Blogger: Lyn Robison
I like to ask IT professionals the following question. What exactly is an IT department’s contribution to the goals of the enterprise it serves? (I am not talking in the abstract here – an answer of “better business results” is too abstract – I want to know what exactly does the IT department deliver that results in better business results?)
Anyone whose answer is “information systems” is tightly coupling two distinct concepts: information and systems. Systems are the apparatus in and through which information is processed and conveyed. Information and systems are distinct concepts. It is quite possible to deliver systems with no useful information (which I have seen IT groups do all too often). It is also quite possible to deliver useful information using a variety of different systems, from an abacas to a heads-up display.
I can see absolutely no benefit from, and only danger in, tightly coupling the two distinct (albeit related) concepts of information and systems. One is the end and the other is the means. Information is the product and the systems are the factory. By blurring their distinction, one can easily forget which is the end and which is the means.
Many IT professionals have indeed forgotten which is the end and which is the means. They have come to believe that systems are the end-product of their work. For these IT professionals, it is easy to believe that data is merely a byproduct of systems. Data is that pesky cruft that builds up in the database when a system has been in use for a while.
This is dangerous thinking. This thinking will eventually do great harm to the careers of many IT professionals. Systems are not the end-product and data the byproduct. In truth, systems are the factory and information is the end-product. Information is an asset that is expensive to produce and is highly valuable when managed competently and used properly.
The business does not want systems that produce data cruft. They want systems that produce useful information. The business doesn't want systems that produce data cruft, and the business can no longer afford IT professionals who implement systems that produce data cruft.
So, if IT professionals continue to believe that the systems are the end-product of their work and that data is merely a byproduct of those systems, they are bound to find themselves without a job.