Readers weigh in on. . .

Re: IT report shows falling confidence in senior managers (Jan. 21)

I am an experienced information systems professional, having graduated in 1985 with a business degree majoring in

Information Systems. Notice that I don’t describe myself as an “”IT”” person. This is significant.

In the past several years, going back to the onset of the Y2K and Web frenzies, a disconnect has occurred between the information systems needs of organizations and the general awareness of those principles and practices central to the effective support of an organization’s information needs. In the “”good old days”” the emphasis was always upon the needs of the organization, and the developments in software, including language design and development methodologies, and technology were made in support of those needs.

This is not now the case.

Surveying the popular business-technical media reveals pervasive emphasis on the latest, greatest technologies and how their emergence will lead, somehow, to a better world. There is a constant stream of NEW! IMPROVED! stuff that, once in the hands of your organization, will sooth your woes.

The media is at the service of the marketers of technology. Take a look through InfoWorld, Computerworld, eWeek (formerly PCWeek), or your other favourite management-oriented “”IT”” media. Evaluate the number of references to emerging technology, new commercial products, references to how XML will provide the solution to the technology problem du jour. Then compare that volume to those references to the effective use of technology in producing information systems of real organizational value, if you can find any at all.

The problem as I see it is that there is a loss of emphasis, knowledge, and awareness along multiple dimensions. The technologies available to us as professionals are better now than at any time in the past, yet the application of that technology to real “”classic”” business needs is almost completely ignored. And aren’t the principles of the classic information systems the same principles that must be brought to bear to make effective use of the potentials of the new technologies?

What happened? How did the presence of information technology in the organization become less significant, less well-understood, less relevant in the awareness of senior management?

Could it be because for the past five, or six, or more years we as a profession have deserved to lose the attention because we have failed to produce increasingly relevant value for our organizations? We led the charge to tackle the Y2K monster, resulting in vast expenditures of time and energy to correct problems that were largely of our own making. We let the Web E-Everything frenzy and the marketing-driven attention on commercial products drown out the core values we have always provided.

What of the core business systems? Those that let every organization operate? Do their very work? How have we as a profession addressed the needs of these, the very lifeblood of every organization?

I have a colleague working for the world’s largest home supply company working on a project to reduce the business closing process from three to two days. They’re having trouble because the organization doesn’t have the deep professional experience in business systems in the management ranks, even though they’ve plenty of big consulting company and “”E*”” talent imported during the recent past.

Addressing the specifics of your article, I believe that senior management has lost confidence in “”IT””. Perhaps not actively, not in a conscious or dismissive way, but in the quiet inattention that comes about because there’s nothing of real value to pay attention to and be confident in.

We can reclaim our value, our reputation as bringers of real value to an organization. We can and must become relevant. Things are changing. All the NEW! IMPROVED! technologies and initiatives are our old friends in new clothes. Business Intelligence is Executive Information Systems is Decision Support Systems is reporting systems. Web Services is EDI is inter-system data transfer. And so on.

Let’s bring our old lessons out of retirement, shake off the lethargy and confusion of the recent past and get back to business. In bringing real value to our organizations by building systems that acquire, manage and reveal the organization’s information in support of the organization’s goals and needs, we will become valued and recognized as reliable and important contributors. Then we’ll be noticed.

Chris Gerrard

Re: IT report shows falling confidence in senior managers (Jan. 21)

I think one of the reasons many senior managers are losing confidence in IT is that people are finally clueing in that business is losing the human touch and relying too much on technology.

Alan Gollom

Re: IT report shows falling confidence in senior managers (Jan. 21)

My suspicion, based on 50 years experience at both levels, would suggest that senior management don’t really know nearly as much as they think, or should know, about IT, and just plain run over it roughshod. The old admonition to RTFM still applies, even more to senior execs.

Cecil E. Law

Re: Java down our throats (Jan. 16)

Funny that you would think that this decision is possibly a bad one. You are concerned about not having choice, I think this is laughable if you are still using Microsoft. Microsoft is a dictatorship and if it was not able to buy out Sun or steal the application then they are getting their just desserts. If Microsoft had had their way, we would still see in the product some resemblance or form of Java. Just remember where Bill got DOS and Windows from and reflect on that.

Keivn Power

Re: Canadian IT workers stand by their firms (Jan. 15)

The article needs to address the issues of statistical significance and validity so that the reader can have confidence in the findings.

Research is a funny thing. You can prove whatever you want simply by skewing a number of variables. The first question is, “”What research methodology did Aon Consulting use, and was the method statistically significant?”” That is, could the research results be duplicated within the same level of statistical accuracy by another study? And were the two U.S. studies conducted using the same research methodology and questions as the previous study?

Some research variables that impact on the statistical significance of a survey include:

  1. Sample size (i.e., the number of people who were asked to answer the questions),
  2. Composition of the population sample chosen (i.e., title, job function, size of company, industry served, type of product sold — hardware, software, consulting, integration, etc.)
  3. Questionnaire bias variables (i.e., sequence of questions, type of questionnaire, and whether it was administered verbally or in written format).

Next, there is a question of whether the research findings are valid. That is, did the research measure what it was designed to measure? Aon wanted to measure the loyalty and commitment of IT workers to their employers.

Herbert Hess’s comment puts doubt on whether Aon’s research was valid when he stated that “”the inclination of workers to stay put may have less to do with loyalty and more to do with a lack of mobility, noting job growth in Canada of late has been in service areas, not high tech.””

If Mr. Hess’s comments are valid, then Aon’s research, and hence its conclusions regarding employee loyalty, is flawed.

The research findings are further clouded by the fact that AON uses two different scales to measure the Workforce Commitment Index, and there is no indication of how they reconciled the two in order to provide a comparison. Therefore, it is difficult to compare results from two different samples (i.e. the Canadian study findings versus the U.S. findings).

Danna Yuhas
Market Impact

Re: PC envy (Jan. 9)

Any thoughts to a future article about all this mobility diminishing the need for the office space? I’m trying to draw a correlation to the abundance of recent “”empty”” leased space in the downtown and surrounding areas. I can’t wait until the powers that be recognize that I can do my job from just about anywhere and tell me to go and do, anywhere but here!

Christopher Zolumoff

Re: Jungle fever (Jan. 8)

You’re right and you’re wrong.

You are right in your assessment of the browser situation to a point. Most folks follow the desktop lead (somewhat blindly, some hold) and use the IE browser that came with their Windows XXXX OS. Many don’t even change the default home page. That’s what that whole court case was about in the US, the one where Microsoft was found guilty of breaking antitrust law and punished by being asked not to do it again. Please.

Think about Apple in the context of what happened to IBM . Arguably, IBM made Microsoft; had Big Blue not chosen the nobodies at Microsoft to supply them with an operating system in the early 1980’s and signed a singularly boneheaded licensing agreement, Bill Gates might be nothing more than a Harvard dropout with hygiene peculiarities. But Big Blue did, and Microsoft repaid them for their faith in the young upstarts by snookering them on OS2 and clones.

So now look at IBM’s Linux response. Is Big Blue trying to unseat Microsoft with Linux? Possibly, but I don’t see many columns written about it. If you are going to survive, you need to play with Microsoft, but have a Microsoft-free plan B as well. Having an open source plan B has the advantage of being beholding to no one; after all, the GPL just says you have to share, not pay.

On the Mac, aside from security-hole fixes, the IE browser hasn’t been upgraded in over a year. Browser performance lags behind Windows on the Mac. Microsoft hasn’t announced a browser update in . . . Have they announced a browser update since they released an OS X IE? The five-year agreement is over. Bill Gates bought the White House and is now running the DOJ as branch office. Rumour has it the next Microsoft marketing slogan is going to be “”Worry? Why Worry?”” In the short term, however, the Mac needed a browser that was as good as or possibly even better than everything out there. Oh yeah, and there’s this trick of tying it closely to the OS windowing and display API’s to make it function even better than the competition that Microsoft used to screw Netscape. So, since no one else was coming up with the better browser, Apple stepped in to do it for them.

Safari is based on KHTML, as in KDE, as in Konqueror. Not Mozilla. Strange choice? Not if as predicted, Linux desktop share is on the corporate rise, meaning more desktops are going to be using the default browser that comes with the OS, which in many (most?) cases will be KDE’s Konqueror. How do you grow your niche without growing your share? Make your niche part of someone else’s niche.

Forget Apple taking on Microsoft. The browser move is just to provide a better alternative, one that will either spur Microsoft to produce something better or take advantage of the next wave (Linux). IMHO, of course.

Gerard Farrell

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