Monday 21 February 2005

The Right Mind-set for Managing IT

I was researching something else when I came across this great Harvard Business Review article from 1998, titled "The Right Mind-set for Managing Information Technology". It compares western and Japanese approaches to managing IT.

What I like about this article is that first they identify five common business and technology problems:

  1. IT investments aren't linked to business strategy;
  2. Payoff from IT investments isn't enough;
  3. Too much technology for technology's sake;
  4. Poor relationships between users and IT specialists; and
  5. System designs don't consider user preferences and work habits.
Sound familiar? Then then analyse and compare the way western and Japanese managers frame IT. In summary they suggest that the Japanese have better practical outcomes with IT because they use strategic instinct to identify appropriate technology that are designed around how humans work. They measure on performance improvement and encourage organizational bonding between IT and users by colocating and rotating staff.

The authors claim that one outcome of the Japanese approach is that IT spending is focused on incremental continuous improvement - fast forward to 2004 and this is very similar to an argument that Leigh Moyle (from Intranetworks) and I put forward in this article we wrote for Image and Data Manager magazine, called "The Search for the Perfect Intranet". The point around design reminds me of the point may by Tom Davenport in another HBR article, titled "Saving IT's Soul: Human-Centered Information Management".

Even if you don't accept the comparison or the analysis, the idea of reflecting on the mind-set we use to plan, design and manage information technology is a useful one.

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