Taking the pain out of IT

Every organisation today uses computers and all managers, like it or not, have to understand how to take advantage of information technology (IT).

IT specialists are required to maintain the networks, select and install software packages, build web sites and increasingly, to develop software. These specialists are in short supply — and the situation is unlikely to change.

After Y2K we’ve got GST to deal with, the Euro implications and a backlog of major systems updates to handle the Internet and electronic commerce.

Being smart, the IT folk move around for higher salaries and benefits.

So what can management do?

Outsourcing — The Australian IT industry has embraced outsourcing and the growth rate is predicted to rise until at least 2003. It’s not without its problems, but handled properly this will be a partial solution for some.

Frequently, the software development and particularly the business system specification work is not outsourced, being the most difficult area to define and control.

Technology improvements — Automating software production has long been an aim —but we’re not there yet, and much of development work cannot be automated.

Appointment of business analysts — Many organisations have decided to shift the job of defining their business requirements from IT specialists to users. This may work if the users have the relevant skills. But they often don’t.

The resulting specifications may be all but useless, resulting in confusion, re-work, higher costs — and longer time-to-market.

To gain a competitive advantage, businesses must harness creative thinking, better analysis, followed by better business system definitions.

Whether outsourced or not, every business should have excellent project management skills to avoid IT failures.

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