Good IT wears a human face

It is unfortunate that the public is often most aware of IT when it goes wrong, or when organisations use it to provide...

It is unfortunate that the public is often most aware of IT when it goes wrong, or when organisations use it to provide additional "services" of dubious value. Receiving a fine after wandering into a bus lane, for example, does not make one offer a prayer of gratitude for living in the information age.

When IT goes global it is especially important to get both the applications and end-user perceptions right. The cost reduction and efficiency benefits of common systems implemented across national borders can only be reaped when the relationship between local users and centralised providers is mutually beneficial and clearly seen to be so.

As Julia Vowler points out in her case study of Manpower on page 22, the relationship between global IT, local IT, local business management and global business management is critical.

Manpower wisely believes that face-to-face conversation is essential to provide the foundation of effective communications on which fruitful global IT operations must be built.

In a world choking on e-mail, texts and instant messages, the value of immediate and sympathetic human interaction cannot be underestimated. But we doubt that your local authority will bear this in mind next time its system fines you for spending a couple of seconds in the bus lane.

Realism over politics

Tony Blair has placed IT at the heart of the political agenda. Speaking at two key events, he made plain how important IT is to Britain's future prosperity.

In front of an audience of IT suppliers last week, Blair spelt out his Digital Britain strategy for promoting the exploitation of broadband-enabled applications and services among the general public.

This followed a speech earlier this year to the CIO council convened by government chief information officer Ian Watmore, in which Blair made it clear that IT projects formed the bedrock of the efficiency drive being unleashed across Whitehall.

But the IT debate ahead of the general election should be about more than proclamations about the transformative power of IT and calls to deliver.

It should focus on what is required to make projects work - clear aims, business processes to meet those aims, and whether new or existing IT systems are the best way to deliver.

If IT is the answer, projects must be well-funded, with realistic timescales where roll-outs are based on practical achievements and the needs of the public at large, not the convenience of politicians.

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