Inside Doug's Head

I am not a number, I am… What's that stuff they make glue out of? I'm that. Forever swirling, forwards and upwards, but always sticky. Sometimes, a little sad.

Peter Lindfield, president and CEO of the Carlisle Institute, said the biggest challenge facing the information and communication technology industry is access to cash. To me, this statement is equivalent to saying that the biggest challenge facing lazy people is access to motivation.

The information and communication technology (ICT) industry is the result of once monopolized and now deregulated telephone companies offering information-based services over their existing, and outdated, communication networks. The information services are provided through a combination of acquisitions, mergers, or corporate partnerships. Just like slathering a pig in lipstick and marrying it off to a donkey, the unholy union produces an offspring that is essentially an even fatter, uglier, and ultimately more stupid donkey. But, boy, barbecued I bet it tastes some-good.

For now, let’s just overlook the obviously retarded part that every industry has to deal with issues relating to access to capital. Even the banks, where I’m told that people who have money tend to keep it, need to find ways of financing their operations since government bail-outs only cover corruption related expenses. The core reasons ICT projects have special cash limitations are pretty simple.

1) ICT projects are expensive and often hard to justify. Unlike investments in physical assets, like a printing press or a new shotgun, which can be rationalized through present value analysis of the resulting new or improved revenue streams, ICT projects have to be qualified based on softer, more abstract, considerations. A new web-fed multicolor press will reproduce pornographic material at half our current costs, or a new shotgun will make it simpler for me to shoot you in the face are pieces-of-cake to cost justify. However, it is impossible to put a firm dollar value on formatting for the reports of peoples’ private emails will look much nicer.

2) ICT projects are notorious for being late, over budget, and frequently failing to produce their anticipated benefits. The reasons are many, varied, and complicated, but most of them are directly tied to the next item.

3) Just like in IT, ICT people are typically unqualified for the work they do. Most of them fell into the industry because they heard they were hiring, but they lack a suitable educational background to be really good at managing and coping with the complexities of the projects they have to deal with. They feel they know something about computers because they used one at work once, and they installed a wireless network device at home, so now they are communications experts. Also, they’re really weird and obnoxious, and not in a good way. You know the types. They can’t answer your question about why you can’t get connected to the network from home through the corporate VPN, so they mutter something about reimaging and awkwardly skulk away from you, hoping you won’t follow-up on the issue any time soon. Yeah, sure, I want to blindly give them millions of dollars because I know the work they do is really worth it.

Now, to be clear, I’m not picking on all the geeks and nerds out there, just the ones working in IT. These are people who, while they often don’t totally understand it themselves, feel their work is really technical and highly sophisticated. Plugging a network cable into a switch or a PC, or configuring software by selecting all the default options should not be viewed as either challenging or technical. Maybe if they stopped acting so smug all the time, people would stop throwing crap at them in the cafeteria. We know what you do and we aren’t impressed. The only reason anyone is even slightly nice to you is because you have the administrator passwords to all the servers on the network. If you disagree with these statements, disconnect the power from your computer, wait ten minutes, and then try reading this again.

4) ICT projects, due to the very nature of the technologies they implement, are obsolete the moment they are put into production. It took us three years, and we are six months behind schedule, but the version 2.0 upgrade work is finally completed. Now, let’s get started on implementing version 3.0, so we will only be two releases behind everyone else.

So, to summarize: ICT projects are difficult to explain, expensive, usually late, don’t work as expected, outdated when released, and are either implemented or supported by people who the rest of us would prefer didn’t exist. So, seriously, the ICT industry faces the challenge of access to cash is a news-worthy revelation? Putting all of your money in South American pesos would seem to be a much safer investment.

Next, I’ll try to make sense of the Carlisle Institute’s stated mission, “to democratize knowledge.”

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