Seductive catchphrases that undermine IT


Nobody really believes that a technology devoid of an accompanying business strategy and management plan can magically solve problems and bring value to a business. But over-emphasizing the strategies surrounding a technology at the expense of the technology itself can be counter-productive.

MIT research scientist Andrew McAfee, in a commentary in Forbes, takes issue with the too-often-heard catchphrase, "It's not about the technology." If those who utter this phrase mean simply that a technology alone isn't a cure-all, they are really just stating the obvious. If, however, they mean that the details of a technology don't need to be understood, they are uttering a dangerous line, he warns.

In McAfee's view, suggesting that the details of a technology aren't relevant to a business discussion is not only pessimistic but also self-defeating. "This perspective is dangerous because it essentially denies two important facts: That technologies can differ from each other in salient ways, and that they can change over time," he writes.

Assuming that technologies are more or less the same or that they don't change can facilitate quick and easy business decisions, but in the long run those decisions may prove costly. 

Another potentially dangerous catchphrase about IT that is thrown around too often these days is, "It's so simple that users can run it themselves." This can be a very seductive line for business leaders to hear, but more often than not it is deceptive. An interesting anecdote from Dan Grosz, vice president of Information Systems for the 57-store auto retail and service chain, VIP Parts, Tires, and Service, provides some good perspective.   

Recently, the auto chain wanted to deploy enterprise-wide business intelligence software, and company executives were courted by vendors with claims that the technology was so simple that users could run it themselves without the help of IT. "To most business users that was simply music to their ears; after all, what could be better than getting out from under the heavy thumb of IT?" Grosz writes in a post on TheInfoBoom

What Grosz found won't surprise many CIOs. While BI tools may be great, they still require IT expertise to manage and extract data, configure the back end, secure the system and much more. Grosz outlines a host of tasks the system required that couldn't be done without IT experts.

For more:
- see Andrew McAfee's commentary in Forbes
- see Dan Grosz' post at TheInfoBoom

Related Articles:
One on one with Andrew McAfee
Q&A: How to make business intelligence work for you