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Business and Technology -how’s your relationship?

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Technology in business
The Times

Technology in business – the first encounter

Many moons ago, I remember sitting in the prefab building that housed the Computer Lab in University College Dublin (UCD). We were required to go there to complete practicals for our 2nd year subject: ‘Computer Applications’. As Business and Legal future high flying executives, most of us regarded this invasion of technology in business as a painful waste of time and applied minimal effort to scrape through a pass for our practical exams. Our real focus was to get away to the U.S. for a J1(Student Visa) summer of fun. I remember struggling through Visual Basic to program an ATM interface to complete a few basic commands, feeling frustrated and not understanding the value of what I was learning.

If I could travel back and talk to 18 year old me, I would try to describe living in the 4th Industrial Revolution and plead with her to concentrate and soak up as much computational theory as possible to pave the way for the digital disruption to come.

Dinosaurs and business requirement docs

Thankfully these days I am more enlightened. But I am aware that a lot of the Business world still have this disdain for tech. There is a palpable feeling the tech is ‘other’ and I have witnessed many senior executives laughing and describing themselves as ‘dinosaurs’. I have struggled to hide my disgust as I know that their attitude will stop them making the transformation decisions to prevent their organisation or industry from becoming extinct. Technology in business is being ignored or devalued with devastating consequences for the organization. They are left exposed to tech disruption, and customers dissatisfaction which will eventually erode market share. There are many recent examples especially in the retail sector.

In many organisations I witnessed business teams pull together a business requirements doc and limiting their interacting with IT (who were seated on a different floor usually), to only hand over this doc while demanding to know when the requirements would be delivered. I could always pick up on the frustration felt by the tech team who were doomed to hack out a quick solution. Some would still have enough integrity and motivation left to execute a plan by stealth to make some engineering improvements along with delivering the requirements. The customer was outside the door, down the street and far from anyone’s mind. The business model was the same one from at least 100 years ago but with some tweaks along the way.

Business teams felt no need to collaborate and get to know the capabilities of the technology and tech teams who were usually battle weary had long given up trying to understand the business vision and customer strategy. It always felt a bit like trench warfare with minimal trust and any relationship reduced to a functional level only. Technology in business was uncomfortable and often a source of bruising confrontation.

Tech is your only future

So why does this trip down memory lane matter? Well in the grip of a pandemic I can see how those old attitudes still prevail. Too often, decision makers (who hold the purse strings) find it acceptable to criticise digital transformation plans without educating themselves on the capabilities of what tech can deliver.

Technology in business and the NHS
NHS England’s IT plan expensive and risky, say MP

The final line of the article says it all:

“The report (on the NHS’ digital transformation plan) says it is vital that systems should be interoperable if the NHS digital vision is to be delivered. It calls on NHSX to help by setting standards and advising on the use of the cloud to share images.

Business is tech and tech is business. Technology in business! Organisations cannot afford to treat tech as if it were as simple as hiring a plumber or electrician ie. ‘just make it work and for the lowest price possible, and I don’t want to know the details’.

Business and tech need to work together to break down and often times completely rewrite business models from the ground up. Neither can leave each other behind. Otherwise we risk reducing Cloud and Serverless to sharing images!!

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