The industry teaches it wrongly, part II

My first blog with this title gained a lot of attention and I have been following many other discussions through this lens subsequently. As some of you may know by now, I’m rather critical about all kinds of new concepts, theories, products, solutions etc. Let me tell you a small story to illustrate why.

I teach class in the part-time MSc programme in Business Administration at VU University, Amsterdam. Fundamentals of information systems management comprises the main content and success rates of IT-investments are often discussed. One of the students questioned why the industry seems to get away with low success rates, or rather failure rates (sometimes up to 70%) that are frequently quoted. In any other sector, a company would be out of business if its products or services failed 70% of the time. I had a difficult time answering this simple question. THIS is my motivation for being critical.

Obviously, the example above can be countered with numerous other examples and arguments. Also, I’m certainly not suggesting that every IT-investment has a 70% chance of ending up in disaster.  But, in the end it illustrates for me the challenges we face in being truly succesful in adding value. Too often, the emphasis is on the technology and not on contextual factors that seem to me much more important. Consider the following quote: “..most managers receive much more data (if not information) than they can possibly absorb [..]. Hence they suffer from an information overload”. Question: when do you think this was published? Answer: 1967, in Russell Ackoff’s seminal article “Management Misinformation Systems” published in Management Science. Did technology solve this problem in the last 40 years? I would say, partly, but technology also increased this problem. So this is the second reason that I tend to be critical.

Again, with critical I do not mean conservative and I’m certainly not opposing innovation or new points of view. But when they do not help us understand and solve the challenges we face today, I tend to lay back.

So, this brings me to the point where I will introduce some ideas and thoughts how to cope with these challenges. As some of you may know also, I also have a keen academic interest and motivation to use scientific insight for this goal. The concepts I like to bring forward are based on the findings from design science research. Since this blog has already become quite lengthy, I will start an introduction in my next blog. Stay tuned.

wouter

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Posted in BI industry

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