Why is it that the those involved in ICT always fail to trumpet technology successes?
You could easily be forgiven for thinking that the ICT investments made by business over the years have been complete and utter failures. Authors wonder whether IT matters, business executives grumble about unfulfilled promises and even ICT professionals are getting increasingly defensive about the industry they work in. Yet everywhere you look there are instances of this industry's successes where technology has transformed both our working and personal lives. We couldn't board a plane, undertake a bank transaction or even correspond with friends around the world if successful technology didn't play its part.
I believe that in the last five years we have fostered the misconception that the history of ICT is one of disappointment. Since the dotcom euphoria dissipated, and the NASDAQ crashed, it seems many in this industry have felt a need to do some penance and to justify their existence to their business colleagues. In my opinion this approach has increasingly led to the strategic potential of ICT in business being overlooked.
Let's use the dotcom era as an example. It was e-business or out-of-business, as organizations everywhere rushed to get online. Money was thrown at all sorts of ICT initiatives as long as they included the word Internet. Analysts marked down the share price of companies without a serious e-commerce strategy. IS executives who tried to counsel caution among their business counterparts were told they just didn't get it. This was the new economy. You measured business cycles in dog years not calendar ones. But when the dotcom bubble burst, business executives were the first to complain loudly about all the money they had squandered on ICT.
Yet today the reality is that any significant business without an e-business strategy could well be fast going out of business. IDC research shows that last year e-commerce made up over 8 percent of Australia's GDP. Moreover, it predicts that this will be over 30 percent before the end of this decade. Other IDC surveys highlight that investment in Internet-centric applications and technologies in Australia grows each year. The government's latest data shows that over two million Australian families have broadband access at home. Increasingly people are going online to buy travel, insurance, books and music.
This is clear evidence that e-business investments are starting to pay significant dividends to the business. These transactions require less intervention and next to no real estate to happen. Sure we learned something along the way. Perhaps some things didn't work out as they were initially envisaged. Yet it has taken less than 10 years to go from nothing to something considerable. Some dogs live twice as long as that!
My own view is that vendors have encouraged this lack of industry introspection. Suppliers have come to believe that they need a pipeline of new products to keep the interest of their consumers aroused. As such, everyone talks about the upcoming release of this or that. No one stops to look back. Yet without occasionally looking back no one can appreciate how far they have come. Unless we can track our progress it is all too easy to take it for granted. The evidence demonstrates that this industry continues to be a success. Moreover, any organization overlooking that success ignores the proven transformation potential of ICT to strategically help the business prosper and grow. So come on my industry colleagues, let's get those trumpets out.
Peter Hind is a freelance consultant and commentator with nearly 25 years experience in the IT industry. He is co-author of The IT Manager's Survival Guide and ran the InTEP IS executive gatherings in Australia for over 10 years.
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