Modern Network Architecture

Dec 4 2011   9:41PM GMT

What is IT besides Information Technology?

James Murray James Murray Profile: James Murray

I was talking with a potential client about SEO.  As the owner of an IT Consulting Company I have lots of conversations with clients. In the conversation I mentioned that I was an expert in IT.  He was a little surprised saying, 

“I didn’t think that Search Engine Information was IT?” 

That kind of caught me by surprise.  I didn’t see any conflict in discussing information technology, IT strategies and SEO.  My feeling had been that they were all Information Technology.  So I began asking myself what is IT really? 

I’ve always thought about IT as an Expense for the business similar to the telephone.  Try to define the business value of the telephone system and it takes some thought.  There is no direct profitability that comes from having a phone.  There is no manufacturing or billable service provided by the phone.  Yet

a business can’t run without phones, or can it?  Well a business could run without phones, but would it still be competitive?  A phone is not a source of income for the business.  Rather it’s an expense.  Today a phone is a cost of doing business… but what does the phone really do for the business? 

Well imagine running over to the customer and knocking on the door to talk to them.  The phone allows a quick call to discuss an issue with a customer.  So rather than taking an hour or two to find and talk to the customer, that task can be done in 15 minutes or so.  So instead of taking two hours to talk with one customer (including walking time to knock on the client’s door) 8 calls can be made to customers in the same two hour time period.  This means the productivity of the employee goes up by 8 times. 

This is the same as IT.  IT is an expense.  It is not a source of income.  Instead it’s a cost for doing business.  The advantage of IT is that the staff can be far more productive than without it.  When thinking about this the modern network architect can better prioritize problems. 

One of the problems I run into over and over is when IT process flow includes a step that slows production to the levels before the technology was added.  In the early days I remember when presidents had their secretaries print all their emails.  Then marked the emails and had the secretary type in a response.  With the addition of paper, printing and adding a second person to the process the advantage gained by having an email system is almost lost.  

I can imagine a similar scenario during the early days of the phone.  A letter is created, typed up by the secretary.  Then a phone call is made, and the letter is read to the other person on the other end, who then types what was heard over the phone for the boss to read.   Once read the boss has his secretary type of a response which is read again on the phone to a secretary who type of the message that was read.  The process is so labor intensive that of course a letter would be more effective than the phone. 

It seems like a silly example, but how often do we see modern technology being used almost this inefficiently?  So as we look at Information Technology as architects and administrators we need to keep looking for ways to make the system more efficient than the system we are replacing.  So if you were asking yourself the question, how would you define IT?

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