Adapt or Become Extinct

Addison Ching, Los Angeles County Office of Education

If you subscribe to PC Week, drag out the July, 3, 1995, issue and read Christine Comaford's "Mission Critical" article on page 12. Take what she offers to heart.

In this article, Ms. Comaford intimates that jobs in IT--Information Technology--will all be outsourced in no time and replaced by contractors. She continues that although there will be an IT department, "...the vast majority of its staff members will be contractors." She goes on to say that we are our own worst enemies and largely responsible for the outsourcing phenomenon. Rather than viewing ourselves as responsible for serving customers (emphasis added) in the business organization, we still see IT as "builders of programs."

A report issued by CSC Consulting in Waltham, Massachusetts, included ten key points that comprise "The New IS Agenda." Ms. Comaford cites five of her favorite guidlines in her article.

First, the mission of IT is to create value-added business change--not simply to support ways of doing business. This can be accomplised by helping our customers envision new ways to do their jobs, instead of simply making old methods and procedures "hi-tech."

Second, the responsibility of IT is to ensure that computing is done well--not to be all things to all people. Using a basic approach of solving user problems is more effective than implementing flashy new technology that might look good but doesn't help the user do their job.

Third, the output of IT is information infrastructure, not "applications" or "information systems." The products of programming are simply a means to the end, rather than the end itself. Ms. Comaford cites Steven Spewak's "Enterprise Architecture Planning" as a source for additional information about this concept.

Fourth, the purpose of new technology is to create business opportunities, not merely to improve the level of automation. This is possible only if top management can provide IT with a clear understanding of the business vision and mission, and only if IT can design systems that take future business needs into consideration. Systems need to be flexible and adaptable to support the business information infrastructure as business shifts occur.

Fifth, the technology platform shapes and is shaped by business work. Technology must be selected that supports our business. Ms. Comaford uses as an example Oracle's prefabricated business modules that are a part of Oracle's Object Marketplace on their web site. The modules can be browsed and played with online and paid for and downloaded only after a determination is made that they indeed support a business need.

The article concludes with a bit of philosophy: "So listen up, IT. You're an endangered species. The choice is up to you--adapt or become extinct."