Information | Process | Technology

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We think (perhaps too much) about Organisations, the Functions they perform, the Information needed to execute those functions, and the Technologies used to implement them. We capture some of our thoughts in writing to share them, please choose a particular category from the menu above.

Management Changes

A Generational Timebomb 

Most senior managers are aged. It goes with the territory, senior management / business leadership positions in large enterprises are rarely occupied by people under 45. Irrespective of talent it takes time to accumulate the experience necessary to repeatably make sound decisions, walk in the other mans shoes etc.  Over the past few centuries of industrial development this has been of minor significance, the pace of development and change is something that the more matured have been able to keep up with, but the rules of the game are changing.

Read more: Management Changes

Business Intelligence

What is this software that the IT industry calls "Business Intelligence"?

Elsewhere I've tried to explain Data vs. Information, and the concepts of Information Systems and Business Systems, where data is converted into information and used in the context of a business process. However these transactional systems deal mainly with specific items of data - this customer, that order etc., in the execution of a business process.

As business managers we have a need for higher level information based upon aggregated data - e.g. total value of sales for each salesperson last month, number of prospects in Leeds vs. number of prospects in Manchester, and so on.

Read more: Business Intelligence

Information vs. Data

What is "Information"?

What is an "Information System"?

These are key questions that the Information Technology industry, and IT practitioners, seem very unclear about. Data is not the same as Information, yet the major thrust of the IT industry is still focused on providing and supporting Data Processing Systems, rather than Information Systems. The technologies that are sold to us as IT are presented to us as if their existence is going to make some fabulous difference to our organisations and the way we work, when in reality most of these technologies simply provide for the capture and retrieval of data.

Read more: Information vs. Data

Systems Design vs. Information Design

I am currently testing the Asus EeePC 1000H Ultra Mobile PC (which is excellent, a super bit of kit for the money). It has a 1024 x 600 screen, so an aspect ratio of approx 16:9. This is rather "letterbox" in comparison with a more conventional 4:3 screen, and so exacerbates one of the fundamental design issues in Information Systems. 

Computer system display screens are on the whole landscape or horizontal in presentation. Documents, the primary tool of the Information Worker, are generally portrait or vertical in their construction. It repeatedly frustrates me that the majority of hardware and software designers fail to recognise this.

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I sell Washing Machines - What do Your IT People Do?

Wearing another hat I am the IT Director of Vanilla Group, a UK-based organisation in the laundry equipment industry, including brands such as JLA, Circuit, Otex etc. When I attend business and social functions I am commonly asked "What do you do?", and I usually reply "I sell washing machines" (which enormously irritates my spouse!).

Read more: I sell Washing Machines - What do Your IT People Do?

Joined-up Enterprise - that's the CEO's job

In a recent article Neil Ward-Dutton reminds us that IT cannot change the nature of the business. Absolutely right. Business Engineers and Enterprise Architects like me can provide the vision, strategy, systems and processes to enable radical change in the way a business operates and functions, but of themselves the systems and the vision they are designed to implement are impotent. In order to change an organisation must desire to change, and this desire mush be created and driven down by the CEO. If the leader does not lead the people along the pathway to enlightenment the people wont get there by themselves. That's what leaders are for, we employ managers to look after the humdrum of daily business, consultants and strategists to shine the light on the pathway to improvement, but ultimately change comes from the top: no leadership = no change.

Read more: Joined-up Enterprise - that's the CEO's job

Project Failures - I blame PRINCE !

In June the BCS published research work by Dr John McManus and Dr Trevor Wood-Harper into the nature and causes of IT Project Failure, failure being described as those projects that do not meet the original time, cost and (quality) requirements criteria.

Ultimately the authors attribute the major cause of project failure to inadequate pre-project due diligence - poor determination of requirements and poor design. This will come as no surprise to any student of IT projects. The major causes of IT project failure can be summarised as insufficient support from the business,  changes to the business requirements during the project, and under-estimate of project cost. All three are rife in IT projects and have well known causes:

Read more: Project Failures - I blame PRINCE !

Social Media - Fit for the Workplace?

At a recent CW500 I was privileged to listen to and debate with JP Rangaswami (of - a senior BT director, past Global CIO of Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein etc.). about the future of corporate information, and specifically his assertion that corporates need to adopt social networking technologies as part of their internal interaction and communication infrastructure. His premise is that social networking is a (the?) IT toolkit that most bright young people understand and use in interacting with their peers to achieve things, solve problems etc., and in order to attract those bright young people into our businesses we need to adopt the tools and technologies they are comfortable with and understand how to use into our businesses, so that we can facilitate them in solving business problems and generating business achievement. If companies do not adopt social networking & media technologies into their internal IT platforms they will disadvantage and inhibit these bright young people from achieving, and ultimately cause the best of them to select as employers companies who have adopted social media technologies above those companies still stuck in the dark ages.

If JP is correct, and I think he is, then the Social Media Landscape is going to change dramatically - not only is it going to become much more ubiquitous, but it will be the new orthodoxy, with massively higher penetration - use of it will become a required skillset for business in the way that word processing, spreadsheets and email are the essential general purpose business technology tools of today.

Read more: Social Media - Fit for the Workplace?

Mobile Data

"Mobile Data" is much misunderstood. The phrase is commonly associated with modern portable computer systems - handheld computers, PDAs etc. The IT industry, particularly in the Field Sales and Field Service disciplines, is promoting Mobile Data as the new manna. But we have had mobile data for hundreds of years. The humble shopping list is mobile data - a piece of paper we take with us to remind us of what to buy. In the case of a Field Service Engineer it is a list of jobs to do today, and probably lives on the passenger seat of his van. For the Field Sales Person it is a list of the appointments for the day, and some files of information about his prospect's requirements.

Read more: Mobile Data

Field Service

Ever played Chess? Any good at it? All you have to do is move 16 pieces step by step around a board of 64 locations to meet your objectives. Easy! The objectives keep changing as the other side moves their pieces around as well, but still, how difficult can it be?

I have a portable Chess computer, I sometimes take it with me when I'm working away on assignments, to while away the evening hours in whichever hotel is temporarily home. With practice I am a moderate player, but I don't play sufficiently frequently to become better than moderate. Most people would agree that Chess is a difficult game, and that a computer can play it much better than they can.

Read more: Field Service

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