Culture Clubbers

Culture Clubbers

I think I know why business isn't spending big on IT at the moment. It's not the economy. It's not the lack of a killer app. It's not that organisations are technology tired. It's not pillaged IT budgets. Nope, business is pissed off and digging in its heels because it's heard one too many times that it "must change its culture" - again.

I keep picturing the executive dudes and dudettes of our top 500 companies, along with their boards of directors sitting around this vast mahogany table saying with one united voice: "No way, Jose. We changed our culture for ERP. We changed our culture for e-business. We've been mulling it over the past few months and in the end decided we like our culture just fine, so bugger off."

I know how to identify the culture change culprits: look for the "M" word. Here are the big three: knowledge management (KM), customer relationship management (CRM) and supply chain management (SCM). And believe me, each costs a bomb and brings with it some heavy-duty, culture-changing baggage. There's a great line in the very great movie Network (no, it's not the one you think) that pretty much sums up business' attitude at the moment.

In the scene, corporate pitchman and business magnate Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty), an ex-salesman, summons Howard Beale into his imposing conference room. Jensen devastates Beale with an evangelical lecture - a hypnotic, spell-binding, convincing, God-like speech about the facts of international business, commerce and the corporate mentality. He begins: "You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr Beale, and I won't have it, is that clear?"

So how about it? I think it's time to level with the application providers, the consultants and the KM/CRM/SCM experts. Management isn't cutting projects because of bad times, because of poor share prices, or because of a weak economy. What they are really telling the IT community at large is: "You have all meddled with the primal forces of our company's nature for the last time. We now want technology to enhance our culture, rather than change it".

I think we may be entering an era where boards are going to modify the old aphorism to read: the more IT wants things to change, the more we are resolved to stay the same.

PS Notice the new photo? It's only temporary. It's me and IDG circulation manager Dorothy Adams presenting The Smith Family's Andrew Young a cheque for $16,920, the amount we collected during our nine-month subscription drive. Hey, I had to prove that I didn't use the money to buy those earrings myself.

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