Thursday, December 09, 2010

PCs & 63s - Part 3

I've long thought that the computer business was an immature enterprise, not only in its chronological age, but also in the personification of its principal proponents and the constant chaotic nature of it. Perhaps other fledgling industries started out the same way...with a great, if incomplete, idea, promoted by ruthless, possibly deceptive young people, chaotic, exciting, and ultimately life changing. Not since the Industrial Revolution moved us from an agrarian society to an industrial one, have we experienced the potential for such enormous change to our way of life.

The troubling thing for me has been the realization that the impetus for all this change has been has been pushed hard by the young behind us. That’s probably not unusual within the sweep of history, but it’s troubling nonetheless that we apparently have been neither competent nor aggressive leaders in the revolution, and we should have been. Since about 1995-96 the comic strip, Dilbert, has been chronicling the oppressive ineptitude of the clueless pointy-haired boss and his hapless employees. Whether we are the pointy-haired bosses or those just older than us are, would be a matter of what your particular experience has been.

I noticed the rumble of things to come on the horizon about the same time Scott Young started his Dilbert strip in 1995-96, just as the Internet was becoming widely accessible. It came as the muted noise surrounding Supply Chain Management initiatives and later by ERP, CRM, Six Sigma, and a plethora of other acronyms used to describe, in fuzzy terms, the application of computer control systems to every facet of business processes; those work elements that are relatively common to all businesses—invoicing, receivables, payables, costing, inventories, schedules, business communications, payrolls, insurance, taxes, reporting, follow-up, etc.

In those early days, the SCM ambition was huge, but the capability was miniscule and somewhat laughable, causing the initiative to be slow in gaining footholds in the large companies that were our customers. Existing employee resistance to change was as significant as was the absence of competent technologies, despite the promises screaming from the technology proponents. Older people like us tended to view the technology as a tool, while the younger, true believers, had come to view the new technologies as irreplaceable processes, without which nothing could succeed and everything would fail.  In some recent experiences it seems that massive failures have been accelerated by the slavish dependence on the technologies themselves. 

More to come...Part 4

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