Dismantling the Information Technology Monoliths

Before technology was cool . . . OK, maybe that is too far back for technology.  How about before information technology (IT) was cool, there were manual processes of paper and people.  The advent of the computer and the advances of telecommunications have allowed much to be accomplished . . . and not all of it is good.

Service organizations adopting technology did so in the name of automation and modernization.  Why have paper when we can have information technology?  Or, why have people when we can have information technology?

Salient questions that have created more hype than good sense in the answers to them.  IT has become management’s monolith – huge structures that rival the pyramids for the modern day executive pharaohs.

However, the unquestioning embrace of IT as the “answer” to all things manual has led us to more bureaucracy and greater complexity.  Neither being optimal for customers or those front-line staff that have to interact with them.

Why is this so?

Two major reasons are the design of the work was never optimal and in order to make IT work we have had to expand how to manage IT.

The design of the work into front- back and sometimes even middle offices goes unchallenged.  This is more the mass-production and industrialized thinking of manufacturing . . . which, by the way, has not worked well since W. Edwards Deming visited Japan to show them a better way. The US now struggles to compete in manufacturing at all.  Wrongly thinking that cheaper labor is the key and not the design of the work.  Service has embraced this thinking of yesteryear to add costs and miss the point about the causes of costs.

The second reason for IT is the structures (monoliths) we have built to control IT costs.  Yet, they drive costs up.

The explosion of IT has brought us the project manager and projects to keep costs under control.  But no one questions the costs of project management. They do offer us ways to check up on those “always behind” developers and we all love those Red-Yellow-Green reports that tell us nothing associated with what is really going on.

Before project management, we had business analysts that in EDS were originally part of the path to become a software developer.  Now, the BA position is an end in itself to make a production line mentality complete.  BA gets the requirements and the developer codes.  Besides good developers are costly and should be hidden away and they don’t know how to interact with business folks – ahhhhh, I knew there was a good reason.

Let us not forget about governance, good management of IT means good governance.  We have to have standards, plans, priorities, reports, risk management, fiduciary responsibility, etc., etc., etc. And now one begins to wonder how it is IT is actually saving money?

Plus in many large organizations trying to get an improvement through IT or fix something is such that . . .  a snowball would have a better chance in Hades.

Maybe it is time to rethink IT, what do you think?

Join me for the International Deming Conference in New York City on March 21 – 22.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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