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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

INFORMATION RESOURCE MYOPIA

BRYCE ON TECHNOLOGY

- Segments of Information Technology departments see only what they want to see.

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In my nearly 40 years through the Information Technology field (IT), I have come to realize the practitioners in this industry suffer from acute myopia regarding their work. Programmers tend to believe their part of the puzzle is the most important, as do business process analysts, data base analysts, network analysts, project managers, enterprise analysts, etc. True, each has an important role to play, but very few people comprehend the big picture, which is why their work is fragmented and lacks harmony. Few companies understand their business from a global perspective, such as the location of all of their business units, the business functions involved, the organizational structure, the human and machine resources, the systems and business processes, programs, data resources, not to mention the information requirements needed to run the business. In a perfect world, these components would all be cataloged and cross-referenced to minimize data and work redundancy and promote systems integration. This is what I refer to as Information Resource Management (IRM) or the "View of the enterprise from 50,000 feet."

Instead of working cooperatively and in concert, a series of fiefdoms have emerged within IT with different interests, concepts, and vocabulary, thereby leading to a Tower of Babel effect. Each fiefdom speaks a different language which hinders cooperation and productivity. It is a strange phenomenon few business leaders are cognizant of, as well as government officials.

This fragmented look at information resources is compounded by the general belief by IT people the only valid problems to be solved are those that can be automated by computing. Rarely, is there any interest in the manual forms of processing, or data used outside of a data base management system. Believe it or not, companies still print and file purchase orders, contracts, back-orders, and a lot more. However, this is considered inconsequential by IT people. However, if these manual systems and files were properly recorded, a blueprint would emerge in terms of how to make them more productive. Let me be clear about something, not everything needs to be automated. Quite often a manual process or file can solve a problem more cost-effectively than by automation. As an aside, this last statement would be considered heresy by most IT departments.

The benefits of a global IRM perspective are numerous; data redundancy is eliminated meaning it can be shared in multiple systems, which implies end-users would receive consistent information throughout the company. It also means systems would be integrated as opposed to operating with separate and incompatible data bases. In addition, if the systems are integrated, it would reduce repetitious work thereby saving money. To make this all happen, companies need to possess this "View from 50,000 feet" perspective and implement a set of standards all parts of the IT world can implement in a cohesive manner.

Implementing standards in the IT industry has always been its Achilles' heel. Again, concepts and vocabulary vary within IT from one job segment to the next. This is an old problem. My father first discussed the lack of standards at a DPMA conference in Seattle back in 1970. He put forth the same argument I have described herein and, unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears at the time as well. However, understand this, the technology has obviously changed since 1970, but the problems have not; IT projects are still late and over budget, companies are plagued by redundant data, nothing is documented thereby hindering maintenance and modification efforts, developers are not rowing on the same oar, and they still do not know how to specify information requirements. These are the same problems he articulated nearly half a century ago. This is what happens when you treat a science as an art form.

Some would argue documenting the information resources of a business is an impossible task. Not true. It certainly will not happen over night, but we should always be cognizant of the old expression, "You eat elephants one spoonful at a time." In other words, it is an evolutionary process holding great rewards for visionaries who want to maximize the productivity of their business. However, if companies are content with IT departments performing "quick and dirty" work, than the problems of 1970 will likely be with us for another 50 years.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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