Sunday, June 21, 2009

Challenges to objectivity (getting typing pool to like email)

I recall many years ago advocating the introduction of word processors and email in place of the old typing pool and mail delivery trolleys. Unsurprisingly a range of people were not too impressed e.g. those who:
  • sold contract typists or did typing as a service or
  • provided contractors/staff to push around the mail delivery trolleys (or the mail trolleys themselves or the typewriters)
  • the typing pool itself (usually an internal function) wasn't pleased.
  • the senior executives saw little benefit because they could justify having someone type their
letter and read their mail (and many middle managers aspired to be senior managers so by aspirational affinity - said they could see no benefit).

Many of these people genuinely, and understandably, struggled to be objective. Every conceivable excuse was postulated. As there was practical differentiation in many of the products and services (contract typists, type writers etc.) the vendors of these things were often successful due to the strength of their relationship with senior management. So their interests combined the disinterest of senior management presented powerful opposition.

Fortunately the CFO usually saw the benefit. Sadly the profileration of these document creation tools didn't do much to keep down paper consumption.

I see similar occurring now with the introduction of solutions that seek to provide true enterprise solutions to strategic IT planning, governance, architecture etc. Like email and word processing these systems involve a form disintermediation and democritisation i.e. the people who know record things (not have it recorded for them), and communication is by the people for the people.

These systems are often described as BI for IT, or ERP for IT. Fortunately the implementation of this next generation of tools should eliminate the need for many documents (and emails) and go some way to reduce the amount of paper that needs to be consumed.

Unsurprisingly some people are not too impressed e.g. getting "traditional" strategy, architecture consultants or teams interested in these solution is like trying to get the head of the typing pool (or the person who sells typists) to buy into word processors and email. Ironically the reason many of these people got into strategy and architecture was not to produce artefacts per se - but rather to think, to imagine, to synthesise, to concieve and these solutions would actually free from the drudgery of data collection and collation.

Many consultants working in this area are sadly conflicted and struggle to objectively see that while their self-interest is threatened the paradigm shift is essential.

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