Technology refers to any tool we use to enhance our ability to survive in a corporate environment. To that extent, in the eighteenth century a quill pen was the equivalent of today's computer and quite clearly ‘technology' and paper, the equivalent of today's electronic files. The same issues were faced then too. Disaster recovery was having more than one copy of the texts available in case of fire. How publications were printed, bound, stored and made available to people - the equivalent to today's data protection policies. Each publication's subject matter, given the cost of production, was effectively a new product in a new market. When someone built a new printing press, that was technology changing and adapting to new needs. So, the fact is that we've been managing technology for a long time. As far as issues are concerned, there's really nothing new under the sun.
But there are two big psychological differences between then and now. In earlier days, publications were not viewed as an end in themselves, they were clearly a tool, a means to achieve an end, not an end in themselves. Second, because of the scarcity of publications and the lack of mass reading skills, no-one could rely on publications alone for their success. Publications were one tool out of many available to financial professionals in those days. Today, there are two pervasive modern business myths about technology, particularly in financial services. The first is that technology equals ‘IT'. The second is that technology can solve any problem and will naturally deliver both a business benefit and a market benefit. Both are not only untrue, but dangerous precepts from which to work. Blind adherence to these two precepts has caused more late deliveries, budget overruns and projects that either don't do what was intended or a technology that has been superceded while being built than almost anything else.
Interestingly, every industry I have worked in seems to be full of people who are convinced that their industry is ‘different', that somehow, unless you've been immersed in it since birth, usually more, you can't possibly be credible, because you just won't understand it. Today, the pace of change and level of education are both so high that its just as likely, more so perhaps,that someone with absolutely no knowledge of the industry will find an application of technology that those with the blinkers of too much experience could never see, because they've always done it the old way. So, it is important to start off this article not by learning something but by un-learning what you thought your knew. Someone once said ‘Thinking you know something is the biggest barrier to learning' and they were right. Financial services is a business. It makes things, sells things and makes a profit. As such technology has only one role - to make a difference to one of those three fundamentals. It has to enable us to make new things and update old things. It has to help us sell things by making them easier to understand, more appropriate to our needs and make them more accessible to us. It has to help reduce costs or increase the saleability (price and volume) so we can make more profit. That's it.
There is no more. Thinking in this way, the first thing to unlearn, is that technology is not an end in itself. It's a tool. Its also a very common error to think of technology just in terms of software applications. To be sure these are the most ubiquitous and obvious manifestations of technology, but they are very far from the absolute description of the term. In very broad terms, technology sits in three-layered and interconnected tiers:
Systems - the connectivity that allows business processes to interact
Servers - the business elements that are connected by systems and which allow applications to operate
Applications - the processes that we use to aggregate data into information and decisions, often collectively known as products
If we had not unlearned our approach earlier in this article, it would be very easy to misread the above list as follows:
Systems - connectivity
Servers - hardware
Applications - software
Clearly, the former definition keeps our options open to deploy an appropriate solution for any given business need.
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Note: This article was sent to us by: Julie Hayes at 01062010
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