requests. And again, this is something that was planned in the scoping…
    There is no conclusion. Outsourcing should be planned carefully and in a way that it should no affect the work and existing functionality of an established base. The best would be to outsource totally new projects if possible, or to not to outsource at all…

    Like

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