Is IT bugging you?

Many organisations have a freeze on spending for Information Technology (IT), having checked for ‘year 2000 compliance’, they have battened-down the hatches. Perhaps, as we await the storm, this is a good time to reflect on the extent to which IT has been a Good Thing in our organisations.

Research on the effectiveness of IT makes sobering reading. Many IT projects never get to completion, the costs of implementation often go vastly beyond what was planned, the consequences of implementation can fail to produce the expected financial benefits and sometimes result in higher rather than lower operational costs. In short, IT is not the saviour it has been assumed to be. Perhaps IT has entrapped rather than ‘enabled’ the way we work.

When IT providers sell you what they describe as ‘office productivity tools’, they neglect to tell you that you may be swamped with e-mails. The ability to make pretty presentations may result in more time preparing for and conducting meetings than getting on and doing things.

Sometimes IT ‘solutions’ design in bad service and higher costs. For example, when you call Directory Enquiries for the number of an organisation whose location you don’t know, they cannot help you because their IT system can only search on the basis of known location. When you call an organisation and get answered by a computer you sometimes have to decide whether getting a service is going to be worth the effort.

Perhaps, as we wait for the year 2000, what should be ‘bugging’ us is ‘what contribution has IT made?’ Is IT a benefit or is it something sold by the plausible to the gullible? Does IT make the work work better? It must be worth thinking about.

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