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Myths & Truths about Information Technology
experience as company manager and consultant, I realized that many people have
perceptions about Information Technologies that may not be complete or correct.
This is more so from people who have not experience IT projects and
receive partial information about the subject.
The best way to appreciate IT is to experience it.
However, most of the managers may not have the opportunity to experience
implementation of IT project during their career up to now.
Some of them might have done it wrongly, or participated in IT projects
that were not properly conducted. These
form their perception about the subject, which is understandable.
Some of common “myths
and truths” about IT that I encountered are highlighted as follows.
The Most Expensive Software is the Best
The price of the
software generally reflects the amount of Research & Development (R&D),
programming effort and the market demand for the software.
This often reflects in its comprehensiveness and therefore the
complexity. However, it is
important to understand the objective of purchasing the software and consider
its match to the organizational needs. Not all organization requires complex and comprehensive
software. Paying for expensive
software may become the same as buying a Rolls Royce for a salesman’s working
There were also
managers who feel that all software are the same.
Therefore, they did not think that it was necessary to pay for software
that was more expensive. This often
ended with software that needed to be changed a short while later as the company
discovered that it could not perform many tasks that the business required.
More commonly, due to the high switching cost to change to another
software, extensive modification were performed on the standard software that
made it less stable and incurred more costs.
Implementing New Technology
Generally, this is
true. Difficulty in implementing
new technology is usually due to the lack of experience and knowledge.
As we are venturing into the uncharted region, the risk is often high.
Furthermore, there are also fewer trained personnel for the new
technologies. The stability of the
application is generally less than a matured technology.
The cost of the new technologies is often much higher than matured
technologies. Not all organizations
need to go into the newest technology. The
new technology should be evaluated against its benefits and risk.
Very often, it is better to adopt a proven technology rather than the
Implementation of New Information Technology is the responsibility of IT Department
Having an IT department
often gives an organization a sense of confidence in implementation of IT.
Although having an IT department gives company additional knowledge and
confidence in computerization, it is important to recognize the limitation and
strength of in-house IT personnel:
Implementation of IT is an IT Project
Implementation of IT is not an IT project but a business project. All members of the company must have the senses of ownership of the project in order for it to be successful. Implementation of IT often involved many people in the company and affect their working life. It is important that sense of ownership is built up among the employees of the company. Objectives and future benefits of the project must be explained to the employees. Keeping it as confidential often creates more resistance to the project.
Top Management Support
Implementation of IT
projects involves changes. Top
management support is always important in projects that involved organizational
changes. In IT projects that often
involve changes to business process and responsibility, conflicts will arise.
The project leader of the IT project must be able to resolve most of the
conflicts. Only with the top
management’s support, that the project manager can successful complete the
project and handle those conflicts.
You Need IT to Compete with
Nearly all companies
need some IT to help them to handle routine work more efficiently.
However, blindly believe that IT is the solution to every organization
problem is dangerous. IT is just a tool to achieve the end. Many a time, organization problem involves human problems.
Unless the human problem is resolved, implementation of IT will not
achieve its full potential. Moreover,
many of the objectives can be achieved through cheaper means such as better
human resource management, Total Quality Management and Business Process
be done when Current Business Activities Justify for it
not be done when the current business activities justify for it.
Ideally, it should be carried out before the business activities pick up.
When the business activities are already at a high level, employees are
struggling to cope with the routine work. Adding
IT implementation will often make the situation worst. I had seen a company implementing a major IT project during
the start of Asia currency crisis when the activity is lower.
2 years later, its annual revenue increased from S$16 million to S$56. It
was also awarded the Singapore Enterprise 50 award.
IT implementation should be started in anticipation of higher activities.
Unfortunately, most of the companies I encountered look at the IT
implementation only when they are already in the stage of fire fighting.
You need IT Staff to be able to
Trained IT staff do
comes in handy. Unfortunately, it
is not easy for Small and Medium Companies (SME/SMI) to attract and retain good
IT staff. That does not mean that
SME/SMI will not be able to implement IT. Most
of the younger employees and managers now have some IT knowledge and experience.
There are also numerous seminars, exhibitions and training courses to
acquire IT knowledge. By
identifying a suitable IT champion in the company and providing him with
appropriate training, SME can still implement IT effectively.
There are also experienced consultants who can advise SME on IT
implementation. These consultations are often subsidized by government
However, when company
does not have trained IT staff, it is important to consider the complexity of
the IT solution administration when evaluating IT applications.
The IT application selected should be simple enough for the existing
staff to administer.
My experience working
with various project managers in IT project also found that projects lead by IT
staffs often involve more customization than those lead by operations staffs.
This often prolongs the project and increases the cost of the
implementation. This is no fault of
the IT staff. The more junior IT
staff are often trained to look at the software and do not have strong knowledge
of business process as compared to the operations staffs.
They do not have the decision authority to change a process as compare to
the operations staffs. Therefore,
they often do what they are well verse in: customize the software.
A senior operations staff leading IT implementation often has better
understanding of the critical issues of the business process and look at the
possibility of improving the business process first before customizing the
IT can be used to Overcome Crisis
There are two types of
problem that companies try to solve: Long-term and Short-term problems. IT
projects often take a few months to a few years to implement.
The return on investment often takes 1 year to a few years.
Companies that are in crisis need short-term solutions that can create
quick results. Computerization is
definitely not one of the solutions. Computerization
also needs some stability in the organization.
If the organization structure and people keep changing, it is very
difficult to plan for training and implementation of the IT project.
I came across a company that was implementing a major IT project during a
rapid expansion and tight financial situation.
The project had to be stopped due to changes of personnel, lack of focus
and lack of financial resources. The
company later went into liquidity problem caused by some other business issues.
I want to use IT to Replace People
I had clients who told
me that they want an IT system that replaces their people.
The system should automate everything so that his people cannot
manipulate the system.
IT system is just a
tool. Like a fast racing car, it
needs good driver and mechanics to keep it running and win trophies.
IT cannot replace people, at least not now.
However, IT means that people need to learn new skill, change their way
of working. Existing people need to
be trained and new employees with different skill set and knowledge from the
existing employees may need to be recruited.