After more than 40 years in the IT industry I suppose that nothing should surprise me anymore. Back in the late, very late, seventies, we were all very impressed by what was quite limited technology. What we realised even then however was that even though there were those who just loved technology for its’ own sake, there were still those who saw the opportunities to put technology in the hands of experts; not necessarily those with a computing background or training. Those really were the days when the majority was about to be empowered by new technology.
It was a technical revolution, but it eventually turned into a social revolution. People from all walks of life were soon to be able to communicate and enable social and economic changes that previously were difficult to imagine outside of science fiction. Personal computing had arrived and it was exhilarating. Suddenly people from all walks of life were engaging with “computers” and whilst it was very early days the dyke was about to burst.
Since those early times we have of course seen relentless and truly ground- breaking innovation. Who could possibly have foreseen the current power and sheer spectrum of IT and its’ availability. This is the whole point, without such impressive technical development we could never have seen technology made cheaply and easily available to nearly all. The latter depends upon the former, but it is the latter which has enabled the greatest change.
What we have witnessed is innovative and clever technology being harnessed to the wagon which is society as a whole. When once the standard of literacy was being able to read and write, a similar standard to-day is not necessarily the ability to code at all, but is in the ability to use current technology to exploit a social, economic or scientific benefit.
So where does that leave us now? Where are the opportunities to support the growth and development of what we loosely call IT whilst not losing sight of measuring it and deploying it with some common sense and return for all.
To date, we have witnessed the continued and relentless growth in infrastructure and generic systems. Most enterprises and not a few individuals are currently in the process or have already adopted cloud technologies; so changes are not slowing down. We still see a significant trend within IT staff of the “more of the same please.” Many are in a comfort zone which still sees the growth of technology as an end in itself.
We often meet with end users with a view of technology that is at variance with their emerging needs. Some have lost sight of why they are doing this and what is their real end purpose. We still offer comprehensive IT strategies and they are of course necessary, but they can be limited in their scope and ability to leverage creative change.
What has changed? Well for most people and organisations it’s the sheer growth in their data estate. It needs ever more space, attention and much of the latter is coming from unwelcome sources which are increasingly difficult to manage and secure.
There is now a realisation that the data perimeter itself needs to be substantially reduced. Users need to know what is relevant to them, who can see it and where is it kept to safely and accessed by only those with the right to do so. This can indeed be part of an IT strategy, but it is more likely to be addressed by a data strategy.
Reducing the data pile down to that which is relevant and useful not only about reducing costs and risk, it is also optimising the opportunity to leverage business benefit from machine learning and Artificial Intelligence. So once again it is an opportunity to make the most of our technological advances, but not to fail to optimise those benefits by applying common sense to them.
When once the long term benefit of the technical revolution was to ultimately empower all, then what is it now? We have all been made aware of the sheer amount of data which is now stored globally and that an astonishing proportion of it is useless to us. We have all fallen into the trap which is to keep everything and be unable to easily identify what is of value to us. Making available the core data of real value to users is to reinforce the much earlier trend of giving users what they could actually use constructively. Where once data was sparingly analysed and released to users it was revolutionary to bypass that obstruct and move forward with agility and availability.
It is now opportune to re-visit that empowering characteristic and give core and relevant data back to those that can best use it; not to conceal and confuse it with an overwhelming mask of redundant information. Over time, we seem to have forgotten that it is not necessarily how the technology is developed, but how it is used. Allowing users to manage their own data is an innovation that has largely been overtaken by overwhelming them in a sea of data. Rolling that situation back to something manageable, secure and productive really is a present challenge.