Time travellers in technology

Time travellers in technology

I recently saw a Sci-Fi show where two time travellers had paths that crossed repeatedly through time. These intertwined timelines were travelling in mutually opposite directions: One time traveller’s past was the other’s future. Like the Sci-Fi show, ICT solutions can also travel in two directions, often at the same time.

So how can IT solutions travel in two directions?

Playing it forward is the realm of ICT strategic consulting. It’s about looking at how things are (current state), how things could/should be (future state) and how to get there (ICT strategy).

Playing it backward is also possible, which, in a way, is the realm of ICT sales. The account manager says, “I have a value proposition. Much of my proposition is already defined or built. I will try and understand your current challenges and see if my proposition can add value. If it does add value to your business, we can do a deal.” This solution can be aligned to meet an existing customer need or objective. Such a sales process works back from ‘solution’ to ‘requirement’.

Then there’s a third way: It plays neither forward or backwards, it provides no business benefit and it comes from no business imperative. It is the technology drop — the stuff is just deposited at a point in time. I have a friend who frequently starts his presentations with, “Have you ever been the victim of technology?” This is a lead into the rest of his presentation and it resonates every time. He is like the victim support service, and he gets a lot of calls and a lot of ‘thank you’ cards.

Like the travellers in time, we can play it both forward and backward at the same time. We can plan forward from strategy to the actual, while simultaneously working back from the possible to the need or requirement. This approach can help us keep it real.

Having a vision of the future founded on the possible and soon to be possible is how ICT strategic consulting can really add value. ICT strategic consulting requires insight and access into the world of technology possibilities and the vendors who are creating those possibilities. Without this, an ICT strategy risks joining our time-travellers in the realm of science fiction. Science fiction has a place in ‘future-casting’, but not in an organisation’s ICT strategy. A clear ICT vision, informed by the possible, will get you to your destination quicker — from both directions.

David Fenton works for a national systems integrator

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