5 November 2015 at 19:59 #2315
Citation: Ragowsky, Arik, Paul S. Licker, and David Gefen. “Give Me Information, Not Technology.” Commun. ACM 51.6 (2008): 23–25. Web.
“Give Me Information, Not Technology” presents the case that IT professionals should focus more on providing information services that will achieve organisational goals and focus less on the technology that delivers the information. Following a corporate case study and a roundtable talk with 12 CIO’s the authors contents that it is the information that the business users value and not the technology behind it. By taking an “information services approach” IT professionals need to be aware that their responsibility is to support the organisational information needs with technology being an enabler. IT personnel must avoid using technological terminology when interaction with the user and avoid providing technological solutions to problems the business user may not have. Once IT personnel concentrate on the users’ business need and avoid technology terminology trust and mutual understanding can be established. Simultaneously, the business user can understand more about IT. Consequently, organisations can fully address its information needs and ITs value within the organisation will increase.
Business users only care about the information and not the technology behind it. The authors contend that there is a gap between IT and business users. This gap must be closed by shifting the focus away from technology and technology driven solutions and re-establish its “information systems” origins.
The specific areas identified for investigation are:
1. How the IT-business user gap evolved over time – from the field of “MIS/IS” of the 1960s to the field of “IT” of the 1990s.
2. The parallel weakening of the relationship between IT personnel and business users due to this change.
3. The consequences of a weakened IT-business user relationship.
4. Proposed solution to close the gap.
5. Benefits of closing the gap.
Written in 2008, this article merged a collection of viewpoints relating to IT, Information Strategy and Management which lends support to the views of the authors. The primary research study of roundtable talks with 12 CIOs along with the corporate case study conducted in 2004-5 appears to be well supported by the secondary research conducted by the authors. Moving outside of the references used to support the author’s view it is noted that the IT-business user gap maybe closing and the problem may not be as widespread as indicated. Research indicates that at the same time this article was written senior IT directors were reporting confidence in communication between IT and the business; 94% of IT leaders surveyed agreed, up from 86% in 2006. Additionally, the survey showed an increase of 10% who “agree strongly” that the board understands the value of IT to the business. (Computerweekly.com, 2007). While this survey was based on UK IT leaders there is no reason to suggest it does not reflect a global trend.
The title of the article is a clear and unambiguous and leaves no doubt as to what is being investigated. The introduction paragraph explicitly states the area of investigation in the opening sentence i.e. business users care about their organizations’ information and not about the technology behind it. Similarly, the authors clearly state a recommended course of action in the introductory paragraph whereby IT should provide “information services” to achieve organisational goals. The article is clearly written and flows logically from the introduction paragraph to a strong conclusion where the authors draw a strong conclusion answering the “what” and “why” of the research. The primary research undertaken suggested that the sample represented a cross section of industries and therefore a good representation of the population. However, consider the major tech giants of Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook? – The relationship between IT and the business user must be a strong one based on collaboration, mutual trust and understanding. Microsoft, founded in 1975 and Apple in 1976 evolved with technological advancement and have not fallen foul of the IT and Business divide. Is this is due to fact that their business is technology and not manufacturing, non-technology services or government? Consider another example, a non-technology service, Paddy Power, founded in 1988, started out as retail outlets and evolved its business in line with advances in technology to achieve a net revenue of €881.6m. (Paddypower.com, 2015). This could not be done if such a gap existed. On further examination of the organisations used in the study it is revealed the organisations were founded before 1960. Cooper Standard was founded in 1960 and Federal Mogul founded in 1899. This seems to suggest that the problem lies with organisations who failed to evolve and adapt to changes in technology.
Is it not a question that certain companies akin to those listed in the article are faced with the problem of poor Business-IT alignment? Harmony between IT and business managers and the ability of IT to deliver real business value are essential elements of successful Business IT alignment. The IT – business user gap exists in some organizations because of culture, power struggles, and the lack of understanding of each other’s roles. The authors contend that there must be a change of thinking on the part of senior IT management. In fact, the change of thinking and attitude needs to happen across all levels and disciplines of the organization. This change in attitude should project technology as an enabler to improve and transform the business. The authors also contend that IT personnel must not use technology terms when interacting with the business users. It is unrealistic to expect IT to divorce themselves from their learning. In the case of poorly aligned organizations IT must improve their understanding of the business users information needs and at the same time business users must gain knowledge and experience of the IT function so that a mutual understanding, respect and open communication can be achieved. IT personnel and business users must work in synergy and adopt a team based approach so as to remove the silo effect and consequent “us and them” divide within the organization. By adopting an inclusive culture throughout the organization trust and mutual understanding will follow and thus close the gap between the business and IT.
Computerweekly.com, 2007. Companies Act 2006 will bring IT closer to business. [Online]
Available at: http://www.computerweekly.com/opinion/Companies-Act-2006-will-bring-IT-closer-to-business
[Accessed 02 November 2015].
Paddypower.com, 2015. Financial summary and KPI performance. [Online]
Available at: http://www.paddypowerplc.com/investors/financial-summary-and-kpi-performance
[Accessed 02 November 2015].
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