What does it mean to live in the information age?

Today, people confuse information and access to it with knowledge and capability.

Recently I spoke to a CIO of an organisation with 100 staff, who assured me that her one in-house infrastructure guy who was resisting cloud technology was just fine for performing her migration to the cloud when the organisation was ready. They were not ready yet as they perceived they had nothing to gain from the shift.

I suggested, as politely as I was able, that my team with deep hands-on experience with that work could add value when they were ready and was told “no, we know about Office 365”. I was taken aback by that comment, as it was saying to me, ‘I don’t value your education or your experience because we read about it once’.

I asked, “Do you know how or do you know about the process?” She had the courtesy to acknowledge that they had heard about the process, but actually had not contemplated the how.

The assumption that they would muddle through is quite a normal response to the work that we do. The interesting thing is that what is at stake with these muddle through projects is the company’s health. When the process goes off track the company’s access to information systems is compromised until the problem is rectified. Large organisations that have more at risk are used to using well-trained and experienced people to run projects in a way that minimises the potential for compromise. Many small businesses have not caught on to the real cost of these compromised processes and projects.

If it was human health rather than company health that was at stake things would be different. Can you imagine a company with 100 staff hiring a well-trained nurse full-time to look after the health of the staff?

Hey, she only has to perform surgery once every three to four years, so we just send her on a training course for a week before she starts the operation. She assured us she knew what she was doing and it went OK the first time…

Besides, when the health industry was in a nose dive a couple of years ago we managed to hire an unemployed doctor to fill the nurse’s spot, so now we are really confident we have it covered…

I hope this is not really happening in the health industry, please don’t tell me if it is as I would rather live on in my ignorant confident bliss.

Unfortunately, it is happening in IT.

IT is complex and becoming more so as we now have the choice of many applications, server platforms and cloud to consider for each solution we require. Selecting the best solution and implementing it smoothly is difficult with training and experience. The odds of making good decisions based on internal IT knowledge in a team of one or two is just not going to happen.

Yet business owners and decision-makers who don’t want to know about IT all too often rely on incapable people to provide this advice. Knowing more than the boss is not the right qualification for running IT for the company.

If you are the decision-maker, and IT in your business is in the hands of one person who is busy running around maintaining the status quo, chances are you have missed out on many critical developments in technology over the past few years.

And the one person you have is the handbrake, not the accelerator, you are hoping they are.

This year, Microsoft has released more updates and new versions of technology than in any previous year. The new tools and capabilities available are astounding and it is a great time to be seeking advice on how to solve business problems with technology. Don’t buy technology because it is time to update it or because the old technology is failing. Buy technology because it solves a business problem you are or soon will be facing.

Mistaking information for knowledge or ability will at best slow you down, at worst it will stop you from reaching the outcome you need.

Yes, all the answers are online but if you are still asking the wrong questions for lack of knowledge you will get answers that do not amount to the right knowledge. I was always taught as a child that LUCK was about Labouring Under Correct Knowledge. Working with the right advice will help your business, available information and indecision will drive your costs up.

So if you want to get lucky and your IT systems are ready for an overhaul, seek expert advice and then follow it. Don’t settle for being sold stuff without a solution to a problem in mind. If you don’t have a problem, that IT can solve, don’t invest in IT. If you are going to invest in IT, invest in capable people to implement it smoothly with knowledge and experience, not just information.

David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.



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