Toys-R-Not-Us

Computers have always been hailed as enablers of simpler life, easier business. Just buy this little gadget, and you will never again be concerned about your bank balance. No more bounced checks. No lost recipes or phone numbers. Instant recall of the most insignificant facts. Yep, just buy this upgrade and you can add pictures to your addresses. Buy this other tool and you can calculate loan payments or depreciation, budget hardware costs for your new addition, and keep track of your employee records. Spend just a little bit more–a paltry $200,000–and you can manage your employee benefits, administer tests to job applicants, track leave, predict turn-over, discover distant planets, and finally travel back in time.

The real truth is that computers have not made life simpler or easier, but only enabled greater complexity.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It isn’t in the nature of business to be content with a little more efficiency. That extra free time can be filled with yet more “labor-saving devices,” which don’t actually save any labor, but enable that labor to achieve ever greater results. This is the true value of technology: Enabling the management of what would otherwise be unimaginable chaos.

We who call ourselves information technology professionals sometimes lose focus of why we do what we do. It is tempting to adopt new and exciting tools for the fun of it, but we do not exist for the sake of the computers. Toys-R-Not-Us. Instead, we exist to support our customers, to provide them with the tools they need to do their jobs. HR provides the personnel, Facilities provides the environment, and IT provides the means of information manipulation and exchange. If that benefits us, then so much the better, but service is really the point of our existence. So long as the relationship between IT and the business continues to serve the needs of both sides, then it is a healthy one that can continue and grow. However, if IT does not benefit the business, then IT will suffer. If the business does not also benefit IT, then the best minds and workers of IT will find a new business.

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