The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Richness vs. Reach or why do I have better IT at home than at work?

Traditionally IT was very expensive and it therefore made sense in organisations to change the people and the processes to match the computer.

This resulted in a common trade-off of in terms of digital access between richness vs. reach.

  • ·         Richness—high quality of information, accuracy, bandwidth currency, interactivity, etc.
  • ·         Reach—high number of people who participate in sharing information

Traditional monolithic IT systems were complex and therefore expensive to maintain and alter. So typically very few parts of an organization would be supported by rich data and processes. Often the only parts of an organisation that had direct access to the core business system were the process workers, who had to enter operational data, and senior management, who needed reports showing key financial data that, allows them to run the company.

The rest of the organization was, and often still is, “information poor”. Often relying on home-brewed spreadsheets fed by limited data from the core IT systems. These are the information have-nots in most organizations and in the wider supplier and customer community that interacts with the organization.

This fundamentally creates an asymmetry of information, where some people have rich access to data and others don’t. A classic example in the past was consumers who typically had limited access to comparative price information. Unless you put the additional effort in to visit all the accessible shops it was hard for the consumer to have a rich view of the available options.

The internet and mobile applications have redressed this asymmetry for individuals. Now consumers have access to all the pricing information both in local and online retailers. In fact, they are now often better informed than the retailers themselves because the information flow in companies is not as rich as via the web.

In fact, as business has become faster, more competitive and more global the need to share data has increased between organizations and people. The traditional monolithic application models do not really address the needs of mobile data and applications. But increasingly the expectation is that people will have access to the data and systems they need at any time and on any device.

This comes from the day-to-day experience people have of IT in their personal lives where mobile devices, search engines, Apps, social & collaboration tools have created a powerful personal IT experience. In many ways a better one than most people experience at work, so the fundamental question is how can we leverage this power in business?

Part of the problem, is a generational one, most people in business, and especially in the traditional IT department, are digital immigrants and for them the height of collaboration is often still email. They still believe that the job of the IT department is to mange IT procurement and oversee projects. The role of the IT department needs to evolve; they need to be delivering services to the organization that deliver real business value not just managing the IT.

So both IT department and users need to learn to collaborate and use data like their children, the teenagers and millennials as they enter the workplace. So using persistent collaboration rather than the work in isolation and periodically report in; Learning to work in a data and information rich environment by making use of search and analysis tools to manipulate real-time operational rather than working from out of date printed reports. This will allow staff to make important business decisions on the basis of accurate and up-to-date information. This evolution to an information culture is a new paradigm for most business and will be a real challenge for them to adopt.

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About the Author
About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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