Sunday, October 13, 2013

“Wie Lemminge” or It's the I in IT not the T that is key!

It all started in a taxi, with Simon Wardley, Alex Mayall and Warren Burns. The dialogue was brisque and for a change did not range into the weirder aspects of smelling bicycle seats, it was focussed on Why SAP?

The posit was "One of the primary drivers of SAP growth is the value of an SAP Implementation on the CV of CIOs". Cynical perhaps, but as we shared war stories we started to agree that it was a key element.

Alex recently emailed this paragraph:
It (the taxi dialogue)... triggered a recollection. Back in the mid-90s I met Dr Böndel, a German academic, who had written a controversial article in the German business magazine Wirtschaftswoche with the banner headline: “Wie Lemminge”. In the article he was despairing of the fact that firms in the German-speaking countries were opting for SAP solutions with all the due consideration of lemmings heading for the edge of the cliff. In terms of the storm this created, it was the German equivalent of Nick Carr’s notorious HRB piece “IT doesn’t matter”. Some local politicians in Baden-Württemberg, where SAP is based, even said that his article was tantamount to treason, as it undermined one of Germany’s recent industrial success stories. I found a reference to this in a short, well-researched and well-written history of SAP written in 2008 by Timo Leimbach: page 12). I can vouch for the accuracy of this history, as it chimes very closely with my own experience of SAP’s early days. Having said that, Leimbach is dismissive of Böndel’s arguments, but I’m not so sure. Unfortunately, I can’t locate the original Wirtschaftswoche article as that publication’s archive only goes back to 2000.

I am now hungry to read the "Why Lemmings" article… sadly the WayBackMachine could not help either, it stops in 1998, though I did track down the reference:

Böndel, B., SAP - Wie Lemminge, in: Wirtschaftswoche 49 (1995) 12, S. 108-118 but could get no further.
Aside: We are living at the end of the "black hole" in archival terms, Posit: Paper archival started to drop off in the Mid 80's as the amount of paper produced with these fangled things called computers
started to become un-manageable from an archival perspective, digital archival did not start seriously until the "Tenties" What the heck should I call this decade? Maybe an early signal of our blindness to the importance of Information as an asset?

When one takes a balloon flight high above the IT Historical Landscape, it is littered with examples of poor attempts at trying to make IT less costly and not more valuable.
This is basically because the folks that manage IT were focussed more on the T than the I, and ultimately driven by those that manage the asset class called "Dosh", "Wonga", "Mula", or "Dough".

Some examples:-
ERP = replacing as many systems as possible with one (Finance Driven)
Outsourcing = Reducing Capital Assets and Human Resource Assets (due to the cost of the pink things)
Don't get me wrong I love the profit motive, but I heard along time ago, from Michael Hammer, he of re-engineering fame, that there are two ways to affect profit, reduce cost or increase turnover, He argued very coherently that the top line strategy is the only approach with legs. Taking it out costs is the strategy of asset strippers, those whose goal is their own wealth not the creation of value.

Posit: We do not yet see Information Assets as the essential asset for creating value.

I believe the examples above stem from this observation. I heard that our antipodean friends are on the right track with this … in that there is an expectation to include Information Assets in company reports. Though I can't now find any evidence of this Australian shift.

Traditional Western view of asset classes:

In the future we will be looking back on this period where we were apparently blind to the importance and value creating properties of the information asset.
Google, Amazon and Facebook are three organisations that understand that having agency over the information assets of individuals has tangible value. 

Yet there have long been signs that bits can be consolidated to create data, data can be organised to give information, and the information can be analysed to extract knowledge.
The question is when will we get "wise" and see data, information and knowledge as the life-blood of future organisations, actually the ONLY Asset that really matters!

After all Wonga is simply an Information Asset Sub-Class that simply signals who owes whom!

One day we will get that Information Asset Management is way more important than we currently recognise, till that day should I keep quiet, or keep banging the gong?

I fear I may start looking and sounding like the weird guy with the bill-board in Guildford High Street telling us all that end of the world is nigh!! Hmmm! Maybe he's right and has access to the information that really matters! ;-)

There is however hope as the Marketing Department of many organisations are starting to get that IT can connect them directly to their customers, literally bringing the Client into their Organisation. Another example of Outside-In that Leading Edge Forum is so effectively signalling. Corporate IT Budgets are starting to look small in comparison with the Marketing IT Spend.
Should I be afraid or happy?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts...