Have We Forgotten the Purpose of Technology in Business?

Fundamentally, the purpose of technology in business is to manage the treasure trove of data captured within sophisticated technological systems. We do this to understand and communicate with the world we see around us and help us better engage with that world to become more successful.

Over the lifespan of the human race, like other species, we’ve invented technology to help improve our lives, and generations have built on that knowledge. Whether it be stone axes, cave paintings, stone tablets, parchment and ink, and more through to modern-day computers.

The fundamental purpose of these various technologies has not changed in the human sense. We keep building knowledge and need improved technologies for storing and sharing that ever-growing base of information.

I’ve been fascinated by this diagram shown to me by John O’Gorman in one of his LinkedIn posts: 1

Click to view larger

It shows the enabling role technology has to play in how we learn and communicate and continue to build our collective knowledge base. However, in the world of business around me, I don’t observe this playing out very well when delivering technology projects to aid business functions in operating more effectively. Oft we are still myopically focused on the triumvirate of People-Process-Technology. We have had a significant social media trend over the past 3-5 or so years building the narrative to do more with data. When you look closely at this though, the focus is more on select areas of technology within a business, rather than the whole lineage as shown in the above diagram.

I’ve recently stumbled upon the term “data compatibility,” which I had to question. Here’s a definition from CIO Wiki:

Data Compatibility is an IT innovation that provides integrated data throughout an organization, among organizations and across industries.2

This definition, and ones like it, made me wonder, have we forgotten about the purpose of technology? Surely not, but maybe we have. If we are designing and implementing systems for business units for which data is not well integrated between systems specialized for different departments, then indeed we must have forgotten.

When you look at a product, or individual, or other constructs within your systems where those things are represented in each of those systems, surely data compatibility is built-in when exchanging data about those things between said systems. Otherwise, how do they work?

If you read social media like me, you’ll read a lot of opinions about people spending a disproportionate amount of time searching in ever-increasing technological vaults for useful data fit for the desired purpose. It’s great that we can capture and store a vast hoard of perceived valuable data in the technological marvels of today. But if the data is not already compatible across the systems, then how can this data be considered valuable to the business that relies on it? We seem so focused on technology that even when we consider the need to integrate systems, we do so with a level of ignorance for what’s flowing through the virtual pipes.

Both data management and technology management requirements should be rooted in business processes that create or use data and the needs of the people and processes that consume the data.3

Current trends in business intelligence, analytics, data literacy are all trying to help us get back to better communication, to better storytelling, enabled by technology using the perceived treasure troves of data. However, if the proceeding technology involved in curating and managing that data before it gets into this advanced data/technology domain is not adequately managing the data, can the answers from this advanced technology be considered reliable and trustworthy?

I want to see us technologists get back to the fundamental purpose of technology in business, and focus on ensuring the technology meets its brief in that information lifecycle diagram. Let’s get people better trained in data management techniques like data modelling, data analysis, data architecture, and bring them in early on technology projects such that we can reinvigorate providing data compatible technology solutions that enable businesses to be more successful.

I think it’s important to finish with this quote from Scott Taylor:

“Data management work is never done.
Hardware comes and goes.
Software comes and goes.
Data remains.” 4


References

[1] John O’Gorman, https://www.linkedin.com/posts/john-o-gorman-b97ab2_anyone-have-thoughts-pros-cons-about-activity-6167094060331913217-w6pX, 2016, Digital

[2] Unknown, https://cio-wiki.org/wiki/Data_Compatibility, 2021, Digital

[3] Laura Sebastian-Coleman, Navigating the Labyrinth, Technics Publication, 2018, Print, pg 29

[4] Scott Taylor, Telling your data story, Technics Publication, 2020, Print, pg 181

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Winston Sucher

Winston Sucher

Winston Sucher is an information management professional, an aspiring Chief Data Officer, with 20 years IT project delivery experience. Winston is passionate about information management, and believes information is of equal importance to businesses like people, process and technology. He’s involved in developing data literacy in peers and customers alike. As an Enterprise Solution Architect, Winston has designed and implemented many technology solutions in many industries and lines of business; from finance to utilities, from CRM to Advertising Search platforms. Winston graduated from Deakin University with a Bachelor’s of Business Computing and Marine Biology, which guides a holistic observation and analytical approach to solving business challenges.

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