December 19, 2008

A Productivity Boost and Enterprise Architecture

For years, the IT industry has been putting out more and more devices to help us communicate, access and analyze information, conduct eCommence, be entertained, and generally increase productivity. To do these things, we have desktops, landlines, laptops, tablets, handhelds, cellphones, pagers, and all the application systems, social media, and internet to run on them. And for the organization, the CIO has been central to evaluating, planning, implementing, and maintaining these technologies.

You would think with all these tools for managing information, our lives would be simpler, more straightforward, and ever more carefree. Isn’t that what “tools” are supposed to do for people?

Well, think about your own life. Is your life less hectic with all the IT tools? Do you have more time to focus on what you’re working on? How’s your work-life balance?

If you are like most people these days, the answer is likely that you are more frantic and are trying to more things at the same time than ever before—almost driving yourself crazy, at times, to keep up.

The Wall Street Journal, 15 December 2008 had a book review by Christopher Chabris on “The Overflowing Brain.”

Here’s an excerpt of the review that I believes tells the story well:

“Take a look at your computer screen and the surface of your desk. A lot is going on. Right now, I count 10 running programs with 13 windows on my iMac, plus seven notes or documents on my computer desk and innumerable paper piles, folders, and books on my ‘main’ desk, which serves primarily as overflow space. My 13 computer windows include four for my internet browsers, itself showing tabs for 15 separate Web pages. The task in progress, in addition to writing this review…include monitoring three email accounts, keeping up with my Facebook friends, figuring out how to wire money into one of my bank accounts, digging into several scientific articles about genes, checking the weather in the city I will be visiting next week and reading various blogs, some which are actually work-related. And this is at home. At the office, my efforts to juggle these tasks would be further burdened by meetings to attend, conference calls to join, classes to teach, and co-workers to see. And there is still the telephone call or two—one of my three phone lines (home, office, mobile).”

Does this ring a bell for anybody? Dare I say that this is the reality for more of us these days.

So has IT (and the CIOs of our time) succeeded in giving us the technologies we need and want?

Well let’s look at what we said earlier were goals of IT—communication, information, commerce, entertainment, and productivity. Yep, we sure have all of these—big time!

Great, let’s just stop here at the outputs of technology and claim victory for our CIOs and the society we’ve created for ourselves.

But wait, what about the simpler, straightforward, and carefree parts—the anticipated outcomes, for many, of IT—shouldn’t we all be breathing a little easier with all the technology tools and new capabilities we have?

Ah, here’s the disconnect: somehow the desired outputs are NOT leading to the outcomes many people had hoped for.

One possible answer is that we really don’t want simple and carefree. Rather, in line with the ‘alpha male theory,’ we are high achievers, competitive, and some would even say greedy. And all the IT in the world just pours oil on our fire for doing and wanting more, more, more.

As many of us take some time off for the holidays and put our feet up for a week or two, we realize how much we look forward to some peace and quiet from all the helpful technology that surrounds us every day. But at the end of a few weeks, most of us are ready to go back to work and go crazy again with all our technology-driven productivity.

On a more serious note, from an enterprise architecture perspective, one has to ask if all this running around is leading to a strategic, desirable result in our personal and professional lives or is it just business for business sake, like technology for technology sake.


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