There is more to business success than technology

We regularly hear that "there is no such thing as an IT project, only business initiatives." But we do not need to look far to find business initiatives being managed as IT projects.

We regularly hear that "there is no such thing as an IT project, only business initiatives." But we do not need to look far to find business initiatives being managed as IT projects.

The UK public sector is rife with examples, such as the NHS National Programme for IT, the Medical Training Application Scheme, identity cards, and the Farm Payments scheme.

Apart from the obvious combination of government and IT project, each of these high-profile initiatives has two common themes: disappointment and unexpected cost.

We ignore this at our peril and we must ask why this still happens. Are we not getting better at IT?

Well, the fact is that we are getting better at IT, but the never-ending series of expensive cock-ups shows that we are not getting any better at managing change.

Fumbling the ingredients

Of course, IT is not to blame IT is not the primary culprit for any failure. But poor selection and application of technology are crippling symptoms of a much bigger problem - our overwhelming subservience to the prevailing IT paradigm.

IT has become the be all and end all for far too many people. We call ourselves IT professionals our magazines and newspapers deal exclusively in IT terms, and far too many business interactions are predicated on the mistaken belief that IT needs to get closer to the business.

In my view, IT and business are too close for comfort. Too close because the narrow focus on IT invariably neglects the broader nature of the overlying information systems, at great detriment to our ability to effectively achieve these information systems.

Of course, IT is a vital part of a modern system, but it by no means represents the whole recipe. After all, if you baked a cake with flour alone, your customers would not thank you for the results. They would rightly ask: what happened to the eggs, butter and sugar?

Rewriting the recipe book

That is exactly what I think is happening with many of our so-called IT projects: we are forgetting to put in the proper ingredients.

An information system needs much more than dollops of technology it needs proper proportions of people, organisation, process and data. Technology is not quite the icing on the cake, but it should be measured in similar terms if we want to achieve palatable results.

To deliver true value we need a whole new outlook, based holistically on information systems, not just information technology.

A new information system paradigm will be a natural step, marking further progress in our evolutionary journey from the earlier paradigms of computing, data processing and IT.

We need to break free from the hobbles of the IT paradigm and start talking seriously about information systems instead.

Colin Beveridge is chief executive at consultancy Hadley Grant

Hadley Grant is running an event at the Magic Circle Headquarters on 21 June where Beveridge will set out an agenda for change with practical remedies

Comment on this article: computer.weekly@rbi.co.uk

 




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