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BlueWolf's Howl

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February 28, 2003

Back to the Future

I just polished off another book.

Using A Digital Nervous System

I was reading the Security Design Study Guide and noticed that they mentioned this book several times in just the first few chapters. I thought it would be a wise idea to read the book -- so I got it and read it. I'm very glad I did. [Oh, btw, you can get it from Barnes and Noble for only $4.98....]

My original interest was exam-related. I figured that the design exams would focus on the presumed architecture put forth in the book. I'll be going back over the Study Guide with new eyes after having read it. I'm sure that I'll pick up on some different aspects than when I first read those chapters. But, as I was reading, I found some very interesting things that held my attention and made me think...

One of the more interesting things was that the book was published in 1999. It's Bill's vision for the future with quite a few predictions. The predictions were for around this time. It was like reading George Orwell's 1984 IN 1984... You would be amazed at how many of his insights were (and still are) right on the mark. He says that people tend to overestimate the advances for the next two years and underestimate the advances for the next ten years. Well, those years have already come and gone and his near-future predictions were on dead-on. I'm curious to see if his long-term predictions of trends will be as accurate. Only time will tell.

He also talks about how business sees the IT industry as a cost to control. I know this well. We're always seen as "overhead" and as an "expense." Businesses want to control or lessen expenses to increase profit. Instead, Gates encourages businesses to see IT as a tool -- one that can be used to increase efficiency throughout the entire company. It will be the tool that successful businesses will use to give them the competitive edge.

This is soooooooo true. Unfortunately, businesses (and managers) still can't see that yet. The same businesses that wouldn't blink an eye at the purchase of a backhoe (it's a tool - we can do things with it) are the same ones that would have a coronary if you propose they spend that much on software or network infrastructure. The backhoe gives you something tangible. You see the earth being moved. You see the snow being plowed. Managers understand what a backhoe can do. They have no idea what computing can do -- and even less of a clue about how digital processes can increase their bottom line. They still see IT as an expense and they still see computers and network devices as "expensive toys."

It's not a toy - it's a tool.

The books says quite a bit about changing the way people work. Not just the IT department, but ALL people can benefit from these changes. Most places use computers only for email and file sharing. That's a start. But, it's only a start. If you unlock the power of computing and transform your business digitally, you can automate the mundane and free your workers to become KNOWLEDGE WORKERS. Instead of spending the majority of your time collecting data, you could be taking that automated data collection and using your expertise and experience (in whatever field) to analyze the data and develop better solutions, give better customer service, and adapt faster to a quickly-changing business environment.

Another pearl from the book:

To recruit and retain smart people, you need to make it easy for them to collaborate with other smart people. That makes for a stimulating, energized workplace. A collaborative culture, reinforced by information flow, makes it possible for smart people all over a company to be in touch with each other. When you get a critical mass of high-IQ people working in concert, the energy level shoots way up.

Although the book is about technology, it's not technical at all. It's written to give techies some business goggles and to give business people insight into what computing can do to transform the workplace. It gives concrete examples of how major businesses have used technology to put themselves at the front of the pack.

Oh...and don't worry about buying the book and putting *more* money in Bill's pocket. The proceeds of the book go to charity. Even a portion of the proceeds from the publisher is going to the same charity. To find out more about this, go to the book's web site.

Posted by BlueWolf on February 28, 2003 09:23 PM