IT Is About People Not Machines


By Samuel Greengard

I'm convinced that a technology paradox exists: all the devices and systems designed to make life and work more productive actually achieve the opposite.

Let me preface my diatribe by stating that my iPhone is way cool. And I love my Blue Ray player that streams Netflix to my 50-inch LED TV with a home theater sound system. Likewise, medical innovations have boosted the quality and length of life and today's automobile navigation systems are a vast improvement over attempting to read a map at 65 miles per hour--and, worse, fold it afterward.

Here's the problem: almost every major invention and device by itself is an improvement. Lump everything together and you have a mess. It's kind of like a utility pole in Kathmandu, Nepal. People just keep adding electrical lines until it resembles a clump of spaghetti noodles. Pretty soon, nobody knows which line goes where (trust me, I know. I've been to Kathmandu).

Unfortunately, the human ability to invent technology always exceeds the capacity to make things function effectively in the real world. Moreover, for every problem solved through technology a dozen other headaches materialize. In the end, any actual time saved is offset by a greater amount of time shopping, installing, tweaking and fixing problems.

Great for IT, not so great for everyone else.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the modern enterprise, where unlocking the power of innovation is increasingly difficult. Over-engineered software and systems--combined with overwhelmed users--constantly push errors and inefficiency to new depths.

Basic economics tells us that companies that use technology to do work faster and better enjoy a competitive advantage and an improved bottom line. The part that's often ignored is that over months and years, each device, system and innovation is simply a stepping-stone to the next. The only winners are those that find a way to consistently stay ahead of the pack.

Successful organizations and IT departments understand one thing well: information technology really isn't about technology; it's about people and behavior.

You might not like this game but you better learn to play it well. Otherwise, the paradox will eat you alive.